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June 8, 2009

And the Sean Miller magic continues.

He just landed his fourth recruit for the í09-í10 season and instead of a freshman itís a senior who will be on the short list of best players in the Pac-10. Is it too early to give Miller the coach of the year award?

UAís new king of basketball is definitely on a roll. But before the success in the press and on the recruiting trail, his first victory was simply not being Tim Floyd or John Calipari. Good grief. Things change in a hurry, donít they? Rambo didnít dodge this many bullets.

I am now revising the list of Greatest Near-Misses in American History:

-The Cuban Missile Crisis
-Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania on 9/11
-The time I had to make a right turn from the left lane at 50 miles an hour at the Grant/Campbell intersection to avoid an accident
-Arizona not hiring Floyd or Calipari

But we didnít miss on our best remaining player. Welcome back, Nic Wise.

Iím not going to play the game where I argue itís smarter for a guy to stay in school just because he happens to play for my favorite team. Injuries are always a threat, especially for a player who has had knee issues like Nic. We wonít know for a few years whether or not Wise cost himself money by playing another year of amateur ball. But I will say this: If Nic wants to play in the NBA, staying at Arizona is his best bet.

Nic wasnít going to be drafted this year. If he took the European money he would probably stay there. If he wants a shot at the NBA, making a national name for himself as part of a major U.S. college basketball program is the only way. I hope it works out for him.

Hereís something that would help. Nicís given first name is Dominique. Shortening it is fine, but thereís no C anywhere so why go with ďNicĒ? This isnít like Nicholas Grigsby or Dominic Costa. No, the starting point guard and best player on the 2010 Arizona Wildcats should beÖ

Niq Wise.

Tell me thatís not an NBA name. And spelling matters. You think Shaquille O'Neal would've won four NBA championships if he went by "Shack"?

Heís already made our summer. Now itís time to remake his image and make history.

Welcome back, Niq Wise.

(Bonus suggestion: Jam Horne. Thereís a name that wouldnít lose games with intentional fouls.)

This latest good news doesnít change my opinion of next yearís expectations however. Think of it this way: The most likely starting lineup is Wise, Fogg, Solomon Hill, Horne and Natazhko. That means the two starters we lost were NBA first round picks, and the two guys weíre replacing them with are freshman.

Last yearís team baaaaarely made it into the tournament. And this next yearís team is supposed to be just as good? Itís not a fair burden to make them bear.

If the three freshmen arenít incredible (and if Niq doesnít change his name) the consecutive tournament streak will most likely end at 25. And thatís OK. Lute couldnít coach forever and his streak canít last forever.

If 25 is in fact our final number we need to keep it in perspective as we move forward. Itís not the all-time record so thereís no need to start fretting when Kansas gets close to passing it in a couple years. Luteís record 28 all-time tournament appearances isnít the magic number either since Boeheim (26) and Shushefskee (25) will soon eclipse it.

No, the number we need to cherish, defend and boast about is 23. Twenty-three years was the length of Lute Olsonís personal NCAA tournament streak which is tied for the best ever. Kansas isnít challenging that one since they changed coaches mid-run. The longest active one-coach streak is now Mike Shushefskee at 14. Just another reason to root for something dreadful to happen to Duke in the next 9 years.

All that said, the return of Wise does give us hope. Even if we shouldnít expect another tournament-worthy team we may as well cheer for it until the math says otherwise. So the Maui games now mean something. Home wins against UNLV, NC State and BYU could be valuable. At the very least this team should have enough talent to be a threat to steal a bid at the Pac-10 tournament.

Thanks to Niq the rest of our summer will be happier, healthier, and a lot Wiser.

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