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Rivera: Don’t expect UA men in NCAA Tournament

A triumphant Lute Olson surrounded by thousands of adoring fans hoists the 1997 NCAA championship plaque. In 2009, they probably won't even get to the tournament.

A triumphant Lute Olson surrounded by thousands of adoring fans hoists the 1997 NCAA championship plaque. In 2009, they probably won't even get to the tournament.

Sorry to say, but don’t expect Arizona to make the NCAA Tournament.

UA’s drive for 25 consecutive appearances – the Cats have the nation’s longest current streak at 24 – is likely over. Done.

The streak had to end sometime. Why not now, when the Lute Olson era officially ended in October?

An uninspiring performance against Arizona State in a 68-56 loss in the Pac-10 Tournament on Thursday really hurt UA.

The Wildcats’ chances remind me of the movie “Dumb and Dumber” when Jim Carrey’s character asks Lauren Holley’s character if he had a chance to be her love interest.

He asks, “Like one out of a hundred?” in terms of odds.

She says, “I’d say more like one out of a million.”

He says, “So . . . you’re telling me there’s a chance?”

Welcome to the world of Arizona basketball. Not that UA’s chance’s are one in a million, but I don’t like the odds of them getting in at 19-13 – including only one win in the last six games.

I predicted the Cats wouldn’t make it when the season started, as I had them finishing 18-13 overall in the regular season.

And last week, after the Cats lost to California, I said UA needed three more wins to feel comfortable about Sunday afternoon’s selection processes. Instead, it got one.

The selection committee is supposed to look at a team’s “body of work” – UA has quality wins over Kansas, Gonzaga, UCLA and Washington – but Thursday’s lethargic loss just gives the members a reason to look elsewhere.

UA has left itself in a lurch. Talk about March Madness. Heck, the Great Depression will really hit Tucson if UA doesn’t somehow squeak in.

“We can’t worry about it,” said UA junior center Jordan Hill.

For whatever it’s worth, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has UA out of the tournament after it fell to the Sun Devils.

Upset wins by Temple and Maryland on Friday probably didn’t help UA’s cause.

Sunday will either be sour or sensational.

But isn’t that what the season has been? From the high of highs (beating then-No. 4 Gonzaga) to losing to ASU three times.

What fans needed to do – and I said this in early December and referred to it a number of times on the Citizen’s comment section – is enjoy the moment with the players.

It was going to be a bumpy ride. There would be highs and lows – although I never imagined inexplicable intentional fouls (Jamelle Horne’s vs UAB). I never thought UA would go on a seven-game win streak and give people hope for a chance at an NCAA run after being 11-8.

So, here we are wondering what will happen Sunday when CBS announces the pairings for the tournament.

“We all want to get to the tournament and have another shot of doing it,” Hill said. “We’ll just let it come to us.”

Or not, sorry to say.


SELECTION SHOW: 3 p.m. Sunday, CBS


How ESPN.com‘s Joe Lunardi sees the final spots for the NCAA Tournament playing out:

Last four in: Penn State, San Diego State, Creighton, New Mexico

First four out: Florida, Arizona, UNLV, Saint Mary’s

Next four out: Maryland, Virginia Tech, Temple, Miami

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