Arizona eyes extended NIT run without Turner
TUCSON, Ariz. – Arizona's mantra — whether it likes it or not — has gone from "win three games in three days" to "win five games in a little more than a couple of weeks."
That's what it'll take to win the NIT, where Arizona is a No. 1 seed.
"For us, it's to have that same mentality as we had in the Pac-12 tournament, knowing that this time we know that if we lose, we are done," Arizona coach Sean Miller said Monday. "We want to be that team that keeps playing. This tournament is much more about extending the career life of (seniors) Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry and Brendon Lavender."
Arizona will play No. 8 seed Bucknell in the first round of the tournament Wednesday night at McKale Center.
What's clear is that the season is over for freshman guard Josiah Turner. His career at Arizona will be determined later. Miller suspended Turner, his one-time prized point guard, for last week's Pac-12 tournament for violating undisclosed team rules. It's now extended to the rest of the season — however long that might be.
"I won't elaborate beyond that, just because when our season ends, we will be able to take the next step and get on the same page with Josiah moving forward," Miller said. "That shouldn't be interpreted as, 'He will never play at Arizona again', but I know he won't play this season again."
Miller added that "it's as much his choice as it is mine."
Turner, a 6-foot-3 guard, entered Arizona as the No. 2 point guard in the country and No. 10 player overall. He started 17 games and averaged 6.8 points and 2.4 assists per game. When he was on, he was amazingly good. When he was not on, he hardly met his ranking. He was also suspended for a game against Florida in December.
Miller said there was a series of things Turner would have to do to get back in good graces, adding, "he has to make the complete choice himself that he wants to be here under the ways we run the program — from the classroom, on the court, off the court. We're not expecting him to be more perfect than any of the other 12 players on the team, as much as follow the rules just like everybody else (and do the things) that will make us successful as a program."
Miller said Turner "could learn from this experience."
Arizona will move on the same way it did last weekend, playing freshman Nick Johnson and sophomore Jordin Mayes at the point guard spot.
What Miller doesn't want his team to do is feel like the NIT is a "consolation prize."
"If you have that mindset, you won't be in the NIT for very long," Miller said.
Miller talked about the possibility of playing to get to a Final Four and possibly making it a "magical" experience, hoping that when the players look back on it, the season becomes more memorable.
Now, Miller said, it's his job to get his guys "revved up" and ready to play. He added that he'd like to think the "guys are excited to play" in the NIT. They met as a team earlier on Monday, and part of the discussion was being in the tournament "not with one foot in but with both feet in and trying to be that team that advances and wins."
Miller said it happens often when teams play well or go deep into the NIT and then have a successful season a year later. It's about "having no regrets" when you play.
"When you are in the NIT, the first game is so much about being hungry and ready," Miller said. "If you are fortunate to win that first game and you go from 32 to 16 (teams left) ... it starts to feel and take on a life you want to feel in March, where you are playing for something special."