March 23, 2003
Date: Thursday, March 27, 2003
Time: 4:27 p.m. PST
Location: Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (17,600), Anaheim, Calif.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: CBS (TBA)
Game Data: Second-ranked Arizona (27-3, 17-1 Pac-10) carries its No. 1 seed to the 2003 NCAA West Regional in Anaheim, Calif. ... The Wildcats face No. 5 seed Notre Dame (24-9, 10-6 Big East) in the regional semifinal ... Arizona has a 36-20 (.643) in 21 previous NCAA Tournament appearances ... UA is 12-2 vs. the 2003 NCAA Tournament field ... This marks Arizona's 11th appearance in the "Sweet 16" and the Cats' third consecutive ... Of the Wildcats' 56 previous NCAA Tournament games, 16 have been played in the state of California, including a 1-1 mark at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.
The Rankings: After holding the nation's No. 1 ranking for the last five weeks, Arizona slipped to No.2 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls to close the regular season. 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 690-238 (.744) and 498-146 (.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 3-0 against Notre Dame.
Last Time Out: Luke Walton grabbed the rebound following a miss by Gonzaga's Blake Stepp to end what can easily be described as an NCAA Tournament classic - a 96-95 double overtime UA victory March 22 in Salt Lake City. The game featured seven ties and 10 lead changes, four ties and four lead changes in the overtime periods alone, the last coming on a Salim Stoudamire floater with 1:59 to go. Arizona, which committed just nine turnovers in the game, shot 58.3 percent from the floor in the overtime periods.
Scouting Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish (24-9, 10-6 Big East) enter Thursday's West Regional semifinal having won three of its last four games since the end of the regular season. As a team, Notre Dame shoots 44.7 percent from the floor, posts a -0.3 rebound margin and averages 79.4 points per game, 8.6 more than the opposition. Individually, the Irish are led by senior guard Matt Carroll, who averages 19.8 points per game. Freshman forward Torin Francis leads the team with an 8.3 rebounds per game average.
The Series: Thursday's game will be the fifth meeting between the two schools with Arizona holding a 3-1 series advantage. Arizona has won the last three games in the series, which dates back to Jan. 4, 1934, including a 76-60 win in the last meeting on Nov. 24, 1999. All-time, Arizona is 0-0 in series games played in Tucson, 0-1 in South Bend and 3-0 in neutral-site meetings.
Last Meeting: Arizona 76, Notre Dame 60, Nov. 24, 1999: Michael Wright connected on 8-of-11 field goal attempts to lead Arizona to the 16-point win in the Preseason N.I.T. semifinals. Wright finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds as the Wildcats held its third consecutive tournament opponent to less than 40 percent shooting. Arizona built an early 27-15 lead and with the help of 18 Notre Dame turnovers, eventually pushed the lead to as many as 20 points. Loren Woods chipped in with 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
In the West Region: Arizona has a 25-15 (.625) 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 12-4 (.750) 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.
Against the Big East: Arizona is 25-14 (.641) all-time against Big East schools with the last meeting coming on Jan. 26, 2002, in a 100-98 overtime loss in Tucson to Connecticut. UA is 3-1 against the Big East in NCAA action: an 84-76 victory over Georgetown in 1976 first-round play; an 84-55 victory over Seton Hall in 1988 first-round play; a 81-77 loss to Seton Hall in a 1991 regional semifinal; and a 96-92 victory over Providence in a regional championship in 1997. All but the latter (Southeast) were West Region action. UA's last NCAA opponent from the Big East, Providence, put Arizona in the Final Four during its national championship drive. on March 23, 1997
Sweet 16: 2003 marks Arizona's 11th regional semifinal berth and seventh in the last 12 seasons. The Cats are one of seven schools to have made as many as seven Sweet 16 appearances in that span (1992-2003). Each team's best finish is below:
1. Kentucky 10 National Champions 1996, 1998 2. Duke 8 National Champions 1992, 2001 Kansas 8 Final Four 1993, 2002 4. ARIZONA 7 National Champions 1997 Connecticut 7 National Champions 1999 Maryland 7 National Champions 2002 UCLA 7 National Champions 1995
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.
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
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.
Pond Memories: Thursday's game marks Arizona's fifth appearance in the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, where the team has a 3-1 record. Arizona defeated Utah, 69-61, on Dec. 7, 1996, in the Wooden Classic; defeated Maryland, 87-79, on March 19, 1998, in the West Regional semifinals; lost to Utah, 76-51, on March 21, 1998, in the West Regional final; and defeated Purdue, 79-66, on Dec. 8, 2001, in the Wooden Classic.
Experience Counts: If experience means anything in the NCAA Tournament, Arizona certainly has that on its side. The Wildcats head into the West Regional semifinal with a collective 59 games of experience. Led by Jason Gardner and Luke Walton (13 games apiece), seven of UA's 11 active players on the roster have played in at least three NCAA Tournament games. Furthermore, Arizona is 10-3 (.769) in the NCAA Tournament play over the last four seasons.
Why the Cats Could Win it: Two wins last week in Salt Lake City help prove that Arizona does a good job of re-focusing after a loss. Following both regular season losses (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 four more 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.
Extra Sessions: Arizona's 96-95 victory on Saturday was the 23rd multiple overtime game in the history of the NCAA Tournament. The win improved Arizona's record to 4-1 in NCAA Tournament overtime games. All-time, the Cats are 36-39 in overtime games, including an 8-4 record in multiple overtime games.
Yeomanlike: With a start on Thursday, Jason Gardner will become Arizona's all-time leader in career starts at 134. The senior guard from Indianapolis, Ind., already holds the school record for games played (134), minutes played (4,571) and average minutes per game (35.5). Gardner is also 58 points shy of 2,000 for his career.
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) 1,942 612 220
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) 1,145 645 568
In March: Since 1996-97, Arizona is 35-11 (.761) in the month of March.
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.
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.
Not too Often: The Arizona bench has been a strong suit all year long, despite its four-point tally in the win over Gonzaga (all by Andre Iguodala). It marked only the fourth time this season that the Wildcat bench had failed to reach double figures: Jan. 2 at Oregon (9), Jan. 25 at Kansas (8), and Feb. 22 at Arizona State (8). Incidentally, Arizona won all four ballgames.
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.
File Under Minutia: If point guard Jason Gardner has a hot-shooting game from the outside, Arizona usually wins comfortably. In the 10 games this year where Gardner has shot .500 or above from the field, Arizona's average margin of victory was 23.2 points. On the other hand, when opponents held Gardner under .500 shooting, the Cats managed to turn to other options and found a way to go 17-3 in those games.
Dish Respect: Luke Walton's nine assists versus Gonzaga on Saturday were a season high and three shy of his career best of 12 at Stanford in 2000. Walton has 15 assists in the two NCAA games this year and an average of 7.0 assists per game in the last five contests. Saturday's effort moved him into fourth place on the UA career assist list with 568.
Sort of Like Switzerland: Neutrality seems to appeal to a trio of Wildcats, as Channing Frye (19.0 ppg/11.0 rpg), Rick Anderson (17.7 ppg/10.3 rpg) and Salim Stoudamire (16.7 ppg/2.7 rpg) have each upped their productivity on neutral courts this season. Collectively, the trio is shooting 51.3 percent from the floor (61-of-119).
Fast Climber: It hasn't taken Salim Stoudamire long to prove himself to be one of the finest shooters in Wildcat history. Not only does he already rank second on the UA career three-point percentage list at 44.7 percent (140-of-313), but the sophomore from Portland, Ore., is also tied with Sean Elliott (1985-89) for 10th place on the career three-point field goals list with 140.
Tough in the Middle: Arizona's recent history of guard-dominated teams may have given the Cats a reputation of being weak in the middle. That was not the case in the win over Gonzaga, as the Cats outscored the Zags, 44-34 in the paint and held a 47-43 rebound margin. All told, Arizona has outrebounded 23 of 30 opponents this season.
Nice Stat: In 50 minutes of basketball last Saturday, Arizona committed just nine turnovers, marking the sixth time the squad has kept that figure in single digits.
Scoring 80: Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 82-8 (.911) 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.