SALT LAKE CITY — The Pac-12 can take a bow on the opening day of the NCAA Tournament.
The league, generally thought to be under-seeded in the tourney, went 3-0 on Thursday. Oregon, egregiously seeded at No. 12, upset No. 5 Oklahoma State. Cal, another 12 seed, knocked off No. 5 UNLV.
And the Wildcats took care of business with their win over 11th-seeded Belmont.
“It’s a statement that all of us who coach in the league were hoping that we could make,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “You get respect by what you do in this tournament.
“I know as a coach how hard that 18 game schedule was. You’re playing against terrific players, some incredible coaches, and teams that can win. And I believe we have the ability as a conference to continue to win here in March.”
Cal coach Mike Montgomery, in his postgame press conference from San Jose, stuck a similar tone.
“I can’t imagine there being a better conference than the Pac-12, across the board, all sports, the whole way we approach the thing,” he said. “For me to say that means nothing, you’ve got to go out and win games.”
The league gets two more chances Friday, with No. 6 UCLA taking on No. 11 Minnesota, and No. 10 Colorado going up against No. 7 Illinois.
Arizona’s Solomon Hill was hit with a technical foul with 16:46 to go in the first half, three seconds after hitting a 3-pointer. He clapped his hands as he turned and headed down court, and seemed as surprised as anyone when the technical was called.
“You can’t say anything. It kind of sucks the life out of basketball a little bit,” he said.
“It’s not like I disrespected the player or the coach. I was just hyped up for the game. Things like that happen and now I know better.”
Yeah, but what did he say?
“Nothing. I didn’t say anything,” he said.
It was suggested to him that it looked like he did nothing more than the clapping.
“Exactly. We’re on the same page,” he said.
Miller, who was baffled by his own technical foul last week against UCLA, said he wasn’t disappointed in Hill.
“I don’t think he did it intentionally. He was emotionally charged up. That was the first shot that he made,” Miller said.
“He may have turned and said something after the shot. This is a tournament where you have to dot your I’s, cross your T’s and be on it. I’m sure he learned his lesson.”
It was a good conversation piece in the Arizona locker room when President Obama on Wednesday picked Belmont to upset the Wildcats in his bracket. UA won and so gets the last word.
“He’s just another person who has a busted bracket,” Hill said.
If all the chatter about Arizona being an upset victim worked to help motivate the team, even a tiny bit, then all the better.
Mark Lyons just shrugged.
“You have to pick your upset somewhere, so why not start with us or any other team,” he said.
“They’re not Miss Cleo or anything like that. They can’t determine what really is going to happen. They’re just doing their job. If they’re not talking, they’re not doing their job.”
GET SOME REST
Arizona didn’t know its Saturday opponent as it sat in its postgame locker room — Harvard as it turns out at 3:10 p.m. Tucson time — but it didn’t matter to Kevin Parrom. He already knew his routine.
“Get rested, off our feet. I’m the veteran; I know this stuff,” he said.
“Straight to my bed. I’m not even going to turn my TV on. Mark (Lyons) is my roommate. I told him we a rule — we don’t want games, we don’t turn the TV on, nothing. We just go back to the room, watch film, sleep.”
The Arizona Wildcats were called for six offensive fouls in the first half, but Mount Miller kept his cool over the series of calls that didn’t go his team’s way.
“That’s on us,” guard Nick Johnson said of the offensive fouls.
“We knew that they were scrappy, knew that they played hard and everything. They really jumped out at us. We adjusted a little bit in the second half, maybe jumped around them a little bit or make the extra pass, and it all worked out.”