Nov. 21, 2002
Date: Saturday, Nov. 23, 2002 Time: 2 p.m. MST Location: Olson Court at McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz. Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Joe Nehls) TV: KWBA (Dave Sitton/Bob Elliott)
Game Data: Top-ranked Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10) opens its 98th season of basketball by hosting No. 19 Western Kentucky (0-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) Saturday in McKale Center ... It marks the second consecutive season in which the Cats' have debuted against a nationally-ranked opponent ... It is also the start of head coach Lute Olson's 20th season in Tucson ... 2002-03 marks the first time in three seasons that the Cats' have tipped-off at home; prior to this season UA opened in Maui (2001) and New York City (2002).
The Rankings: UA opens the 2002-03 campaign as the nation's top-ranked team in the both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls. Arizona has opened the season as the nation's No. 1 team in two of the past three years and been ranked in 253 consecutive AP polls released during the regular season only.
Arizona Head Coach Lute Olson . . . begins his 20th season at Arizona and his 30th overall as a college head coach with a career record of 663-235 (.738) and 471-143 (.767) 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 fourth most Pac-10 wins (262) in history, trailing UCLA's John Wooden (304, 1949-75), Oregon State's Slats Gill (276, 1929-64) and Washington's 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 19-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 nine Pac-10 Conference titles, four Pac-10 Tournament crowns (1988, '89, '90, 2002) and been to the NCAA Tournament for the past 18 years in a row, 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 six times (1986, '88, '89, '93, '94, '98), 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 15 consecutive 20-win seasons and has 24 overall in his career, making him one of only five head coaches in NCAA history to record 24 or more 20-win seasons... Under Olson, the Cats are 280-29 (.906) in McKale Center and have won 208 of its last 222 home games ... He is assisted by Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention and Josh Pastner.
Last Time Out: Arizona placed six players in double figures in its 100-83 win Wednesday over Team Nike. The Wildcats, who shot 63.9 percent from the floor in the first half, used a 27-3 run over 5:52 of the first half to essentially put the game out of reach. Sophomore Will Bynum scored all 11 of his points during the run. Andre Iguodala posted team high totals of 15 points and eight rebounds to go with three assists and three steals, while the senior trio of Rick Anderson, Jason Gardner and Luke Walton combined for 35 points, eight rebounds and 14 assists.
Scouting Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers open the 2002-03 season nationally-ranked in both major polls: No. 19 by the Associated Press and No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. The two-time defending Sun Belt Conference Tournament champions posted a 28-4 record last season and return four starters and nine letterwinners from that club. A foot injury has sidelined center Chris Marcus, but that leaves a more versatile 'Topper club on the floor. Junior forward Todor Pandov averaged 22.0 points per game in two exhibition tilts and shot 65 percent from the floor. Six WKU players finished in double figures in its last outing, a 99-59 win over the Universal All-Stars on Nov. 16 in Bowling Green.
The Series: It is the first meeting of the two schools. All-time, Arizona has a 66-42 (.611) record against schools that currently call the Sun Belt Conference home.
For Openers: Arizona has a record of 74-20 (.787) in season openers, including a 16-3 (.842) mark under Lute Olson. The Wildcats are 56-12 at home, 10-8 on the road and 8-0 in neutral-site games.
Against Ranked Opponents: Facing a ranked opponent is nothing new for the Wildcats. Last season, the squad was 10-7 against ranked opponents, including 3-0 in November. Over the last two seasons, Arizona is 18-12 against nationally-ranked opposition.
Fast Starts: Fast starts have become the norm for Arizona under Lute Olson. Over the last 19 years, Arizona is 43-7 (.860) in the month of November.
According to Plan: One of the reasons the UA coaching staff decided to move to a 94-foot pressing style was to get more players more minutes. The early returns have proven that to be true. Through the two exhibition games, eight different players made starts (Anderson and Gardner started twice), while nine of the 12 active players on the roster have logged an average of 16 minutes per game. Even Arizona's ironman, Jason Gardner, is playing less minutes these days. Gardner has averaged 31 minutes in the preseason, 4.6 minutes less than his career-leading 35.6 mpg mark.
The Fourth Estate: Speaking of Arizona's press, it definitely has done one thing: picked up the pace of the game. Arizona has forced 51 turnovers in the two exhibition games and parlayed that into an average of 78.5 shots and 108.5 points per game. How successful has the press been 32 of the Cats' 85 field goals in the exhibition season have been either dunks or layups.
It Must be Good Shot Selection: Through two exhibition games, Arizona has connected on 54.1 percent of its field goal attempts (85-of-157). Obviously, 32 dunks and layups helps that figure, but no fewer than seven Wildcats have field goal percentages of 50 percent or better. Additionally, the squad has hit 18-of-39 (.462) three-point attempts.
Assists and Turnovers: Arizona's modest 47:38 assist:turnover ratio may not seem worth noting, but it is an improvement over last season. The Wildcats checked in with a 38:36 ratio in its two exhibition games last season and actually played three games (EA Sports exhibition, Maryland, Florida) before it managed a positive assist:turnover ratio in any single game. In the Nov. 17 win at Texas, Arizona had 12 assists against 11 turnovers.
Balance On the Glass: Not only have the Wildcats managed to outrebound the opposition by a +7.5 margin in the preseason, but the team had displayed a balanced dominance of the glass. Four of the nine players averaging at least 16 minutes per game are also averaging at least 5.0 boards per game. Senior Rick Anderson led the team with an 8.5 rebounds per game average in the exhibitions.
Preseason Accolades: The senior combination of Luke Walton and Jason Gardner have wrapped up a few preseason accolades. In addition to both being included on the Naismith and Wooden preseason player-of-the-year award watch lists, both were named first team preseason All-Americans by the Associated Press. Gardner was also selected the preseason player of the year by the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, while Walton earned similar honors from collegeinsider.com.
Doing His Job: Jason Gardner has certainly displayed a solid all-around game in the preseason. Not only is he averaging 15.0 points on 11-of-22 shooting (.455 3-point percentage) and pulled down 3.5 rebounds per game, but he has collected 13 assists against just two turnovers. Coach Olson said during the preseason that Gardner needs to be a bigger factor on defense, and Gardner responded with a team-leading eight steals in the preseason.
Free Throws: The absence of Salim Stoudamire from the lineup didn't hurt Arizona's accuracy from the free throw line. The squad combined to hit 29-of-34 attempts (.853), in the preseason, led by Channing Frye's 11-of-11 marksmanship.
Stepping Up: Sophomore guard Will Bynum's averages are up slightly in the preseason (9.0 ppg/3.5 apg), but it his shooting percentages that earn a second look. A year after shooting .344 from the floor and .255 from three-point range, Bynum has upped those numbers to .438 from the floor and .500 from beyond the arc.
Not Missing a Beat: After missing the Nov. 12 EA Sports exhibition game with a sprained right ankle, senior forward Luke Walton made a seamless transition back into the lineup Wednesday night. The San Diego native hit 6-of-7 shots from the floor en route to a 12-point, seven assist effort. He tallied just one turnover in 23 minutes.
Hit the Ground Running: Freshman guard Hassan Adams hasn't been shy about being part of the action. Last season's California high school player of the year has stepped in and made an immediate impact. He dropped in a team-high 17 field goals in the preseason (in 23 attempts/.739) to go with five boards, two assists, two blocks and two steals.
Living up to his Reputation: Andre Iguodala came to Arizona with the reputation of being a defensive force. To date, he ranks second on the squad with averages of 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals, while displaying a solid offensive game. In the two exhibitions, he shot 50 percent from the field (12-of-24) and averaged 14.5 points to go with seven assists.
Ignition: One of the sparks in Arizona's 27-3 first-half run on Wednesday was forward Dennis Latimore. The 6-foot-8 sophomore scored seven of his nine points in the run, including a dunk, steal, layup and subsequent free throw to really get things rolling. All told, Latimore tallied nine points, three rebounds an assist and steal in the contest.
The Center Spot: Depth is a nice problem to have, and UA's Channing Frye and Isaiah Fox continue to fight hard for the starting nod. Through the preseason, the duo has combined to average 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 3.0 steals.
Pilfers: The newly-installed press has served Jason Gardner and Andre Iguodala well. The duo has combined for 13 steals in the preseason and helped the Wildcats to an average of 14 per game. If that holds up, it will more than double UA's 6.1 steals per game average of a year ago.
Tops in the Pac-10: The Wildcats were a unanimous favorite to win the 2002-03 Pacific-10 Conference championship, according to the league's preseason poll of media. Arizona received all 27 first place votes and 270 points to top the poll. Oregon (237), UCLA (195), Arizona State (160) and California (154) rounded out the top five places. It is the eighth time since 1989-90 that Arizona has been the predicted winner in the preseason poll.
Talent Pool: With the 2002-03 NBA season just underway, no fewer than 10 former Wildcats are on NBA active rosters. Only two schools in the country (North Carolina 14; Kentucky 11) have more of its alumni on active rosters. Here is the list of Arizona players currently playing in the NBA: Gilbert Arenas (G/Golden State/2nd year), Mike Bibby (G/Sacramento/5th year), Michael Dickerson (G/Memphis/5th year), Richard Jefferson (F/New Jersey/2nd year), Steve Kerr (G/San Antonio/15th year), Chris Mills (F/Golden State/10th year), Sean Rooks (C/Los Angeles Clippers/11th year), Damon Stoudamire (G/Portland/8th year), Jason Terry (G/Atlanta/4th year), and Loren Woods (C/Minnesota/2nd year).
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.
Up Next: Arizona is back in action on Wednesday, Nov. 27, as the team hosts former Border Conference compatriot and intrastate foe Northern Arizona. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. MST. The game will be televised by Fox Sports Net Arizona.