Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats at home at Madison Square Garden (or are they?)

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The itinerary for workouts and games at Madison Square Garden involving teams participating in the NIT Season Tip-Off

The itinerary for workouts and games at Madison Square Garden involving teams participating in the NIT Season Tip-Off

The Arizona Wildcats’ focus should be on Drexel, a dangerous 3-1 team that came close to beating UCLA at Pauley Pavilion a couple of weeks ago.

But it’s inescapable to not be somewhat irked when noting that Duke, the No. 2 seed in the NIT Season Tip-Off, is allowed to use the New York Knicks’ locker room while the No. 1-seeded Arizona Wildcats must use the lower-scaled visitor locker room. Call it the Coach K Factor. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski trumps everything.

The issue is minor but it’s the underlining theme that Duke gets preferential treatment which is unsettling to some.

Know this: Lute Olson would have at least commented his displeasure to NIT officials about the situation. We don’t know whether Sean Miller has voiced a complaint. If he has not, it’s because he has coached 29 years less than Krzyzewski and has not won multiple national titles and Olympic gold medals.

Olson had more of a ground to stand on. Miller will some day.

Madison Square Garden, home away from home.

Arizona is 12-2 in its last 14 games at Madison Square Garden after a 1-5 record through 1951. Bruce Pascoe of The Arizona Daily Star documented the Wildcats’ success in the storied building.


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ArizonaLogo opp.Drexellogo

Drexel (3-1) vs. Arizona (3-0)
Today: 5 p.m. MST
Where: New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden)
Television: ESPNU and WatchESPN (Dan Shulman/Dan Dakich/Andy Katz)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Corey Williams)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 91; XM 91
Rankings: Arizona – No. 4 Associated Press/3 USA Today Coaches; Drexel – NR/NR

Lute Olson had an 11-1 record at Madison Square Garden with Arizona

Lute Olson had a 10-1 record at Madison Square Garden with Arizona

I was fortunate to cover Arizona’s Preseason NIT title in 1995 in which the Wildcats defeated Michigan in the semifinals and withstood Allen Iverson’s 40 points to defeat No. 5 Georgetown 91-81.

What I remember most about it is how old Madison Square Garden looked from the outside and the endless corridors adjacent to the court. I also recall a strong Arizona fan presence. Although Georgetown was from nearby Washington D.C., the Wildcats’ fan noise was just as loud.

So much history is involved with that building that it can be breathtaking. For Olson to have the Wildcats stay focused in such a setting, staying at nearby Times Square, speaks volume of his coaching ability.

“I know so many great (UA) teams, some of which were under the radar at the time … went to Madison Square Garden and proved how good they were,” Miller told Pascoe. “We’d like to do the same thing, certainly, making sure we’re at our best.”


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Drexel’s game against UCLA. The Dragons stayed close with the Bruins behind the outside shooting of guard Frantz Massenat, who finished with a game-high 20 points in UCLA’s 72-67 victory.

Frantz Massenat

Frantz Massenat

Damion Lee, a 6’6″ junior guard, added 17 points and Dartaye Ruffin, a 6’8″ senior forward, had 13 rebounds for the Dragons, who traveled cross-country from Philadelphia to play a game that started at midnight EST.

The Dragons got within four six times in the second half before closing to 65-63 on a layup by Massenat with 2:45 to play. They cut it to one on another basket by Massenat.

Kazembe Abif, a 6’8″ power forward who had six points and eight rebounds against the Bruins, will not play today against the Wildcats because of a concussion. Abif averages 7 points and 8.8 rebounds in 33.3 minutes per game.

The matchup between Massenat, a senior point guard, and Arizona junior T.J. McConnell should be an interesting one. Massenat has 22 assists with only 10 turnovers in Drexel’s four games. McConnell has 34 assists and 10 turnovers in Arizona’s five games.

Nick Johnson’s matchup with Drexel shooting guard Chris Fouch will also be one to watch. Johnson and Fouch lead their respective teams in scoring. Johnson averages 16.8 points a game while Fouch averages 17.3.

Hollis-Jefferson vs. hometown team. Arizona freshman forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson figures to get plenty of media attention from the Philadelphia press covering Drexel at Madison Square Garden. Hollis-Jefferson hails from Philly suburb Chester, Pa.

He was a feature subject of nearby Delaware County Times this week because of his return close to home for the game.

“I’d tell anyone reading this to come and support me (in New York) this week and show they care,” Hollis-Jefferson told the newspaper, “because once I get the opportunity to help the city, I will do as much as I can. I love my city. I love where I’m from. I’ll stick by Chester forever.”

[/ezcol_1half_end] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and


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