College Basketball Nation: Nic Wise

Final: UCLA 75, Arizona 69

March, 11, 2010
LOS ANGELES – Arizona’s streak of 25 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances came to an end with the Wildcats’ 75-69 loss to UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament. Arizona, which barely slipped into the dance last year despite finishing 19-13 and losing five of its final six games, was just two invitations short of North Carolina's record 27-year run from 1975-2001.

“Any coach who came to Arizona to make the NCAA tournament for a 26th time is going to find he’s going to be a paranoid coach,” said first-year Arizona coach Sean Miller. “The reason I came to Arizona is to rebuild our program and hopefully one day get it back to the level that everybody has watched.”

Considering how Arizona has played this season in finishing 16-15, the end of the streak didn’t come as much of a surprise to anybody.

“We knew it would be tough,” said senior guard Nic Wise, who had 16 points. “A whole new system, a whole new staff again and with the five freshman it would be a mountain to climb for us to make it the [NCAA] tournament.”

Miller must now go about the work of beginning a new streak next season.

“I’m confident that the price we pay through 31 games and the 80-plus practices that we’ve had, is a system that will continue to grow and develop,” Miller said. “Young players will get bigger, stronger and older and the more depth and size we have will certainly help.”
LOS ANGELES -- Arizona will need to win the Pac-10 tournament to keep its streak of 25 consecutive NCAA tournament berths alive but that added bit of motivation hasn’t seemed to spark the Wildcats, who came out about as flat as they’ve played this season. The only player who has shown much of anything is Nic Wise, who has 10 points.

Sean Miller has probably stayed in the coach’s box for about two seconds in the first half. While screaming, pleading and all but begging his players to pick up their intensity, he has been on the court and as far as the 3-point line while the ball is still in play. He almost hit Michael Roll when the UCLA senior hit a 3-pointer and was able to tap him on the back after he made the shot.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the first half was watching Bill Murray, wearing a red Arizona visor and a red and white wig, cheering wildly every time Arizona scores a basket. Murray's son, Luke, is a graduate assistant for the Wildcats.

Not only has it been a tough year for the Pac-10 on the court but they got no breaks in terms of attendance for their conference tournament with USC not participating and UCLA playing a Noon game with Arizona while class is in session. There are about 5,000 fans in attendance who look even smaller when you consider the Staples Center holds 20,000.

Previewing the Pac-10 tournament

March, 10, 2010
The Pac-10 tournament this year features nine unranked teams, and for those not named Cal, it’s either win or go home.

A sense of desperation will be felt during every game at the Staples Center in Los Angeles because for many, their postseasons depend entirely on winning the title.

After failing to impress in November and December, and then beating each other during conference play, the Pac-10 is looking like a two-bid conference. With that amount of parity, there is plenty of hope for a surprise team to emerge and punch its NCAA tournament ticket.

“There’s definitely a number of teams that can,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

And that’s exciting, right?


The Pac-10 couldn’t really be a one-bid conference, could it? Crazier things have happened, but if Arizona State and Washington lose their quarterfinal games, and regular-season champ Cal takes the title, there you have it. Can a power-six conference, that has struggled to replace players lost to the NBA, get two or three teams in the NCAA tournament?

Arizona, short of winning the tournament, will have its streak of 25 years of making the NCAA tournament snapped. Senior guard Nic Wise has proven his ability to make game-ending shots, and Miller’s talented freshmen could very well come of age during this event. Even if No. 4-seeded Arizona falters during its quarterfinal against No. 5 UCLA, the future is bright.

Cal might have captured its first regular-season title in 50 years, but the Bears can improve their seeding with another title, and quiet doubters who say they merely took advantage of a weak conference. The experienced seniors in the lineup will have something to say about that.

Players to watch

Jerome Randle, G, Cal, Sr. -- Randle, listed at 5-foot-10, was named the conference’s player of the year and is the heart and soul of the Bears. The point guard can hit the deep three, drive the lane and feed the ball to his teammates.

Quincy Pondexter, F, Washington, Sr. -- Second in scoring and third in rebounding in the Pac-10, Pondexter can do a little bit of everything. He’ll be looking to extend the Huskies’ season for as long as he can before heading to the NBA draft.

Derrick Williams, F, Arizona, Fr. -- A native of the Los Angeles area, Williams takes home with him the conference’s freshman of the year award and is the face of the team’s future. A big tournament would generate plenty of preseason hype.

Team to watch

Washington -- The Huskies haven’t exactly met their preseason expectations as defending conference champions, but now it’s the end of the season and they find themselves on a four-game winning streak and with 21 wins. Their last three wins have come on the road after struggling mightily away from Seattle in the early going. An impressive tournament could garner the No. 3-seeded team an at-large bid.

Game I’m looking forward to

A potential Arizona State-Washington semifinal could make all the difference in deciding which of the two teams would merit an at-large berth if they ended up not winning the tournament title. They split in the regular season, with 22-win ASU finishing a game ahead in the standings to take the No. 2 seed.

Handshakes optional

March, 7, 2010
Saturday featured a couple of games after which the time-honored tradition of postgame handshakes wasn't exactly followed.

Siena coach Fran McCaffery made most of his players leave the bench with time winding down during a MAAC quarterfinal game so they wouldn't have to be in the handshake line after a physical win against Manhattan.

Siena Saints Blog has video of McCaffery explaining the move and getting testy when the media tried to question him about it.
The Siena coach ordered his players back into the locker room after Siena’s 78-61 win over the Jaspers Saturday night. McCaffery was so insistent that when he found Kyle Downey still sitting at the end of the bench he told him leave the sideline immediately.

In the post game press conference Coach McCaffery claimed it was to protect against any form of altercation between the two team’s players, but refused to go into greater detail.

Meanwhile, USC coach Kevin O'Neill, in his return to Arizona, was so upset (mainly with the officiating) that he didn't wait around to shake the hands of his former players while they celebrated Nic Wise beating the buzzer again for the win.

According to the Arizona Daily Star:
UA players seemed annoyed that, after O'Neill shook hands with (Arizona coach Sean) Miller, he promptly walked off the court while the Wildcats celebrated at halfcourt.

When Arizona's Nic Wise was asked if he talked to O'Neill before or after the game, teammate Jamelle Horne cut him off.

"Not even after the game," Horne said. "He didn't shake our hands after the game."

Arizona's future looks bright

February, 28, 2010
Another buzzer-beating win for Arizona has the Wildcats feeling good about themselves -- even though it will take a run through the Pac-10 tournament to capture their 26th consecutive NCAA tournament bid.

Lamont Jones, a freshman also known as MoMo, banked in a jumper at the horn to beat Stanford on the road 71-69 on Saturday. Jones scored 16 points and, probably conference freshman of the year, Derrick Williams had 24.

The rebuilding at Arizona is ahead of schedule, and fittingly, coach Sean Miller had Jones in the game late instead of starting point guard Nic Wise, who twice hit game-winners this season but has struggled lately.

Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star noticed that by the end of the game, only freshmen and sophomores were on the court for the Wildcats:
So here was UA's lineup on the floor tonight in the final seconds: Derrick Williams, Solomon Hill, Brendon Lavender, Kyle Fogg and MoMo Jones.

What does that tell you?

“You have to play the players that are performing, the players who are playing the best together and mostly you have to play the players who are giving fantastic effort," UA coach Sean Miller said.

Nic Wise does it again

January, 31, 2010
Arizona's young players are blossoming under the direction of coach Sean Miller, but when the game is on the line, the Wildcats turn to senior Nic Wise.

Wise, who twice hit buzzer-beaters earlier in the year, scored 30 points on Sunday in a 76-72 win against Cal that pulled the Wildcats into a first-place tie in the Pac-10 with the Bears at the midway point of the conference schedule.

In the closing minute, Wise drew a foul while making the bucket and completed a three-point play with 26.3 seconds left to put Arizona up by two. His two free throws with 10.7 seconds left made it a two-possession game and essentially sealed what had been a back-and-forth game.

Cal (14-7), looking for its first Pac-10 road sweep of the Arizona schools, missed a golden opportunity to separate itself from the rest of the league and add to its résumé with a win at the McKale Center.

Theo Robertson scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Bears.

Fredette for 49

December, 29, 2009
BYU guard Jimmer Fredette's 49-point command performance was so masterful that Arizona coach Sean Miller couldn't help but marvel at it.

Fredette ended up setting a single-game school record and a McKale Center record for points scored, but Miller had seen enough by halftime of the Fiesta Bowl Classic.

"Jimmer Fredette is someone we just don't have an answer for," Miller conceded during an interview with FOX Sports Arizona before heading into the locker room with Fredette only having scored 24 at that point.

With the game winding down, the arena was so quiet that Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star heard Miller jokingly plead with Fredette, "just pass, no more shooting."

No dice. Fredette ultimately hit a three-pointer with about three minutes remaining to make it 49 points and immediately checked out of the game to the cheers of Arizona fans.

Instead of shaking hands with Fredette after the game, Miller hugged him and added two pats on the chest.

All this on a night when BYU handed Arizona a 99-69 loss that was the Wildcats' worst in the history of playing at the McKale Center.

And why not? Fredette was worth the price of admission for all who witnessed his dominance. He went 16-of-23 from the field, including 9-of-13 from three-point range. He dished out nine assists and grabbed seven rebounds.

The 6-foot-2 junior hit 3s whenever he wanted from all over the court and hounded Arizona on defense as well, with Nic Wise being held to eight points.

It was another glorious moment for the Mountain West Conference, courtesy of a 13-1 team with a star player yet without a national ranking.

It was also another humbling experience for the Pac-10.

Can Nic Wise make it three straight?

December, 28, 2009
Arizona might not be the Arizona of old, but Nic Wise has been doing his best to bring back the magic to the McKale Center.

Wise hit a controversial three-pointer at the horn to beat Lipscomb in overtime and then came back two nights later to beat North Carolina State with a last-second driving layup and put his team back above the .500 mark.

Tonight, Wise will host Jimmer Fredette and 12-1 BYU as part of the Fiesta Bowl Classic. It's a tough test for the Wildcats, who have already lost this season to Mountain West Conference opponents in UNLV and San Diego State.

The Cougars would love to add another win against the Pac-10 to its year-end resume. But if the game comes down to Arizona with the ball last, the Wildcats have a senior in Wise they can go to without hesitation.

"Wise is smart with the ball," BYU coach Dave Rose told reporters before the game. "He knows when to go on the attack and when to bring it out and get into a half court offense. That’s something we’re going to have to manage. He has some many different parts to his game. He can create transition opportunities all the time."

Lipscomb files complaint over Arizona buzzer beater

December, 23, 2009
Lipscomb has filed a complaint with the Atlantic Sun in protest of Nic Wise's three-pointer at the buzzer that lifted the Wildcats to an 83-82 win on Monday night in Tucson, reports Mike Organ of The Tennessean.

Referees stuck with their original call that the ball left Wise's hand with time remaining on the clock after taking time to review the play. Lipscomb radio announcer Jonathan Seamon wrote that one official even asked for a pair of glasses.

Bisons coach Scott Sanderson declined comment after the game, but is now fighting back.

"I don't want in any way, shape or form to sound like there's sour grapes on our behalf, but the clock showed 0:00 and the ball was still in (Wise's) hands,'' Sanderson told The Tennessean. "The red light on top of the backboard was on. We looked at it frame-by-fame."