Midwest Regional Champion Arizona (27-7) at 2001 NCAA Final Four
Date: Saturday, March 31, 2001
Time: 4:42 p.m. CST
Location: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (46,000), Minneapolis, Minn.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz/Billy Packer)
Game Data: Fifth-ranked Arizona (27-7, 15-3 Pac-10) earned the fourth Final Four appearance in school history as the Midwest Regional champion ... The No. 2 seed Wildcats face No. 1 seed and South Regional champion Michigan State (28-4, 13-3 Big Ten) in the National Semifinal ... Arizona has a 31-18 (.633) record its 20 tournament appearances ... Arizona is 14-3 this season against the 2001 NCAA Tournament field ... MSU is the second consecutive Big Ten Conference foe and No. 1 seed to face the Wildcats.
The Rankings: UA rose to No. 5 in the March 12 Associated Press poll and to No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. Arizona opened the year as the nations top-ranked team in the media and coaches polls. Incidentally, UA has been ranked in the AP top 25 for 109 consecutive weeks, the longest active streak in the nation. The Cats have been ranked in 236 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season.
Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . is in his 18th season at Arizona and his 28th overall as a head coach with a career record of 638-224 (.740) and 446-132 (.772)... He recorded his 600th career win and his 400th victory at Arizona last year and has the fourth most Pac-10 wins (250) in history, trailing UCLAs John Wooden (304, 1949-75), Oregon States Slats Gill (276, 1929-64) and Washingtons Hec Edmundson (266, 1921-47)... He has the second-best conference winning percentage in Pac-10 history (minimum three years), trailing only Wooden (.810/304-74) ... During his 18-year tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1997), gone to four Final Fours (1988, 1994, 1997, 2001), won nine Pac-10 Conference titles and been to the NCAA Tournament for the past 17 years in a row, which is the second-longest streak in NCAA history (North Carolina, 27)... He also led Iowa to the 1980 Final Four... Olson has been named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year six times (1986, 88, 89, 93, 94, 98), the Big 10 Coach of the Year twice (1979 & 81) and directed the UA program to the nations best winning percentage over the past 13 years... In his collegiate career, he has produced 35 NBA Draft picks, including 20 at Arizona 15 alone in the 1990s... He has led Arizona to 14 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 23 overall in his career, making him one of only six head coaches in NCAA history to record 23 or more 20-win seasons... Under Olson, the Cats are 271-26 (.912) in McKale Center and have won 199 of its last 210 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention, Jay John and undergraduate assistant Josh Pastner. Olson is 36-21 in 22 career NCAA appearances, including a 29-15 mark at Arizona. He is 9-11 vs. Michigan State.
Last Time Out: The Wildcats won the Midwest Regional title at the free throw line as the team set NCAA Tournament records for free throws (43) and free throw attempts (56) in the 87-81 win. Gilbert Arenas, the Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player, scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half and Jason Gardner hit two key treys in the second half to lead the team to its fourth Final Four appearance. Six Illinois players fouled out in the game, which saw Arizona hit 16-of-21 FTs in the final three minutes.
Scouting Michigan State: The Spartans (28-4) come to Minneapolis having won 10 of its last 11 games. MSU is the nations top rebounding team, as it outrebounds the opposition by an average of +15.7 per game. Michigan State shoots 49 percent from the floor and averages 77.9 points per game, while holding the opposition to .389 shooting and 61.2 points. Four players average in double figures, led by Jason Richardsons 15.0 ppg average.
The Series: Saturdays National Semifinal is the fourth meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 3-0 series advantage. Arizona won the last meeting of the series, 79-68, in Tucson on Dec. 11, 1999. The two teams first met on Jan. 2, 1947. All-time, Arizona is 2-0 in series games played in Tucson, 1-0 in East Lansing and 0-0 in neutral-site games.
Last Meeting: Playing its third consecutive game against a top-10 opponent, No. 2 Arizona downed No. 5 Michigan State, 79-68, in McKale Center on Dec. 11, 1999. Arizona used a new starting lineup for the first time because Loren Woods was late getting to the arena after getting in a minor traffic accident on his way to the game. The Wildcats were undaunted however, as they raced out to a 31-15 lead just 12 minutes into the contest before the Spartans came back and cut the lead to just five (37-32) at the half. MSU tied the game at 59-59 with eight minutes left, but it would not get any closer after that, as Arizona scored eight straight points to help sway the momentum back to the UA side. The Cats would make 10-of-10 free throw attempts in the final four minutes to help seal the win. Jason Gardner scored 20 points to go with six rebounds, nine assists and two steals. Richard Jefferson was impressive as well, scoring 18 points, grabbing six boards and handing out six assists.
Final Four Facts: 2001 marks Arizonas fourth Final Four appearance in school history and the second in the second in the last five years. The Wildcats have a 2-2 record in three previous appearances and captured the 1997 National Championship. All told, the Cats have two West, one Southeast, and one Midwest Regional championships. The program has advanced to the Final Four twice as a No. 2 seed (1994, 2001), once as a No. 1 (1988) and once as a No. 4 (1997).
All-America: Arizona forward Michael Wright was named a third team All-American in voting released March 13 by the Associated Press. Wright, a 6-foot-7, 238-pound junior from Chicago, Ill., earned the honor after averaging 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting .591 from the field in the regular season. He is the Pac-10 active leader with 33 double-doubles, and Wright is a finalist for both the Wooden and Naismith Player-of-the-Year Awards. He was a first team all-Pacific-10 Conference pick this year. Wright was also an Honorable Mention AP All-America selection last season.
Coming Home: Lute Olson will experience a homecoming of sorts this week. A native of Mayville, N.D. (262 miles northwest of Minneapolis), Olson was a three-sport athlete at Augsburg College in Minneapolis before graduating in 1956. His coaching career began with five years of prep experience in Minnesota before he headed west.
Father-Son Bonding: When Arizona sophomore Luke Walton makes his first appearance on the court in Minneapolis, he will join his father, Bill (UCLA 1972-74), as a Final Four participant and become part of a very select group in college basketball history. A quick perusal of the NCAA Final Four Records Book found only one other father-son Final Four combination: Marques (UCLA 1974-76) and Kris (UCLA 1995) Johnson. If anyone knows of other combinations, please notify a UA sports information representative.
On the Sidelines: Just how important is Lute Olsons presence on the sidelines to this team? Since Olson returned to the squad on Jan. 15, UA has been one of the nations hottest teams winning 17 of 19 games. Incidentally, Arizona won the last two games under Rosboroughs direction, making it 19 wins in the last 21 starts.
Select Company: The trio of Michael Wright (1,464 points), Loren Woods (1,155) and Gilbert Arenas (1,083) have each totaled 1,000 career points. It is the third time in school history that Arizona has had at least three active 1,000-point scorers on the same roster. Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Craig McMillan and Anthony Cook first accomplished the feat in 1988, while Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson matched it in 1998.
On Target: The Wildcats have found the range in the postseason, shooting a combined .507 percent (110-of-217) from the floor in the four wins. That is 2.8 percent higher than its season field goal percentage. Fifty-seven of the teams 110 postseason field goals have been either layups or dunks. On the season, Arizona is 13-0 when shooting 50 percent or better from the field.
Off Target: Arizona has held all four postseason opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the floor. In those four NCAA Tournament games, UA opponents shot a cumulative .375 (93-of-248) percent from the field.
Balanced Attack: Despite a season-low 40 field goal attempts and 19 field goals in the regional final, Arizona placed four players in double figures for the fourth straight tournament game. The balance hasnt hurt the Wildcats productivity, as the team is averaging 81.8 points per game in the postseason and is the only club to have scored 100 points in this years NCAA Tournament.
Record-Setting Effort: The Wildcats set NCAA Tournament records with its 43 free throws and 56 free throws attempted in the regional final win over Illinois. The 43 free throws broke the previous record of 41, which was set twice, last by Navy vs. Syracuse in an East Regional second round game in 1986. The 56 attempts broke the previous mark of 55 set by UTEP vs. Tulsa in a West Regional first round game in 1985. Obviously, both marks are UA tournament records as well.
Reaching 1,000: Gilbert Arenas enters play today with 1,083 career points in less than two seasons. He became just the sixth player in school history to score 1,000 career points by the end of his sophomore season. Here are the others: 1. Coniel Popcorn Norman (1972-74) 1,194; 2. Bob Elliott (1973-75) 1,106; 3. Sean Elliott (1985-87) 1,077; 4. Mike Bibby (1996-98) 1,061; 5. Chris Mills* (1988-91) 1,004. *Mills scored 459 points as a freshman at the University of Kentucky in 1988-89 before transferring to Arizona.
In the Paint: Arizona has used its inside strength to great advantage in its last two wins. Through four games, 172 of the teams 327 points (.526) have been scored in the paint. In the NCAA Tournament, UA has a 172-96 advantage when it comes to points in the paint.
Scoring 80: Perhaps no statistic is more telling of Wildcat success than the 80-point mark. This season, Arizona is 16-0 when scoring 80 points and 11-7 when it does not. Over the last three seasons, UA is 44-3 (.936) when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 19-4 (.826) in the NCAA Tournament when scoring 80 points since 1985.
Continuing his Climb: Michael Wright currently stands in 11th place on UA's career scoring list with 1,464 points. Just ahead of Wright in 10th place is Sean Rooks (1988-92) with 1,497 points.
Block Party: Loren Woods seven blocked shots vs. Illinois ranks as the fourth-highest total (tie) in NCAA Regional history. The record is nine by David Robinson (Navy) vs. Cleveland State in 1986. It was the second-highest total for Woods this season, ranking behind the 10 blocks vs. Washington on Jan. 13.
Top 10: By leading the Wildcats to the 2001 Final Four, Lute Olson is now tied for sixth place in NCAA Tournament history with five Final Four appearances. He is also one of just 11 coaches to have taken two different teams to the Final Four.
All-Tournament: Gilbert Arenas, Jason Gardner, Richard Jefferson and Loren Woods were each named to the all-Midwest Regional team. Arenas was named the regions Most Outstanding Player.
Bouncing Back: After getting outrebounded 19-13 in the first half vs. Illinois on March 25, Arizona responded by posting a 22-17 second half rebound advantage. Loren Woods led the way by grabbing all five of his rebounds in the second half.
M.O.P.: In earning Midwest Regional Most Outstanding Player honors, Gilbert Arenas equaled an NCAA Tournament career high with 21 points and equaled a season high with four steals against Illinois. Incidentally, 18 of his 21 points came in the first half, matching a 2000-01 team high originally set Nov. 22 by Jason Gardner against Illinois.
Finding the Range: Bolstered by the strength of 55.6 percent shooting in the fist half and some sold defense, the Wildcats were able to outshoot Illinois 47.5-39.7 percent. How important is it for UA to outshoot its opponent? On the year, Arizona is 23-1 when accomplishing the feat.
Vs. The Big Ten: UAs win over Illinois improved the teams record against Big Ten foes to 2-2 this season. All-time, Arizona is 24-24 against the Big Ten Conference.
The Big House: In NCAA Tournament play, Arizona is 6-1 all-time in domed stadiums. The Cats have a pair of wins at the Kingdome in Seattle (1988 West Regional), two at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis (1997 Final Four) and two at the Alamodome (2001 Midwest Regional). The only defeat came in the 1991 West Regional Semifinal, an 81-77 loss to Seton Hall at the Kingdome.
Making Them Count: Jason Gardner may have hit the two biggest treys of the year in propelling the Cats to the Final Four. Eighteen seconds after Lucas Johnson gave Illinois its first lead of the second half, Gardner knocked down a trey with 10:48 remaining to give Arizona a two-point lead. At the 5:38 mark, Gardner hit a trey to give the Cats a 62-56 lead and followed it up with a steal and two free throws on the next possession to push the lead to eight.
In the Clutch: Arizona was 16-of-21 from the line in the final 3:00 vs. Illinois. Loren, who finished the game with a career-best 12-of-13 from the line, went 7-of-7 in that span to lead the way.
Rare Air: The 30,212 people in attendance at the Alamodome for the Midwest Regional Final witnessed the rarest of feats. Michael Wright failed to take a shot from the field. The All-American forward averages 9.26 shots per game for his career. His previous low of one field goal attempt came on Feb. 27, 1999, at Stanford.
Against the Best: UAs two wins vs. ranked opponents in the Midwest Regional raised the teams record this season to 7-4 against ranked teams. The Wildcats have won six of the last seven meetings against ranked opposition.
On the Defensive: Credit Richard Jefferson with another fine job of defense in the Regional Final. Jefferson drew the primary assignment on Illinois Frank Williams, the Big Ten Player of the Year, and limited him to nine points on 3-of-15 shooting. In the Regional Semifinal, Williams went for a career-high 30 points vs. Kansas. Efforts like that are nothing new to Jefferson, who has shut down some of the Pac-10s best scorers like Casey Jacobsen (Stanford), David Bluthenthal (USC) and Jason Kapono (UCLA).
Tournament Success: The senior trio of John Ash, Eugene Edgerson and Justin Wessel has quite a bit of NCAA tourney success under its collective belt. The last link to UAs 1997 National Championship team, the group is 14-3 in NCAA Tournament play.
Top Notch: When facing No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, Arizona has a 5-2 record. UA has won its last four games against No. 1 seeds dating back to 1997.
Olson Honors: UA head coach Lute Olson will be given the John R. Wooden Award Legends of Coaching award. The award was adopted by the Wooden Award Committee in 1999, and recognizes the lifetime achievement of coaches who exemplify Coach Woodens high standards of coaching success and personal achievement. Olson will be honored at the 25th annual John R. Wooden Awards program.
Early Signees: Coach Olson and his staff signed five players to National Letters-of-Intent during the November early signing period: Wil Bynum (5-10, 170, G, Chicago, Ill./Crane Tech Prep), Channing Frye (6-10, 230, C, Phoenix, Ariz./St. Marys H.S.), Isaiah Fox (6-9, 255, C, Santa Monica, Calif./Crossroads H.S.), Dennis Latimore (6-8, 230, F, Halsted, Kan./Halsted H.S.) and Salim Stoudamire (6-2, 175, G, Lake Oswego, Ore./Lake Oswego H.S.). It was ranked as the ninth-best recruiting class in the nation by Clark Francis Hoop Scoop magazine.
Farewell, Bobbi: A special memorial fund has been established in Bobbi Olson's name at the Arizona Cancer Center, where she had undergone treatment since her illness was diagnosed in June 1998. Contributions can be made payable to the Arizona Cancer Center/UAF and mailed to Arizona Cancer Center Development, P.O. Box 245013, Tucson, AZ 85724-5013.
The A List: If youre looking for a list of famous UA alums...look no further. Astronaut Dick Scobee; malted beverage magnate August A. Busch III; the late congressman and 1976 presidential candidate Morris K. Udall; actors Greg Kinnear, Craig T. Nelson and Gary Shandling; and television personality Geraldo Rivera each attended the University of Arizona.