March 16, 2003
Date: Thursday, March 20, 2003
Time: approx. 1:20 p.m. MST
Location: Jon M. Huntsman Center (15,000), Salt Lake City, Utah
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: CBS (Dick Enberg/Matt Goukas)
Game Data: Nationally-ranked Arizona (25-3, 17-1 Pac-10) appears in its 19th consecutive NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed in the West Region ... The Wildcats face No. 16 seed Vermont (21-11, 11-5 America East) in the first round ... Arizona has a 34-20 (.630) in 21 previous NCAA Tournament appearances ... UA is 10-2 vs. the 2003 NCAA Tournament field ... The Wildcats have a 3-2 NCAA Tournament mark at the Huntsman Center with its last appearance coming in the 2000 West Region First/Second Rounds ... Arizona's five NCAA Tournament games played in Salt Lake City is second only to the Cats' six games in Los Angeles in terms of most games played at an NCAA Tournament location.
The Rankings: After holding the nation's No. 1 ranking for the last five weeks, Arizona slipped from the top spot in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls. The Cats have been the top-ranked team in 13 of 19 AP polling periods this season. UA has been ranked in 270 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season only.
Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . is in his 20th season at Arizona and his 30th overall as a college head coach with a career record of 688-238 (.743) and 496-146 (.773) at Arizona ... He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 27, 2002 ... Olson recorded his 600th career win and his 400th victory at Arizona during the 2000 campaign and has the second-most Pac-10 wins (279) in history, trailing UCLA's John Wooden (304, 1949-75) ... He has the second-best conference winning percentage (.784/279-77) and second-most league championships won (10) in Pac-10 history (minimum three years), trailing only Wooden (.810/304-74/16 titles) ... During his 20-year tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1997), played in the national championship game (2001), participated in four Final Fours (1988, 1994, 1997, 2001), won 10 Pac-10 Conference titles, four Pac-10 Tournament crowns (1988, '89, '90, 2002) and been to the NCAA Tournament for the past 19 years, which is the longest active and 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 seven times (1986, '88, '89, '93, '94, '98, 2003), the Big Ten Coach of the Year twice (1979 & '81) and directed the UA program to the nation's best winning percentage over the past 15 years (401-97/.805) ... In his collegiate career, Olson has produced 45 NBA Draft picks, including 26 at Arizona - 20 alone since 1990 ... He's led UA to 16 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 25 overall in his career, making him one of only five head coaches in NCAA history to record 25 or more 20-win seasons... Under Olson, the Cats are 294-30 (.907) in McKale Center and have won 222 of its last 237 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention and Josh Pastner ... Olson is 0-0 against Vermont.
Last Time Out: UCLA placed five players in double figures, limited Arizona to just 37.5 percent shooting and held its own on the glass to defeat Arizona, 96-89, in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals on March 13. The Bruins' Ray Young hit a trey with 4.9 seconds to go in regulation to send the game into overtime. UA struggled offensively in the second half and overtime, shooting just 29.4 percent (15-of-51) from the floor. The loss snapped Arizona's 10-game winning streak on the season and its 12-game winning streak in the Pac-10 Tournament.
Scouting Vermont: The Catamounts (21-11, 11-5 America East) enter Thursday's first-round action, making the school's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Vermont pulled off the rarest of upsets to earn that bid as it won the America East championship by winning on its opponent's home court. As a team, the Catamounts shoot 45.1 percent from the floor, post a +8.0 rebound margin and average 69.5 points per game, 6.0 more than the opposition. Individually, Vermont is led by sophomore forward Taylor Coppenrath, who averages 20.2 points per game. Solid on the glass, four Vermont players average 5.0 rebounds or better, led by Grant Anderson's 7.2 rebounds per game average.
The Series: Thursday's game will be the first meeting between the two schools. All-time, Arizona is 3-0 against America East foes, including an 85-71 win over Boston University in Tucson on Dec. 30.
In the West Region: Arizona has a 23-15 (.605) record when playing in the West Region. The Cats have been placed in the West Region by the selection committee in three of the last four seasons (2001 Midwest). UA has advanced to the Final Four twice (1988/1994) from the West Region.
As a No. 1 Seed: All-time, Arizona has a 10-4 (.714) record when playing as a No. 1 seed. The last time the Wildcats entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed came in 2000 out of the West Region. Incidentally, Arizona played its first- and second-round games at Utah's Huntsman Center.
All-America: For the third time in four seasons, guard Jason Gardner has earned All-America accolades. Last week the Indianapolis, Ind., native was a second-team selection by the USBWA and a third-team pick by foxsports.com. It marks the eighth time in his career that Gardner has garnered All-America accolades.
All-Conference: The Wildcats were well represented on the Pac-10's postseason honor roll, as no fewer than eight players and coaches were recognized. Jason Gardner and Luke Walton both earned all-conference accolades, while teammates Hassan Adams and Andre Iguodala were named to the all-freshman team. Head coach Lute Olson, who shared the honor with Stanford's Mike Montgomery, was named league Coach of the Year for the seventh time in his career. Rick Anderson, Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire also received honorable mention all-conference honors.
Why the Cats Could Win It: Arizona has done a good job of re-focusing after a loss this season. Following both losses to date (Dec. 21 at Louisiana State and Jan. 30 vs. Stanford), the Wildcats reeled off 10-game winning streaks. Arizona lost its last game entering the NCAA Tournament (March 13 vs. UCLA) and would need to win six games to satisfy its national championship aspirations.
Why it Could be Tough: Since the debut of the Associated Press college basketball poll during the 1948-49 season, the No. 1 ranking has proven to be a bit of a burden. No matter how it is broken down, the No. 1 ranking is anything but a guarantee to winning the national championship. In those 54 seasons, the AP's preseason No. 1 team has gone on to win the national championship just 13 times (24 percent) with the last coming by Kentucky in 1996. The team to hold the nation's top ranking for the majority of the season has won 18 national championships (33 percent) with the last by Connecticut in 1999, and the team to carry the No. 1 ranking into the tournament has captured the national title 19 times (35 percent), last accomplished by Duke in 2001. A school has swept the preseason, majority and final regular season No. 1 ranking positions 21 times. That team has won the national championship 11 times (52 percent), last accomplished by Duke in 1992, though five of those 11 came during John Wooden's UCLA title spree. Arizona was the 2002-03 preseason No. 1 and held the nation's top ranking for 13 of 19 polling periods.
Caution: Milestones Approaching: Jason Gardner enters the NCAA Tournament just 10 points away from becoming the school's No. 3 career scorer. Gardner, who has 1,916 career points, trails Sean Elliott (2,555/1985-89), Bob Elliott (2,125/1973-77), and Khalid Reeves (1,925/1990-94) on Arizona's all-time scoring list. He is also two appearances away from the UA career games played record and three starts away from the games started record. Gardner is 84 points shy of 2,000 for his career.
Select Six: Arizona's 17-1 record in Pac-10 play equaled the best league record since the conference expanded to 10 teams in 1978-79. In those 25 seasons, six teams have gone 17-1 with Arizona accomplishing the feat five times (1988, 1989, 1993, 1998, 2003) and Oregon State (1981) once.
Top Cat: UA finished the Pac-10 slate with a 17-1 record, marking the 18th time in the last 19 seasons that the Cats have won at least 12 conference games, a feat matched by no other league foe. Dating back to 1984-85, Arizona has averaged 14.4 league wins per season. The only time in that span that Arizona failed to win at least 12 conference games was 1996-97, the year UA won the national championship.
Always On the Run: One of the Arizona calling cards this season has been its ability to make big scoring runs. The UA has posted a double-figure scoring run to break a game open six times this season. Here is a look at the list:
28 points - 32-4 run over 11:10 vs. USC, Feb. 15
24 points - 26-2 run over 5:58 vs. UCLA, Feb. 13
22 points - 24-2 run over 6:16 vs. Western Kentucky, Nov. 23
19 points - 24-5 run over 8:04 at Arizona State, Feb. 22
17 points - 20-3 run over 12:22 at Kansas, Jan. 25
14 points - 18-4 run over 5:08 vs. Oregon, March 8
Select Company: Jason Gardner's and Luke Walton's statistical accomplishments have put them into very select company. Gardner, who enters the NCAA Tournament with 1,916 career points, 602 assists and 219 steals, is one of just four players in Pac-10 history to reach 1,500 points, 500 assists and 200 steals. Meanwhile, Walton has 1,117 points, 633 rebounds and 553 assists to become one of only three Pac-10 players to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists.
1,500 points/500 assists/200 steals Pts. Ast. Stl. Gary Patyon, Oregon State (1986-90) 2,172 938 321 Tyus Edney, UCLA (1992-95) 1,515 652 224 Brevin Knight, Stanford (1993-97) 1,714 780 298 Jason Gardner, Arizona (1999-2003) 1,916 602 219
1,000 points/500 rebounds/500 assists Pts. Reb. Ast. Ron Lee, Oregon (1972-76) 2,085 580 572 Pooh Richardson, UCLA (1986-89) 1,461 565 833 Luke Walton, Arizona (1998-2003) 1,117 633 553
Experience Counts: If experience means anything in the NCAA Tournament, Arizona certainly has that on its side. The Wildcats head into the 2003 Tournament with a collective 39 games of experience. Led by Jason Gardner and Luke Walton (11 games apiece), six of UA's 11 active players on the roster have played in at least three NCAA Tournament games.
Off the Mark: One of the leading causes of defeat in last Thursday's 96-89 loss to UCLA was poor shooting. UA's .375 field goal percentage (33-of-88) was the team's second worst of the season. Included in the effort was a .294 shooting percentage (15-of-51) in the second half (including overtime), which was the team's worst this year. On the season, Arizona is 24-1 when shooting better than the opposition and 1-2 when it doesn't.
On the Glass: Rebounding has been one of Arizona's strengths this season, as the club has posted a Pac-10-leading +6.4 rebound margin this season. Overall, Arizona is 20-1 when outrebounding the opposition though that one loss did come last Thursday vs. UCLA. Arizona has outrebounded 21 of 28 opponents this season, but only two of its last five.
Conference Titles: Arizona won its 10th Pacific-10 Conference regular season championship in 2002-03 and the school's 21st conference title overall. It was UA's first league title since 1999-2000 and its first outright championship since 1997-98. Over the last 20 seasons, Lute Olson has guided the Wildcats to 10 conference regular season championships a feat matched nationally only by Kansas in the nation's top six conferences (Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern).
Against Ranked Opponents: Arizona is 7-0 this season against nationally-ranked opponents, including a 4-0 mark away from home. In the Lute Olson era, Arizona is 92-57 (.617) against ranked opposition.
Making the Most of It: It will be interesting to see what his numbers will be like when his playing time increases, but forward Andre Iguodala certainly makes the most of what time he gets. In 23 minutes vs. UCLA, the 6-foot-6 freshman collected 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. Through 28 games, Iguodala ranks fourth in rebounding (5.0 rpg), third in assists (56) and blocks (16), and second in steals (40) while averaging a steady 6.9 points per game.
Assisting the Cause: Luke Walton has steadily worked his season averages back up in the neighborhood of a preseason All-American by posting 10.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists. Though he has only finished with double-figure points 12 times, he hasn't lost his passing touch. Ten times in 2002-03 Walton has collected six or more assists, including the last three consecutive. The forward from San Diego, Calif., has passed out more than 100 assists in all four seasons and ranks second on this year's club with 113 assists.
Stepping Up: After averaging 7.0 points over his last four games, senior Rick Anderson broke out with a career-high 23-point, 11-rebound (10th career double-double) effort in last Thursday's loss to UCLA. It was Anderson's first career 20-point game in 120 career games played. In the game against UCLA, Anderson set career highs in field goals (9), field goal attempts (19), three-point field goals (5), three-point field goal attempts (10), offensive rebounds (7) and minutes played (39). On the year, Anderson is averaging 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Down the Stretch: No Arizona player has been better down the stretch than Channing Frye. The 6-foot-10 sophomore is averaging 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and shooting 62.6 percent (72-of-115) from the floor over his last 10 games. In that span, Frye has four double-doubles and five 20-point scoring games. He leads Arizona with a 7.7 rebounds per game average and ranks second at 12.5 points per game.
Sharp Shooter: Sophomore Salim Stoudamire has proven himself to be one of the nation's finest outside shooters. He's the Pac-10 Conference leader in three-point field goal percentage (.448) and has an overall FG percentage of .476 (109-of-229) through 26 games. Over his last 10 games, Stoudamire is shooting .511 (48-of-94) from the floor and .462 (24-of-52) from three point range.
Another Fabulous Freshman: From the first game of the season when he tallied 22 points and four rebounds against Western Kentucky, guard Hassan Adams has proven to be something special. He ranks sixth on the squad with a 9.2 points-per-game average, third with 34 steals and fourth with 51 offensive rebounds. His energy off the bench always seems to trigger an Arizona scoring run. Along with teammate Andre Iguodala, Adams was a Pac-10 all-freshman selection.
Strong off the Bench: It's a nice luxury to bring a 6-foot-9, 269-pound center off the bench, and Isaiah Fox definitely adds to the UA depth. The sophomore from Santa Monica, Calif., ranks second on the team with a .573 (47-of-82) field goal percentage while averaging 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. He averages 12.9 minutes per game.
Positive Ratios: Freshman Chris Rodgers has been a steady performer in Arizona's guard rotation, splitting time at both the point and shooting guard spots. In addition to being one of the team's best defenders, the 6-foot-3 product from Portland, Ore., has shown an ability to take care of the ball, as he is one of five UA regulars with a positive assist:turnover ratio. His 1.44 assist:turnover ratio ranks third on the squad behind Jason Gardner (1.77) and Luke Walton (1.71).
Record Setter: For the third consecutive season, Arizona set a new school record for average attendance. In 15 home dates, UA averaged 14,562 fans per game (218,428 total), which is just ahead of last season's mark of 14,544. Arizona has led the Pac-10 in attendance every season since 1984-85.
Accuracy Helps: Arizona is 6-0 this season when shooting 50 percent or better from the field. The Cats accomplished the feat three times in its last seven games.
In March: Since 1996-97, Arizona is 33-11 (.750) in the month of March.
Scoring 80: Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 80-8 (.909) since the start of the 1998-99 season when scoring at least 80 points. The Cats were 16-4 last season when scoring at least 80 points.
Early Signees: Coach Olson and his staff signed three student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent during the November early signing period. Ndudi Ebi (F, 6-8, 192) from Houston, Texas, Westbury Christian High School, Mustafa Shakur (G, 6-3, 175) from Wynnewood, Pa., Friends Central High School and Kirk Walters (C, 6-10, 210) from Grand Rapids, Mich., South Christian High School will join the squad next fall.