Just eight games into the Pac-12 Conference schedule, Arizona head coach Sean Miller had seen enough.
The night of Jan. 28 proved to be a memorable one for the renowned Wildcats program. That evening, Oregon went to Tucson and did something no other team had done in 49 previous games by beating Arizona on its home court.
The fallout was as immediate as it was dramatic. Arizona head coach Sean Miller exchanged words with star senior Kaleb Tarczewski on the bench before proceeding to rip his team, which had just fallen to 4-4 in Pac-12 Conference play, during his postgame media session.
Miller questioned his team's coachability. He questioned their effort and a penchant for turnovers that led to 21 Oregon points that night, ultimately declaring, "I've never been more disappointed in a game than I am tonight."
Any of that sentiment strike a chord, Colorado Buffaloes fans?
CU head coach Tad Boyle expressed a similar if far less dramatic sense of frustration after last week's late meltdown at USC, essentially stating that he told his players he was questioning whether he had recruited the right young men for the job at hand.
Think what anyone will of the expletive-laced tirade Miller delivered to Tarczewski — he seemingly found the correct buttons to push with the public questioning of his entire team. Arizona climbed to No. 9 in this week's AP men's basketball poll and is arguably one of the hottest teams in the country entering Wednesday's contest against the Buffs at the Coors Events Center.
Arizona hasn't lost since that night against Oregon, reeling off six consecutive wins that included payback victories against USC, UCLA and Arizona State. Tarczewski has fallen into an offensive funk since then — he averaged 10.7 with a .584 field goal percentage through that Oregon game, but has averaged seven points with a .444 mark from the floor in six games since — yet the Wildcats have regained the swagger that made them the preseason favorite in the league for the fourth consecutive season.
And, it should be noted, Tarczewski has significantly improved his rebounding since being the recipient of Miller's ire, averaging 11 rebounds a game in the past six contests after posting 8.1 per game in the 13 games prior to Oregon.
This week will determine much of the effectiveness of Boyle's post-USC message. Yes, the UCLA game three nights later was one of the least competitive games for the Buffs this season. But facing a hot-and-cold Bruins team on a hot night at home, combined with the short turnaround after the USC fiasco, is a tough scenario in which to script a rebound performance.
Like Miller, Boyle is trying to press buttons as well. He perhaps simply has not found the correct one yet. NCAA tournament teams generally do not use seven different starting lineups unless necessitated by injury. In Boyle's case (aside from Josh Scott's recent two-game injury absence), it has been necessitated by turnovers, ineffectiveness and the failure of the rotating trio of starting wing players to step up and decisively claim a starting spot with consistent play.
The Buffs play a superior brand of basketball at home (14-1). Wins against Arizona and Arizona State in the home finale would certainly solidify postseason projections ahead of the regular-season finale at Utah and the Pac-12 tournament.
Since Miller aired his angst publicly, his players have done their best to show their coach he has the right players for the job. This week, the Buffs can do the same for their coach.