Losing in the Elite Eight has to be one of the toughest defeats to deal with in the NCAA tournament, Arizona coach Sean Miller said on the latest March Madness 365 podcast.
Miller has lost in four, three at Arizona and one at Xavier. The Wildcats have a chance at a top-level seed again to be in the position to reach an Elite Eight next month.
“It’s the weirdest feeling of all,’’ Miller said. “You’ve ridden a great ride in the tournament and got to the second weekend. You win the game to be in position to be in the game that gets to the Final Four. The Elite Eight is different than the rest of the tournament. You have multiple games in the same venue at every other round. But in the Elite Eight. You show up and it’s only one game. It’s quiet.
“If you win, you did it, and cut down the nets and if you don’t it’s almost like you get kicked out of the tournament. There’s no pageantry after that loss. You’re so close to it and then you disappear.
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“One of the teams I’m a part of will cross the threshold,’’ Miller said. “But if you make that your end all, be all, you’re not going to be happy. You have to appreciate the journey.’’
Gonzaga coach Mark Few, another guest on the show, also knows the pain of losing in the Elite Eight, and now in a national title game after falling to North Carolina last April.“I’m crazy competitive and too competitive,’’ Few said. “At the same time, I don’t think it hurts as bad as those other ones, especially when it is your first time there. Our team played up to their capabilities and had a chance to win the game.
“The fact that we were at the Final Four, in the national championship game and a chance to win it. I’m not going to feel bad about it. I would have love to have won it, but it’s not like my life is not complete by not winning it.’’Gonzaga and Villanova, two smaller Catholic-based schools on opposite ends of the country, played North Carolina in the national title game with Nova winning in 2016 and the Zags losing in 2017.
What does that say?
“There is no box to put Villanova in other than they are a national program playing at the highest lively and there is no box to put Gonzaga in other than playing at the highest level,’’ said Few. “Both of us have shown that.
"The way we operate, the players, the way we travel, everything about our program speaks of our programs at the highest level.”
Miller and Few also broke down their teams on the call — their upperclassmen and their key freshman. Miller said he had never seen a player like Deandre Ayton in his career.
Former Purdue All-American Robbie Hummel, who now works for the Big Ten Network and ESPN as an analyst, also joined the podcast to discuss his career, the national scene, how much he valued his time at Purdue and all the benefits from playing college basketball.