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Courtside Conversations with Paul Johnson
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 06/22/2004
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Paul Johnson is employed by the UA as the women's basketball play-by-play announcer. He has 20 years of sports broadcasting experience, including the last six years as the voice of Arizona women's basketball. Every Wildcat women's basketball game this year will be broadcast live on KJLL 1330 AM, with Paul calling all the action.

Courtside Archives

March 20, 2004
March 15, 2004
March 11, 2004
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Feb. 24, 2004
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Dec. 23, 2003
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Nov. 19, 2003
Oct. 20, 2003
2002-03 Archive
2001-02 Archive

As Julie Brase laid crumpled in a heap under the Pittsburgh basket on Sunday, I thought to myself this can't be happening again! After all, here were the Wildcats struggling against a team that they should waltz over, and another key player was being hauled off on a stretcher for the second time in two games. It was almost as if the dark cloud that hovered over Candice Allen's injury on Friday had again returned to claim another victim! Well, the Cats lost a tough game to Pittsburgh and for the first time ever, Arizona had come out winless in its own tournament. After the interviews were over and the crowd had settled in to watch Wisconsin and Holy Cross play for the championship, I tried to put things into perspective. That is what I would like to do in this column. Let's put this season into proper perspective and remember that things just have to get better, and they will get a lot better!

Let's begin this process by studying the 2000-01 season of Lute Olson's men's basketball team. This was a team of high expectations. This was a team that was picked by everyone to win the Pac-10 and spent time ranked atop the national polls. Things began as planned with impressive wins over Chaminade, Dayton, and 8th-ranked Illinois. Then, the wheels fell off. The Cats lost five of their next ten games, including a loss at home to Mississippi State! Yes, Mississippi State! That never happens to a Lute Olson-coached team! Then, there was the Loren Woods situation that went from bad to worse as the season progressed. So, I wonder how many people wrote off the Wildcats, assuming that things could only get worse. However, things got better; things got a lot better! Arizona won all but two of its next 22 games before losing a close game to Duke in the national championship game. What a turnaround! I am not here to say that the women's basketball team is a national championship contender, but I am saying that things will get better, they will get a lot better!

This is why Arizona will pull its season together after a disappointing 3-3 start. First, Arizona's young talent is beginning to emerge, and it will only get better. Freshman guards Dee-Dee Wheeler and Robin Roberson each scored 20 points against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Second, the Pac-10 has finally instituted a post-season tournament. These extra few games will allow a young, late-blooming team like the Wildcats to make some noise in March and earn their way into the NCAA Tournament. Third, the Pac-10 is wide open in its race for second place. Stanford is better than everyone else, but there is no clear-cut second-place contender.

Fourth, the next two road games will be played in or near Houston, Texas, against Rice and Stephen F. Austin. Why is this important? It is important because LaKeisha Taylor and Liz Pickney hail from Houston. If there ever was a time to impress family and friends, now is the time. Fifth, Joan Bonvicini is a great coach. If anybody can keep this ship afloat, Joan can. This may be one of the biggest challenges of her coaching career.

So, let's take each game one at a time. This is a young but talented team. Julie Brase and Candice Allen are on the shelf for a short time, and that is not going to help. But the men showed last year that college basketball is all about what have you done for me lately? My guess is that we will all be feeling a lot better about the Arizona women's basketball team as we watch the first-ever conference tournament in Eugene in March. After all, I'm here to tell you that things will get better, they will get a lot better!

See on the radio!

Paul Johnson


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