SAN FRANCISCO — Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller took his turn at the podium during Pac-12 Media Day at the conference headquarters Thursday in San Francisco. Eight coaches appeared before him and three followed him, but none were as closely cross-examined by reporters as the Wildcats’ head man.
The first four questions hurled his way weren’t about this year’s version of the Wildcats but about the NCAA and FBI investigation surrounding the school which is ongoing.
“I’ll refer back to the statement I made in March,” was all Miller would say any time a question of that nature was asked.
The Wildcats are coming off a 27-8 showing that included winning the regular-season and the Pac-12 postseason tournament titles, before being dealt an embarrassing 89-68 loss by Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona has won or shared the Pac-12 regular season title four of the last five years, the exception being 2016 when Oregon was the winner.
The Pac-12 preseason coaches poll was released earlier Thursday and it had Arizona pegged fourth behind Oregon, UCLA and Washington.
Joining Miller at the annual media Ddy were 6-10 junior center-forward Chase Jeter and sophomore guard Brandon Randolph. Jeter is now eligible to play after sitting out last year following a transfer from Duke, where he played his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Miller admitted he thought the team’s preseason rank was a bit high, given that his team lost eight players from last year’s squad, including top draft pick Deandre Ayton. In addition, the Wildcats lost many top recruits who were scared off because of the uncertainty around the program resulting from the probe.
“It’s not that the guys we have aren’t good players, we just have a lot of new players,” he said. “It’s a different team. We’re used to being a favorite or a co-favorite, so it’s a team that can go out there and play with a chip on its shoulder and try to prove they’re better than everyone expects them to be.”
Miller was also asked if there was added pressure because of the uncertainty.
“You know, we’re just at the beginning stages of it, so we’re eight practices in, and we’re not in the month of November yet,” he said. “This is a period of time where I think every coach and team try to become closer. You learn more and more about who you have and what they can do, and that’s that’s what our charge is and the task at hand for me and our coaching staff.”
Miller wouldn’t say whether he thought his recruiting efforts had been impacted by the investigations.
“I’m just focused on the task at hand,” he said. “The external thing isn’t really on my radar right now. My charge is to treat our players right, obviously run our program and get ready for the 2018-19 season.”
Arizona will play exhibition games at home against Western New Mexico (Oct. 30) and Chaminade (Nov. 6) and open the regular season at McKale Center against Houston Baptist Nov. 7.