SALT LAKE CITY — Senior point guard Mark Lyons has the most NCAA Tournament experience of any Arizona player, having appeared in seven games for Xavier.
One of those games came right at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. The Musketeers lost 101-96 in overtime to Kansas State in the Sweet 16 in 2010.
“I just remember the intensity of the game; seems like every shot was a big shot and every possession meant the game,” Lyons said.
“It was a great game. It was my first year, and I was fortunate to make the tournament. It was a great experience for me.”
Even so, Lyons is looking for a personal breakthrough in the tournament. He has made only 15 of 51 shots in seven NCAA games, averaging 6.0 points.
6-0 — The record of Arizona coach Sean Miller in the NCAA Tournament when facing worse-seeded teams. He was 5-0 at Xavier in such circumstances and then won a first-round game in 2011 as his fifth-seeded Wildcats squeaked by No. 12 Memphis. Miller will try to stay upset-proof Thursday against 11th seed Belmont.
Miller wasn’t biting on either of two questions Wednesday about last week’s technical foul against UCLA and the subsequent fine and reprimand from the Pac-12 for his postgame behavior.
“We’re in the NCAA Tournament right now,” he said. “Our focus is on our players and Belmont.”
BEWARE NO. 11
Bucknell, which won at Arizona in the first round of last season’s NIT, is an 11th seed in this season’s NCAA Tournament. Miller said that helps the Wildcats define just how dangerous a No. 11 seed, such as Belmont, can be.
“That defines reality for our team,” Miller said. “So you look at the four 11 seeds, none of them are a matchup that we want or any team would want. We’re going to have to play one heck of a game tomorrow for us to have a chance to advance, we know that.”
KEY NUMBER, PART II
51.7 — 3-point shooting percentage of Grant Jerrett in the past 10 games (15 of 29).
He and fellow freshman big men Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley have each played some of their best games of the season in the past few weeks. Miller said they haven’t necessarily played enough to hit the freshman wall.
“They’re smart guys; guys who love the game,” Miller said. “Sometimes guys who hit the wall, they just don’t love basketball. They’re tired of it. In their case, they love the game, so they never really get tired of practice.”
Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com picked Arizona at No. 10 on his list of NCAA Tournament teams with the most NBA talent. That may be, based on the strength of the trio of freshman big men, but it’s not as if that’s 2013 draft-ready talent.
Anwway, here is a link to Goodman’s full report, and here is what he wrote about Arizona’s NBA talent:
Solomon Hill (F, 6-7, 220) — Probably winds up going somewhere in the second round, but has good size for a wing, is athletic and has dramatically improved his perimeter shot.
Grant Jerrett (F, 6-10, 235) — Didn’t make the impact Miller anticipated, but is extremely skilled, has size and can really shoot it from the perimeter. Another year and he can work his way into the first round.
Kaleb Tarczewski (C, 7-0, 255) — A true 7-footer who is coachable and plays hard. That’s a rarity these days. Still needs a couple of more years, but will only improve and should have a spot in the NBA for plenty of years.
Brandon Ashley (F, 6-8, 235) — Is a tweener forward. Doesn’t move his feet well laterally, and doesn’t shoot it great. But he’s got length and athleticism, and is certainly on the NBA radar.
Pitt senior point guard Tray Woodall, whose team opens against Wichita State here in Salt Lake City, was asked Wednesday about what he has heard about Pitt’s point guard from 20-plus years ago — Miller.
Naturally, he mentioned this glass-shattering event.
“For the most part, I think we got the same story. He was the guy that made the pass for the famous dunk in the Fieldhouse,” Woodall said.
“So that’s the most important story that I heard, and he was a great free throw shooter at the university and one of the guys that paved the way for myself to being a point guard and leave my legacy here at Pitt.”