Arizona basketball's past: the good, the bad and the ugly
The Good: 1997 squad
“Simon says, ‘Championship.’”
Most Tucsonans or longtime Wildcats fans know that phrase.
CBS’ Billy Packer uttered it, referencing former UA star Miles Simon, as the Wildcats cut down the nets in their first-ever basketball championship.
KRT SPORTS STORY SLUGGED: ARIZONA-ILLINOIS KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRIS LEE/ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH (March 26) ROSEMONT, IL -- Illinois guard Deron Williams (5) follows through on a three-point shot against Arizona, as head coach Bruce Weber (right) watches the action in overtime at the NCAA Chicago regional final. Illinois defeated Arizona, 90-89, at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, on March 26, 2005. (cdm) 2005
It was a long time coming. The Lute Olson-led Wildcats often went into the NCAA Tournament as a high seed, only to exit early.
This time, Arizona was a four seed and defeated three No. 1’s (Kentucky, Kansas and UNC) on its way to the title.
There have been other good moments in Arizona’s history — Final Fours in 1988 and 1994, the National Championship loss to Duke in 2001 — but this is the best of them all, the shining moment in Arizona basketball history.
The bad: 1998 follow-up
For how perfect the 1997 championship was, the Wildcats’ defense the following year was equally bad.
The Wildcats entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed, widely considered favorites to repeat.
But then they ran into head coach Rick Majerus and the Utah Utes in the regional final. The Utes confounded the vaunted Wildcats trio of Simon, Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson, who combined to shoot 6-for-36, and Arizona fell 76-51.
The ugly: 2005’s collapse
The game was almost over, and Arizona was all but assured its fifth Final Four berth. The Wildcats, a three seed, had a 75-60 lead with four minutes left on No. 1 Illinois. Then came a collapse of epic proportions. A Deron Williams three with 39 seconds left tied the game at 80 and Illinois won in overtime.
By the numbers
25: Straight NCAA tournament berths from 1984-85 to 2008-09
3: NCAA tournaments in the 79 years prior
14: Games Sean Miller has coached in the NCAA tournament between Xavier and Arizona
32: Single-game record for points in a game for Arizona. Derrick Williams did it in 2011, Khalid Reeves in 1994.
$25,000: Fine assessed to Sean Miller for inappropriate conduct toward officials after Arizona lost to UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament
$25,000: Bonus Miller would earn by beating Belmont in the first round
18-11: Arizona’s record in first-round games
41: Margin of victory when Miller’s Xavier squad beat Belmont in December 2007
44: Victories for Arizona in the tournament since 1985, tied for fifth-most in the country. Duke is on top with 79.
50/1: Odds Arizona wins the championship, according to Vegas Insider. Odds at winning the West region are at 12/1
0: NCAA tournament wins for Belmont
4: Number of players for the Bruins that score in double figures per game, not including a fifth who averages 9.7 points per game