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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.

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There is an old clich? that states, "It's now or never." Well, although this often-used phrase is applicable in all areas of life, it especially applies to the Arizona women's basketball team. After Monday's loss to UC Santa Barbara, this team had better get busy, and fast! The 2001-02 season is still alive but could slip away quickly. Very simply, it is now or never!

The Wildcats raised hopes after two big wins against the Washington schools over the weekend. The Cats ran both teams out of the building and finally looked like a Joan Bonvicini-coached basketball team. Then, on Monday, the old issues returned. Lackluster efforts, poor interior defense and sloppy ball-handling all contributed to a 94-80 loss to the upstart UCSB Gauchos. Yes, Santa Barbara is a quality team. In fact, they may be as good as some first division Pac-10 teams. But there is no getting around the fact that, at least for one game, the Cats forgot how they beat Washington and Washington State. They are going to have to get their memories back in a hurry because USC and UCLA lie in wait in the City of Angels.

So, what do the Wildcats have to do to salvage this season? Currently, the team stands at 7-9 overall and 3-4 in the conference. While both of these marks are not what they should be, the road ahead is not an impossible one. I believe that Arizona will have to win at least 16 games before they enter the Pac-10 Tournament. Then, they will have to win at least two games in Eugene to have a chance for a bid to the Big Dance. In order to accomplish this feat, Arizona desperately needs a sweep in LA this weekend. That would put them at 9-9 and 5-4. A 7-2 Pac-10 record down the stretch, in a home-laden schedule, would give Arizona those 16 wins. If they win 16 in the regular season and get two games in the Pac-10 Tournament, their overall mark would stand at 18-11. Last season, Oregon got into the NCAA Tournament with a 17-12 overall record. This scenario would also give Arizona a 12-6 Pac-10 record, which would likely be enough to get them in. And, of course, there is always the chance to win the Pac-10 Tournament and the automatic bid that comes with it. There is only one problem there -- Stanford plays in the Pac-10.

Obviously, the above-mentioned task is a difficult one. Arizona has left itself no room for error. The Cats cannot afford to take a night off, and they are probably going to have to beat someone they shouldn't, like Stanford or Washington on the road, to get it done. However, there is still hope. Arizona did play wonderful basketball on Thursday and Saturday. If they can find that intensity again in LA, they will win both games.

So, Joan Bonvicini's team faces a difficult challenge down the stretch. Two wins in LA will put the Wildcats back on the Pac-10 map in a hurry. Then, who knows what could happen? After all, it's now or never!

See you on the radio!
Paul Johnson

Note: Please attend our next Joan Bonvicini Coaches Show on Monday, Jan. 21, and enter for chance to win an appearance as a Wildcat guest coach! The show begins at 6 p.m. and comes live from the Varsity Clubs of America at Speedway and Alvernon. See you there!


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