Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category
2000-01 Arizona Wildcats (28-8)
–Beat Illinois 87-81 in the Midwest Regional Final; beat Michigan State 80-61 in the Final Four; and lost to Duke 82-72 in the national title game. To note: Four players were drafted in the first two rounds of the 2001 NBA draft — Richard Jefferson, first round, 13th pick overall (Rockets); Gilbert Arenas, second round, 30th pick (Warriors); Michael Wright, second round, 38th pick (Knicks); and Loren Woods, second round, 45th pick (Timberwolves).
1996-97 Arizona Wildcats (25-9)
–Beat Providence 96-92 in overtime in the Southeast Regional Final; beat North Carolina 66-58 in the Final Four; and defeated Kentucky 84-79 in overtime to win its first NCAA championship. To note: The Wildcats had five players drafted in 1998 and 1999, three of them in the first round — Mike Bibby, second pick overall in 1998, Grizzlies; Michael Dickerson, 14th pick in 1998, Rockets; and Jason Terry, 10th pick in 1999, Hawks.
First Round Arizona Elite Eight Event Matchups:
>> Poll: 1987-1988 versus 2010-2011. Story: TucsonCitizen.com analysis
>> Poll: 1993-1994 versus 2004-2005. Story: TucsonCitizen.com analysis
>> Poll: 1996-1997 versus 2002-2003. Story: TucsonCitizen.com analysis
>> Poll: 1975-1976 versus 2000-2001. Story: TucsonCitizen.com analysis
EDITOR NOTE: The following is a fictional depiction of what could occur between the 1996-97 and 2000-01 teams. The quotes used are also fictional.
VOTE ON HOW YOU FEEL THIS GAME STORY SHOULD END AT WILDABOUTAZCATS.NET!!!
The buzz at a standing-room-only McKale Center before this semifinal game of the Arizona Elite Eight Event — pitting the only two Wildcat teams to advance to an NCAA title game — centered around which starting lineup matchup was most intriguing.
Mike Bibby vs. Jason Gardner — A couple of young leaders who pioneered Point Guard U., their retired jerseys hanging from the rafters.
Miles Simon vs. Gilbert Arenas — Simon and his Final Four MVP credentials going against one of Arizona’s most potent shooting guards in the program’s history.
Michael Dickerson vs. Richard Jefferson — Dickerson with his equally strong defensive and offensive capabilities against the athletic Jefferson, who always had the capability to go for 19 points and eight rebounds.
Bennett Davison vs. Michael Wright — The wiry athletic Davison with springs for legs against the burly, strong Wright, who owned the paint around the basket.
A.J. Bramlett vs. Loren Woods — The efficient Bramlett who ended his career as a very strong rebounder against shot-blocking extraordinaire Woods.
Indicative of the 1996-97 team’s resiliency, it never gave up after falling behind by as many as 22 points. Bibby, Simon and Co. forced the 2000-01 team into an uncharacteristic 21 turnovers, including 12 during the game’s final 11 minutes. Conversely, the 1996-97 team committed just six turnovers the entire game and outscored the the 2000-01 team in points off turnovers by a 25-6 margin.
“The one thing I can always can count on with that ’96-97 team is that no situation was too much to overcome,” said Arizona coach Lute Olson, whose team beat three No. 1 seeds en route to the 1997 NCAA championship. “Mike (Bibby) and Miles (Simon) and those guys always know how to make things interesting don’t they?”