Arizona's Sean Miller and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan are considered two of the best in their profession, coaches who have boosted or kept their programs at a national level. They have won conference championships and succeeded in the NCAA Tournament, but here's the thing: Neither coach has been to the Final Four. Saturday that will change. Miller's top-seeded Wildcats and Ryan's second-seeded Badgers will square off in the West Regional Final at the Honda Center, providing a career-defining moment for one coach and another disappointing miss for the other. "Everybody knows the words 'Final Four' mean a great deal to programs, universities," Miller, 45, said. UA (33-4) advanced to the West Regional final with Thursday's victory over San Diego State. Wisconsin (29-7) did so by knocking off Baylor, leading almost from start to finish. Both have been on this stage before. Both have fallen just short. Wisconsin reached the 2005 final eight, losing to eventual champion North Carolina, a game that got away from the Badgers in the final minutes. In 2011, Derrick Williams led UA to the Elite Eight, only to lose on this same court to eventual national champion Connecticut. In the final seconds, Jamelle Horne fired an open 3-pointer that would've won the game, but it bounced off the rim, ending the Wildcats' season. "I remember watching that shot miss and really just saying to myself that we gave everything we got," said Miller, who has advanced to the Elite Eight three times in his 10-year career. UA is trying to reach its first Final Four since 2001. Wisconsin hopes to get there for time first time since 2000. UA is tough and gritty, capable of grinding out victories. Wisconsin is balanced and unselfish, capable of scoring in many ways. According to advanced statistics, UA leads the country in defensive efficiency, and Wisconsin ranks fourth in offensive efficiency. On Friday, a reporter asked the Wisconsin starting five to describe UA in one or two words. The answers: athletic, tough, solid, extremely talented and good team. The same reporter asked the Badgers how they think UA would describe them. Answers: Resilient, disciplined, unselfish, tough and White guys. "Not one of our guys said athletic," Ryan, 66, said. "Did you notice that?" Miller isn't fooled. He knows what he's up against. Entering Friday, the Badgers had beaten four of the 12 teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament: Michigan, Michigan State, Virginia and Florida. He knows the Badgers shoot well from all five positions. He knows they don't make many mistakes. "To me, the best part of Wisconsin's offense is their ability to shot fake," Miller said. "They get you up. That leads to drives. Drives lead to 3s and fouls and easy 2s." Perhaps UA's biggest task: Stopping Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, a 7-foot junior center who's capable of scoring both in the post and on the perimeter. "He's one of those rare players that's a (center) and pops out and shoots 3s," UA sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski said. "But like Coach always says: We're going to do what we do." Miller hopes it's enough, but if not, he said he'd be happy for Ryan. "They're among college basketball's elite," Miller said. "Knowing that one of us will win, it's always bitter when you lose. But if it happens, it will be nice to see him take that next step, because he's one of the great coaches in our game, for sure."
UA's Sean Miller, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan each want 1st Final 4
Arizona Republic | Mar 29