March 28, 2003
Date: Thursday, March 29, 2003
Time: 4:05 p.m. PST
Location: Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (17,600),Anaheim, Calif.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz/Billy Packer)
GAME DATA: Second-ranked Arizona (28-3, 17-1 Pac-10) heads into the 2003 NCAA West Regional Final in Anaheim, Calif., as the region's top seed ... The Wildcats face No. 2 seed Kansas (28-7, 14-2 Big 12) on Saturday ... Arizona has a 37-20 (.649) in 21 previous NCAA Tournament appearances ... UA is 13-2 vs. the 2003 NCAA Tournament field ... This marks Arizona's seventh appearance in the regional final and the Cats' fourth in the last seven years ... Of the Wildcats' 57 previous NCAA Tournament games, 17 have been played in the state of California, including a 2-1 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 691-238 (.744) and 499-146 (.774) 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 2-4 against Kansas.
LAST TIME OUT: A balanced offensive attack and a solid defensive effort helped Arizona earn an 88-51 win over Notre dame Thursday in the NCAA West Regional semifinal. Five UA players finished in double figures at one end of the court, while forcing 19 Irish turnovers and holding them to just 33.3 percent shooting in the second half. Hassan Adams scored six of his 14 points in an 18-3 run that covered 3:53 in the first half. In addition to Adams' efforts, Jason Gardner added 19 points, six assists and three steals, while Luke Walton added 16 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Arizona shot 53.5 percent in the first half and outrebounded Notre Dame, 44-36, for the game.
SCOUTING KANSAS: The Jayhawks (28-7, 14-2 Big 12) enter Saturday's West Regional final having won eight of its last nine games. As a team, Kansas shoots 49.6 percent from the floor, posts a +7.8 rebound margin and averages 82.6 points per game, 16.2 more than the opposition. Individually, KU is led by senior All-American Nick Collison, who averages 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
THE SERIES: Saturday's game will be the eighth meeting between the two schools with Kansas holding a 5-2 series advantage. Arizona won the last game in the series, which dates back to Dec. 31, 1979, a 91-74 decision on Jan. 25 in Lawrence. All-time, Arizona is 0-2 in series games played in Tucson, 1-1 in Lawrence and 1-2 in neutral-site meetings.
LAST MEETING: Arizona 91, Kansas 74, Jan. 25, 2003: Salim Stoudamire scored 20 of his career-high 32 points in the second half as Arizona erased a 20-point deficit to earn the 17-point victory. The sophomore, who was 7-of-10 from the floor after the break, ignited a 10-0 UA run to open the second half with a steal and layup and gave the Cats its first lead with a trey at the 14:15 mark. All told, Arizona outscored Kansas, 67-30, over the final 25:41. Jason Gardner added 23 points, seven boards and six assists. The win also snapped KU's 25-game homecourt win streak.
IN THE WEST REGION: Arizona has a 26-15 (.634) 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 13-4 (.765) 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.
MAYBE IT'S KARMA: A win in Saturday's regional final would obviously send the Wildcats to its fifth Final Four and second in the last three seasons. But the game also takes on a bit more significance as a win would be the 500th career victory for Lute Olson at Arizona. Where does the karma come in? Saturday's game comes 15 years to the day (March 29, 1988) that Arizona defeated North Carolina, 70-52, to earn the program's first berth in the Final Four.
IN REGIONAL FINALS: This marks the Wildcats' seventh appearance in a regional final, where the club has a 4-2 record. UA won regional crowns in 1988, 1994, 1997 and 2001 and lost games in 1976 (UCLA) and 1998 (Utah).
ALWAYS ON THE RUN: It happened again Thursday, as the Wildcats put together a big scoring run to break open a close game. The ability to make big scoring runs has been an Arizona calling card all season long. UA has posted a double-figure scoring run to break a game open seven 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
16 points - 18-3 run over 3:53 vs. Notre Dame, March 27
14 points - 18-4 run over 5:08 vs. Oregon, March 8
MILESTONE WIN: Thursday's win was Lute Olson's 42nd win in the NCAA Tournament, moving him into a tie for fourth place on the all-time NCAA Tournament win list with Denny Crum and Bob Knight. Now making his 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance, Olson has a 42-23 (.646) record.
POND MEMORIES: Thursday's game marks Arizona's fifth appearance in the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, where the team has a 4-1 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.
AT THE REGIONAL: Arizona's 88-71 win over Notre Dame improved the Cats' record to 11-6 in NCAA Regional play. Over the last 10 years, that record is 8-3.
DOUBLING UP: With 14 points and 12 rebounds on Thursday, Channing Frye posted his ninth double-double of the season and his third consecutive. In the three NCAA Tournament games, Frye is averaging 17.8 points and 11.3 rebounds. It was the 15th double-double of his career, which is more than any other active UA player. Forward Rick Anderson narrowly missed his fourth double-double of the postseason with nine points and 12 rebounds Thursday. It was Anderson's sixth double-figure rebound game of the season, and the first in which he has also failed to reach double-figure points as well.
OUT OF HIS SLUMP: Since struggling in the first two games of the postseason, Jason Gardner has rebounded nicely. He connected on 6-of-12 attempts from the floor, including 3-of-5 from three-point range, Thursday vs. Notre Dame and is now shooting 44.4 percent (12-of-27) in his last two games, which is a marked improvement over his 4-of-29 shooting (.137) in the first two games of the postseason. In the 11 games he has shot .500 or better from the flooor, Arizona's average margin of victory is 23.6 points.
BENCHMARK: Arizona's 28 victories make the seventh time in the last 15 years that Lute Olson's teams have reached that plateau. His average overall is 25 victories per season. At the moment, the 2002-03 season's winning percentage (.903) is his second-best, trailing only the 35-3 (.921) club of 1988. Since the start of the 1997-88 season, Arizona has the nation's highest winning percentage, .811 (429-100).
SIMILAR SITUATIONS: With the Wildcats and Jayhawks having played earlier this season (Jan. 25), it marks the second straight time that Arizona has faced an opponent in the regional final that it also faced in the regular season. Back in 2001, Arizona and Illinois actually played twice during the regular season (both teams won once) before Arizona captured the 2001 NCAA Midwest Regional crown, 87-81, in San Antonio.
STEPPING UP: Hassan Adams 14 points on Thursday was his biggest output since Jan. 16 when he posted 21 against Southern California in Los Angeles. His 7-for-9 shooting tied his best of the year (7-9 vs. Boston University in December). His outburst helped give Arizona 19 bench points -- after the substitutes put up only four points last week against Gonzaga.
IN MARCH: Since 1996-97, Arizona is 36-11 (.766) in the month of March.
AT BOTH ENDS: The UA's starting front line had a 31-19 edge on the boards and UA was 44-36 overall vs. the Irish. One key was UA's dominating 30-9 edge on Notre Dame's half of the court. Offensively, Arizona was credited with 38 points in the paint against the Irish Thursday. Five different players had layups, dunks or two-footers to help score them in close.
SPREADING THE BALL AROUND: Luke Walton (8) and Jason Gardner (6) tied their season high with 14 combined assists. The two had 14 against Washington State in January and dished out 13 on several occasions this year. Walton has 23 assists in NCAA action this year.
STOLEN MOMENTS: Arizona had 10 steals Thursday, the fifth double-digit effort in the last six games -- a span in which the Cats had 50 thefts. Arizona scored 21 points off turnovers against Notre Dame.
SCORING 80: Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 83-8 (.912) 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.