San Diego State coach Steve Fisher had this to say about the job Sean Miller has done to this point in the season: "He's done a masterful job."

Of course, he'd like that ride to end against his San Diego State Aztecs on Thursday night here at the Honda Center in the Sweet 16.

For Arizona, where better to continue its possibly glorious road to the Final Four than at the doorstep of Disneyland, where magical things happen?

It's been that kind of ride so far for ther 30-4 Wildcats.

But even though Miller and his Cats had a magical start to the season, winning 21 consecutive games and staying atop the polls for a school record eight consecutive weeks, adjustments had to be made when sophomore forward Brandon Ashley went down with a season-ending injury in early February.

Against his own stubborn instincts, Miller came to that conclusion -- like it or not. The bench would have to play more. The lineup would have to go smaller, but deeper. Faster, quicker and more transition-oriented.

Change was good.

"They are one man down, but they are awfully, awfully good," said Fisher on the eve of playing the Wildcats. "With Gabe York out there playing more minutes you have a better shooting team, obviously. He stretches the floor (and) it opens things up for (Aaron) Gordon and dribble penetration. They are better than they were and better than when they played at our place.

"I think we are too."

The Wildcats defeated the Aztecs 69-60 in San Diego in November, the third of their 21 consecutive victories. But that was a lifetime ago for both teams.

It's debatable and probably an unanswerable question as to whether Arizona is better without Ashley -- there's no question it would rather have him than not -- but the Wildcats are clearly different and create a different set of complications for opponents.

Suffice to say they have moved on quite nicely without him.

"Our kids have responded to the adversity," said UA assistant coach Book Richardson. "We've banded tighter and now we are trying to win as many games for Brandon. Losing him was a huge blow because losing one of the best players in the country is tough. We're still a work in progress."

They are 11-4 since the unavoidable transition, and admittedly, the change took some time. An ah-ha moment came when the Wildcats went to Tempe and lost in double overtime to Arizona State. Two days later, they were in a team meeting discussing the use of its bench after all the starters played 45 minutes or more.

"That was real important," said UA junior guard T.J. McConnell. "We talked, and I think it gave the guys coming off the bench more confidence in coming off the bench in giving us a break. We told them we'd need them. We've gone uphill from there."