When is one victory worth more than a one victory? When it comes against the defending national champions in the same year that you were supposed to be just starting become relevant again. The Arizona Wildcats improbable win over Duke last night was felt throughout the college basketball world but there's one location that may have felt the aftershock of it more than any other place in the country and that's Tempe.
You see, the Arizona State Sun Devil basketball program has had a front row seat to the decay of Arizona basketball and now they have that same front row seat to its resurrection.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. While Arizona was falling all over themselves in the post Lute Olson years the Devils were supposed to be on solid ground and passing the once storied program. They did pass them, unfortunately they weren't able to sustain that brief success and now ASU fans are getting that same sick feeling in their guts they had when Lute Olson and his Cats would put an annual beat down on the Devils when Bill Frieder or Rob Evans was here.
After winning in Tucson three straight times under Herb Sendek in those first two seasons without Olson, the Devils were swept this season and the the all-time series record is the only proof you need of the absolute domination the Cats have held over ASU. 79-141 is where the series stands at the present time and with Miller and the Cats already having the top rated recruiting class in the conference and ranked 9th nationally, Arizona is back in a big way.
Last night's win will only enhance how recruits view the Arizona basketball program under Miller moving forward. Clearly the man who's been called "Lottery" by his teammates, Derrick Williams has seen his draft stock rise even more with his tournament performances and it will be a big time challenge for Miller to convince him to stay. Even if he departs the Cats have three big time recruits set to arrive in the fall in Josiah Turner , Nick Johnson and Sidiki Johnson.
ASU's recruiting class is rated as 4th best in the conference but is not ranked nationally.
Sendek's marquee recruit is Jahi Carson. Carson is a local product (Mesa high school) who is certainly the kind of player who will help sell tickets and move the meter, but Carson can't do it alone and he can't be expected to come in as a freshman and be the difference maker.
Sendek's roster this season was loaded with underclassmen so from that standpoint he's got a big chunk of his players returning but will that and the addition of Carson be enough to stem the rising tide that's taking place in Tucson?
If the Cats are somehow able to disarm Kemba Walker and the Huskies of UConn and advance to the Final Four, this Arizona team will join a very special group of teams before them and Miller's magical act in the old Pueblo will have taken on a truly mystical feel.
Herb Sendek is a terrific coach and he's always been cool under pressure but you have to believe that the collar on his shirt got a little tighter watching the Cats performance last night. The ASU basketball season doesn't officially begin for another seven months but he better go into a full court offseason press if they have any hope of staying out of the large shadow that Arizona basketball is currently casting.