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All that separates the Arizona Wildcats basketball team from the Final Four in their last three Elite Eight appearances is six points. Six excruciating points.
The Arizona Wildcats basketball team lost to Kansas 78-75 in 2003 after Jason Gardner’s desperation three-pointer banged off the rim. They lost to eventual NCAA champ UConn 65-63 in 2011 when two long-range jumpers by Derrick Williams and Jamelle Horne were off the mark in the end.
Three tough losses for the Arizona Wildcats basketball team that could have increased their Final Four trips to seven.
Wait … I’m missing a game. Does anybody remember what happened in 2005? Against Illinois?
Do we have to? OK, that was the game the Wildcats were ahead by 15 points with less than four minutes before the Fighting Illini fought their way back to an unbelievable 90-89 victory in overtime at Chicago.
Six excruciating points from three more Final Fours and nine very painful minutes (regulation and overtime) against Illinois, the last program Arizona has defeated in the Elite Eight to reach the Final Four (2001).
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AP Poll is out. Here are the Top 10 — Kentucky, Mich. State, Louisville, Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Michigan, Oklahoma St., Syracuse, Florida.
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With this being No. 8 in our countdown toward the Arizona Wildcats’ basketball season, I offer the top five memorable Elite Eight games from an Arizona perspective. If it was from a national perspective, the loss to Illinois would rank an untouchable No. 1.
And yes, when factoring the Arizona Wildcats’ nine Elite Eight appearances, I must mix the good with the bad for the top five memorable games (or forgettable games for those losses).
5. 1998: Arizona Wildcats’ 76-51 loss to Utah
The UA was coming off its national championship with a 30-4 record and No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Utah improved to 29-3 with the victory under the late Rick Majerus. Andre Miller posted a triple double (18 points, 14 assists and 13 rebounds). Miles Simon, Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson and Co. were stifled by Utah’s defense, which limited the UA to 28.3 percent shooting from the field.
4. 2011: Arizona Wildcats’ 65-63 loss to UConn
A year after Arizona’s 25-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances ended, the Wildcats and second-year coach Sean Miller were one 3-pointer away from a return to the Final Four. Williams’ three early fouls limited him to 7 minutes in the first half against UConn, which built a 34-25 lead early in the second half. Arizona rallied for nine straight points and it was a nail-biter thereafter. Williams and Horne had good looks at the basket in the end with their three-pointers but the shots did not fall. I’ve never been prouder of a team, and I’ve never seen a team come so far as we did in a short period of time,” Miller said in the postgame press conference. “It will probably feel better in a few weeks than it does now.”
3. 2005: Arizona Wildcats’ 90-89 loss to Illinois in OT.
With hot-shooting guard Deron Williams leading the way, Illinois went on a late 20-5 run, tying it on Williams’ 3-pointer before the end of regulation, and then held on in overtime to send Arizona to a crushing defeat in the Chicago Regional Finals. “It’s extremely hard,” Olson said in the postgame press conference. “My disappointment is for the team. I’m disappointed we didn’t reach one of our goals. I wish we could have closed it out.”
2. 1988: Arizona Wildcats’ 70-52 win over North Carolina.
North Carolina could not control Sean Elliott (24 points) or Tom Tobert (21) in the second half as the Wildcats achieved their first Final Four berth in school history. In the second half, Tolbert shot 7 for 11 and delivered 12 points during a furious 19-6 run. He started the spurt with an improbable reverse layup. With North Carolina ahead, 42-40, Tolbert found himself on the right side of the basket with 6’9″, 256-pound J. R. Reid all over him. Tolbert faked Reid off his feet, jumped into him and threw the ball one-handed back over his own head. “Prayer goes in,” said the official score sheet. Reid drew his third foul and Tolbert converted the three-point play to put Arizona ahead to stay, 43-42.
1. 1997: Arizona Wildcats’ 96-92 win over Providence in OT.
Providence, playing without Austin Croshere who fouled out with 12 minutes remaining, came close to another heartbreaking comeback against Arizona. The Friars trailed, 82-72, with 3:30 remaining. Bibby put Arizona ahead 85-78 with two free throws with 1:15 left. The Friars rallied to tie the game at 85 in the final seconds of regulations on a three-pointer by Jamel Thomas. Simon made four of six beyond the three-point arc and put the Wildcats ahead to stay on a basket with 2:53 left in the extra period. Jason Terry clinched the victory with a pull-up jumper in the lane to give Arizona a 94-90 lead with 1:03 left. When the horn sounded, a few of Arizona’s stood on press row tables exulting the Arizona crowd in celebration.
Countdown to Tip-off Blogs:
— Twitter feed reads on Day No. 9 of countdown to tip off
— Arizona Wildcats’ career assist record an unassailable mark
— Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller on freshman Aaron Gordon: Defense “deal-breaker” for wing spot
— No. 12 symbolizes success after hoops career for two Arizona Wildcats guards
— No. 13 not unlucky for couple of Arizona Wildcats standout guards
— No. 14 for Arizona Wildcats includes two pivotal players who revived program
— No. 15 embodies grit, determination and intelligence for Arizona Wildcats
— Ranking Arizona Wildcats’ top Sweet 16 victories
— Arizona Wildcats guard T.J. McConnell on Bob Cousy Award Watch List
— ASU’s Jahii Carson Arizona Wildcats’ top opposing player this season
— Mike Bibby, Tedy Bruschi spend day with Arizona Wildcats
— Arizona Wildcats guard Jordin Mayes sets sight on successful senior season with 20-20 vision
— Unsung players wore No. 21 proudly for Arizona Wildcats
— Jason Gardner’s No. 22 is retired but Coniel Norman and Ray Owes also wore number admirably for Arizona Wildcats
— Arizona Wildcats No. 23 players historic in different ways
— No. 24 in Arizona Wildcats history one for the statistical record books
— Steeeeeeeeve Kerrrrrrrr!!!!
— A look at the greatest takeaways from Arizona Wildcats’ Red-Blue Scrimmage
— A look at past, future today with Arizona Wildcats’ Red-Blue Scrimmage
— Arizona Wildcats’ Aaron Gordon vying to become third freshman to win Pac-12 player of year
— Ernie McCray did more than score for Arizona Wildcats
— Arizona Wildcats’ No. 31 not retired with Jason Terry’s name but should be
— No. 32 most storied jersey number in Arizona Wildcats history
— No. 33 in Arizona Wildcats history symbolic of hard work ethic, ideal role players
— Simon says: No. 34 special with two of Arizona Wildcats’ greatest wearing jersey number
— If Arizona Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski has field-goal percentage like Jud Buechler, UA will be fine
— Arizona Wildcats legend Sean Elliott scored career-high 36 points opposing Sean Miller
— Nick Johnson looks to improve perimeter shooting, limit turnovers
— Jordin Mayes hoping to return to shooting form earlier in Arizona Wildcats career
— 39 days and counting toward Arizona Wildcats’ season
— Joe Skaisgir best Arizona Wildcats basketball player you’ve never heard of
— Nick Johnson looks to improve FG percentage while Arizona Wildcats limit opponents
— Chris Mills, A.J. Bramlett reached Arizona Wildcats stardom via different paths, roles
— Jordan Hill climbed hill for notoriety while Ed Nymeyer lived up to hype with Arizona Wildcats
— Fantastic Four who wore No. 44: Jersey special for Arizona Wildcats program
— Two of Arizona Wildcats’ best centers — Sean Rooks and Channing Frye — donned No. 45
— Arizona Wildcats great Ernie McCray reminisces about his record-setting 46-point performance
— Arizona Wildcats star recruit should not be compared to Blake Griffin
— Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller on fast track to Pac-12 success
— Things you may not know about Arizona Wildcats point guard T.J. McConnell
— Arizona Wildcats will benefit from presence of Joseph Blair in practice
— Arizona Wildcats preparing for what could be memorable 2013-14 season