Dating back to Arizona’s upset over No. 1 Kansas in 1997, the Wildcats are 6-2 in the round of Sweet 16. The two losses were not close to Oklahoma (88-67 in 2002) and Louisville (103-64 in 2009). But some of the victories, including the historic triumph over Kansas, rank among the best in the program’s history. The Jayhawks lost only one game in overtime to Missouri in 1997 before losing to Arizona, which had nine losses in the regular season. The Wildcats defeated No. 2 seed Oklahoma State 79-78 in 2005 on a last-second shot by Salim Stoudamire. They pounded No. 1-seed Duke 93-77 in the 2011 Sweet 16. The Wildcats are 9-5 overall in the Sweet 16. The top five Sweet 16 victories in my opinion: 1. Beating Kansas in 1997 (see accompanying video); 2. Beating UNLV and Jerry Tarkanian 114-109 in overtime in 1976 with Fred Snowden as coach before the three-point line and shot clock; 3. The impressive win over Duke and Mike Krzyzewski in 2011; 4. Routing Lute Olson’s former program, Iowa, 99-79 in 1988 on the way to the program’s first Final Four appearance; and 5. Stoudamire’s clutch play that downed Oklahoma State in 2005. Depending on how the game develops, if Arizona beats No. 2 seed Ohio State tonight it can take at least No. 4 on this list. The worst loss in the Sweet 16 is unquestionably Arizona getting eliminated by UNLV in Sean Elliott’s last game as a Wildcat in 1989.
Mark it down: After Solomon Hill’s professional playing career is over, he will coach somewhere and he’ll be successful. Judging from Hill’s comments in the postseason, he analyzes teams thoroughly by watching hours of game film. Hill also communicates strongly and he shows that scowl that makes teammates take notice. In the press conference yesterday at Staples Center, Hill commented as if he was coach breaking down Ohio State. “At a defensive standpoint, I’ll be guarding (Deshaun Thomas) from a three (wing position) or the four (power forward),” Hill said. “He’s their go‑to guy. It’s a lot of sets that they run for him to get him open, get him shots. The mismatch problem shouldn’t be a big issue with us because I’m playing at the four and the three. … I think LaQuinton Ross is a different guy that we have to have guys keyed in on. I think he’s the big spark off the bench. He’s a starter at any other team, and our young guys have to be prepared for him to really put it on the floor and shoot the outside shot.” Hill also said: “Every possession matters. It doesn’t come down to the last ten seconds of the game. It’s the whole build up to the end of the game. So guys can’t just turn it on. You have to turn it on in the beginning if you want to finish that way.” Hill will try to get that point across to Arizona’s younger players tonight.
My how times have changed: Thad Matta and Sean Miller were assistants under Herb Sendek when Miami of Ohio upset Arizona in a 1995 NCAA tournament first-round matchup. Devin Davis where are you now? Davis with his dreadlocks had 24 points and 15 rebounds against the Wildcats prompting Joseph Blair to say: “Damn, that kid with the hair can play.” Eighteen years later, Matta and Miller will coach on opposite sides again while Sendek — Miller’s archrival coach at ASU — will likely watch with interest. Matta has coached against Arizona in the NCAA tournament before, losing to the Wildcats in the 2001 second round with Butler. Miller has coached against Ohio State in the NCAA tournament, losing 78-71 in overtime in 2007 with Xavier. That was one of the best NCAA tournament games in the last decade (see video at end of this blog). “We shared an office together for a year at Miami of Ohio,” Matta said. “And quite honestly, he taught me a ton just in terms of he came from a basketball family, and obviously his brother, Arch, the Dayton coach, worked for me for two years. Special friend, somebody that I’m very, very excited that he’s here. I don’t like the fact that we’re playing, but I’m happy as can be for him.” Matta said Miller had a tendency to forget his wallet and jokingly mentioned that Miller still owes him $350 for all the lunches Matta bought when Miller forgot his wallet. During their recruiting trips to Las Vegas in the summer, Miller is always seen talking to his good buddy Matta in the stands.
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Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner