TUCSON, Ariz. -- It was a little more than a year ago when the Arizona Wildcats faced Seattle Pacific in the teams exhibition opener.
And gasp! lost.
Arizona doesnt lose exhibition games. It doesnt lose home games. At least its not supposed to.
Such is life for one of college basketball's elite programs. You can count on expectations to be high when youre selling out intrasquad games.
Its about winning and sending the fans home happy.
This season, it all starts with Wednesdays exhibition game with Humboldt State at McKale Center.
Still, the games must be played and the expectations tempered. It all brings to brings to mind Kansas coach Bill Selfs words at last seasons Final Four when his team faced North Carolina in the semifinals.
"(At) Kansas, North Carolina, winning is a relief, losing is a disaster," Self said. "Sometimes you've got to find joy in winning. A lot of times we have kind of relished in the opportunity to be that team that's chasing as opposed to the team that's (being) chased all the time. You've got to be just as hungry both ways, but I like the thought of our guys thinking that we're the hunter."
Arizona has long been the hunted. It will be again be this season.
Former Arizona coach Lute Olson said always having the burden of high expectations was not always that simple and not always that easy.
Sean Miller agreed, adding that getting to this point being ranked in the top 20 to start the season and its highest ranking since 2006-07 wasnt easy. Victories might be expected, but they don't come easily.
His program isnt the one from the heyday of the Olson era. Instead, its been a program in need of a rebuilding and relaunch.
To me, the starting point that we had here when we first got to Arizona was a whole different ball game, Miller said when told of Selfs thoughts. Knowing comprehensively how far weve come, whether its on the court or off the court, its that building process that is very difficult. I would say more difficult than winning at a place that expects to win having tough losses, losing at home, fighting in the offseason in recruiting is building a more talented, deeper and more experienced team.
Four years from getting the head coaching job, hes done that. Whether the program has arrived will be determined later, because March is when teams are measured. But clearly Miller has done wonders with recruiting (having two of the top recruiting classes over the last two years), not to mention guiding the Wildcats to the Elite Eight two years ago, one shot away from the Final Four.
Consistency, however, is essential to continued success.
As we enter our fourth year, I look at it not necessarily comparing our four years to the history of Arizona basketball, as much as I compare Year 1 to Year 2, and 2 to 3, and then hopefully were built to last, Miller said. If we win and were able to be successful four or five years from now, maybe were able to get into that other category, but I dont look at us as having earned that other category yet as much as were still getting better and we have a team and a program now that is built for the long haul. If we have that, we can be very proud of that because of where we started.
Olson will be watching. He said he expects the team to be really good.
He also warned fans that they need to recognize that this is a young team with the possibility of two freshmen (Grant Jarret and Kaleb Tarczewski or Brandon Ashley) and a transfer (Mark Lyons) in the starting lineup.
But they have some good experience with Solomon Hill, Nick Johnson and Kevin Parrom, Olson said. Parrom is going to be important because hes a senior and tough-minded, and thats important to have on a team.