LINK AT WILDABOUTAZCATS.com: Nic Wise’s omission from senior award a crime
Five things you may not have known about Arizona and UCLA in this Pac-10 basketball season:
- When was the last time Arizona was swept by the last-place team in the conference? Washington State, which lost nine of its last 11 games, did the trick this season. The answer: Never. On five different occasions, the Wildcats lost at least once to the last-place team, the most recent being in 1991, when Washington beat the UA 70-56 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
That means the Wildcats went 18 straight years doing what they should: Sweep the last-place team, a 41-0 run (on two occasions, two teams tied for last and UA won the second meeting at McKale Center against Washington in 1991). Their two losses to Washington State this season is another sign of a transition year under Sean Miller.
I can hear the question now: What about the Ben Lindsey season of 1982-83? The Wildcats were the last-place team with a 1-17 record, the only time in UA’s Pac-10 history that they finished at the bottom. Fred Snowden’s teams didn’t lose twice to the No. 10 team in the conference? Yes, that’s true. Snowden’s Cats were beaten by the last-place Cougars 80-71 in 1980-81, but the UA beat Wazzu in McKale Center that season. Otherwise, Snowden was 7-1 against futility in his four seasons of coaching in the Pac-10.
- The Wildcats are seeded No. 4 in the Pac-10 tournament. How many No. 4 seeds have won the title in the 12-year history of the tournament? One — Oregon in 2007. So does that mean the Wildcats have only an 8.3 percent chance of winning the tournament based on history? The Ducks went on a magical run, blowing out every opponent: 69-50 over No. 5 Arizona, 81-63 over No. 8 Cal and 81-57 over No. 3 USC.
It helped the Ducks that No. 1 UCLA was upset in the quarterfinals by Cal.
- When is the last time a 10-8 team in the Pac-10 standings failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament? Only three years ago when Stanford went 18-13 overall and finished sixth in the Pac-10. The Cardinal went to the NIT.
In the history of the Pac-10, 22 teams have finished 10-8, like the Wildcats have this season, and only seven of them have qualified for the NCAA tournament. The first four teams to finish 10-8, including the UA in the conference’s inaugural season of 1978-79, did not qualify for any postseason tournament. Break it down, and 11, or half of the 10-8 teams in the Pac-10′s history, have advanced to the NIT.
- Does UCLA have a homecourt edge over Arizona because the game is in Los Angeles? That’s debatable because Pauley Pavilion had its fair share of empty seats this season. The Bruins averaged 8,740 in the 12,819-seat Pauley Pavilion (filling the capacity only 68.2 percent).
The game is also at noon on a Thursday. Odds are, with the type of year UCLA has experienced (13-17 overall), not too many people will be playing hooky from work to show up at the Staples Center.
However, the Bruins in the past have used the venue to their advantage, posting a 2-0 record against the Cats in the Pac-10 tournament there. No. 1 UCLA beat the fourth-seeded Wildcats in the 2006 semifinals. Top-seed Arizona was upset by the eight-seeded Bruins in the 2003 quarterfinals at Staples.
UCLA is the leader with 109 all-conference selections in the history of the Pac-8 and Pac-10 combined, but the Bruins might get shut out this season. The Bruins’ only legitimate candidate is senior guard Michael Roll, who came on strong in the second half of the conference season. If Roll is not selected and UCLA has nobody on the all-conference team, when is the last time that happened?
Actually, not too long ago in 2003-04, the only season since the Pac-10 formed in 1978-79 that none of the Bruins were selected. That was Ben Howland’s first season when the Bruins finished 11-17. The following season, UCLA had only one All-Pac-10 player: Senior guard/forward Dijon Thompson. Remember him? If you don’t, you’re not alone. He is currently playing professionally in Israel.