Sean Miller

Arizona receives important messages upon their return to campus

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Classes at many schools begin Monday, which means we’re that much closer to having actual college basketball games to discuss. And with the returns to campus come the team meetings used to establish the course of action in the weeks leading up to the start of practice.

At Arizona, head coach Sean Miller uses the return of his players to campus to remind the team of the importance of handling their affairs off the basketball court. From academics to social situations, many seasons have been derailed over the years thanks to bad decisions that have nothing to do with a shot or turnover.

According to Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star, this is the second consecutive year in which the Wildcats have kicked things off with a meeting of this variety.

Arizona basketball players were scheduled to return to campus by this morning, then attend what coach Sean Miller calls a “state of the union” meeting this afternoon. During that, the players will listen to talks by trainers, doctors, police officers, public relations representatives and others.

“We try to give our players a sampling of everything that can happen to them outside of our locker room, first and foremost,” Miller said earlier this month. “A lot of things go on in today’s world — a phone can take a picture, and all of a sudden you know about it quicker and more often. It’s a lesson for all of us that we have to be extremely careful and diligent, and know that we represent a team, a program, a university, and we want to do it in a first-class manner.”

The Wildcats begin classes Monday amidst high expectations, with two McDonald’s All-Americans (Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) and a highly-regarded transfer point guard (former Duquesne point guard T.J. McConnell) joining a group that includes junior guard Nick Johnson and sophomore big men Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.

But there are some holes to fill as Arizona looks to improve upon its Sweet 16 run of a season ago. Versatile forward Solomon Hill’s now in the NBA, and fellow veterans Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom are gone as well. And there’s also the matter of who will consistently knock down perimeter shots, with freshman Elliott Pitts and sophomore Gabe York being two of the possible answers to that question.

Talent-wise the pieces are in place for Arizona to not only win the Pac-12 but accomplish some things nationally as well. With so much ahead of them it’s a good idea to make sure the players are cognizant of what exactly is at stake, both on and off the court.

Nigel Hayes’ comment on basketball brands hits on greater point

Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes (10) drives on Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Madison, Wis. Hayes had a team-high 21 points in Wisconsin's 79-68 win. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
AP Photo/Andy Manis
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Much is made about the ball when it comes to how the sport of basketball is played and rightfully so, as the ball is the most important piece of equipment. Different brands have different characteristics, and with college basketball programs being able to pick the ball they use for home games there are adjustments to be made during the season.

Wisconsin will play at No. 2 Maryland Saturday, meaning that in the days leading up to the game the Badgers needed to get used to the Under Armour basketball. The brand became a conversation point in the aftermath of Maryland’s win over No. 4 Iowa last month, with the Hawkeyes (while not blaming the ball for their loss) made note of the differences between the Under Armour ball and the Nike ball they use for their home games.

Thursday Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes offered up his observations on the basketball while also pointing out (albeit sarcastically) the goal of intercollegiate athletics.

“It’s definitely different,” Hayes said. “Personally, we don’t like it too much. I don’t like the Under Armour ball whatsoever. But that’s the way this amateur sports league is set up. We’re supposed to be having fun, but all the money is in these basketballs that colleges play with. But it’s an amateur sport, we’re just here for fun. It’s not really that serious. So I guess any ball should be OK.

“Maybe we should have a universal ball like the NBA. You don’t go to the Clippers’ stadium and play with a Nike and then go to Golden State and play with a Rawlings. But in this amateur sport of college, where money isn’t the goal — it’s the student education and experience that you get — we play with a million different basketballs.”

Hayes makes a good point here, and in regards to the NBA all hell would break loose under similar circumstances (remember the leather vs. microfiber composite controversy in 2006?). If these games are solely about fun and the college experience, wouldn’t having one ball used by all schools better fit that mission? This isn’t the biggest of deals when it comes to “amateur” athletics, as different basketball brands have been used for years.

But Hayes was able to take this situation and work it into the discussion of the goals of intercollegiate athletics. Is it about the experience? Or does the ability to profit, be it through a minor move such as using a particular ball or the more impactful step of moving from one conference to another, take precedence? Given the shifts that have occurred in college sports in recent years, it’s quite apparent that the search for additional revenue streams has won out.

Hayes did note that neither he nor his teammates would make excuses, saying that the team would simple “have to get used to” the unfamiliar basketball according to the Wisconsin State Journal. In the end, this was a good use of sarcasm by Hayes to make a greater point about the collegiate athletics machine he and his teammates are but minor parts of.

Marquette fan sends Providence money for missed free throw

Providence's Kris Dunn reacts to his shot during the first half of an NCAA basketball game against Villanova, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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It goes without saying that sports can inspire some interesting promises, from players and coaches guaranteeing victory to fans making statements that hinge on the outcome of a particular game or play (see: tattoos celebrating a team’s triumphs before they’ve even won the game in question). For one Marquette fan, the need for Providence’s Kris Dunn to miss a free throw during Wednesday night’s game (which Marquette won in overtime) inspired him to make a promise that he intended to keep.

Jamey Schilling took the approach of yelling that he’d pay Dunn $10 if he missed the free throw. Sure enough Dunn missed the shot, and Schilling made good on his promise. But with players themselves unable to receive such funds due to NCAA rules, Schilling sent the check to the Providence athletic department.

Schilling’s gesture did not go unnoticed by Marquette either, as the school sent him a gift card to use in the Marquette Spirit Shop.

H/T For The Win