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Cats focus on OSU, not March

Citizen Staff Writer



What does the Arizona men’s basketball team need to do to get to the NCAA Tournament?

Win and win some more, starting with a sweep of the Oregon schools this weekend.

It’s not that easy, interim coach Russ Pennell says.

“I don’t want to hear it,” he said. “I’ve got friends who call me (and say) ‘we’ve figured it out.’ Well, that’s not the way I want to think.”

“If it were that simple none of us would worry about it.”

Winning is not as easy as it sounds. Heck, if it were that easy UA would be 22-0.

The Tucson Citizen, in its preseason special section, projected Arizona to be 13-9 and 6-3 in the Pac-10 Conference at this point. Instead, UA is 14-8 overall and 4-5 in the Pac-10 Conference.

Arizona is riding a three-game win streak into Thursday’s road contest against Oregon State. Last week, Pennell semijoked that people had left the team for dead, but that his team was still fighting to make a good season of it.

When asked if he looked at the schedule and started to project wins here and there the rest of the way, UA junior Nic Wise said that doesn’t happen.

“We look at it game by game,” he said. “I don’t know who thinks like that. You look at every game to win every game.”

He then threw in a zinger – a rarity for Wise – when asked if UA should win the next two games.

“No, we should lose,” he said, laughing. “Of course (we should think we’ll win). We come out to win every game.”

Wise said the team would be “devastated” if it didn’t make the NCAA Tournament. It would be the first time in 25 years UA wouldn’t be in the Big Dance.

It’s all premature talk. Pennell is “trying real hard” not to look at things down the road.

“I think it’s important to get better by the day. It’s worked for us (lately),” he said. “Tomorrow (and the rest of the season) will take care of itself.”

Entering this week, UA’s Ratings Percentage Index is 62, and ESPN’s Bracketology does not have it in the tournament.

The Wildcats are on the wrong side of the bubble, but it’s just early February.

Right now, Pennell is focusing on Oregon State and his team, one that has played well the past two weekends. He said the Wildcats are getting better.

“To me, that’s a sign of a good team and a coaching staff doing their job,” he said. “If you do that, then you should peak at the end of the year.

“If we keep that type of mentality (of playing hard and well) then wins and losses take care of themselves. If you’re good enough, and you’re using that formula then you’ll get what you set out to do at the beginning of the year.”

Cats focus on OSU, not tournament chances

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