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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    March Sadness

    UA wing Chase Budinger reacts to a post-game press conference Thrusday after losing to ASU in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament. The Wildcats post season fate is in the hands of the NCAA Tournament selection committee
    UA wing Chase Budinger reacts to a post-game press conference Thrusday after losing to ASU in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament. The Wildcats’ post season fate is in the hands of the NCAA Tournament selection committee

    LOS ANGELES – Some basketball games end so closely that it feels like a coin flip could determine the winner.

    Look at the previous four UA-ASU meetings: all intense boxing matches that came down to who could execute the final Knock Out punch.

    With a 4-0 ASU series advantage heading into Thursday afternoon’s game for all the marbles, UA point guard Nic Wise used the term “”revenge”” for Tucson’s past two years of agony in the Duel in the Desert.

    Many asked, ‘How can a team lose to the same team three straight times in one season? Shouldn’t the team that came thisclose in all four losses have the odds in their favor? To an arch rival, no less?’

    If you were to flip a coin five times, chances are there would be some variation.

    But then again, games aren’t played on paper or based on history.

    For the fifth consecutive time, the coin landed on the Devils’ side.

    And with all of the coins falling out of the Wildcats’ favor, a 68-56 loss to ASU now means their slim NCAA Tournament chances rest in the hands of the Selection Committee.

    Lute Olson, who sat a few rows behind the Arizona bench, could have very well witnessed his streak of 24 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances vanish before his eyes.

    Their odds at a bid? Like calling tails on a double-headed coin.

    “”It’s a nail biter,”” UA forward Fendi Onobun said after the game. “”We thought last year was hard … It’s probably going to be the same situation this year. It hurts though; it hurts being a senior and just kind of reflecting back: this is it.””

    As their final record stands, Arizona finished the season 19-13 overall and 9-10 in Pac-10 play. Entering Thursday morning, the Wildcats have a mediocre RPI at No. 54 and above-average Strength of Schedule at No. 31.

    Heading into Thursday afternoon, the Wildcats were projected as (barely) one of the last teams in the Tournament by both ESPN.com and CBSSports.com.

    By Friday, they were the second team on the outside of the projected 65 by ESPN.com

    “”It is just out of our hands. We’ll be just like everyone else sitting there watching on Sunday,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell. “”Right now, you can take a piece of paper and a pen and drive yourself crazy if you want. It just boils down to at the end of the day, is our body of work good enough?””

    Arizona must hope for all the Tournament favorites to win, so that conferences without any at-large bids don’t send more than just the automatic bid team the Tournament in the instance of an upset. Cleveland State defeated Butler, so the Horizon Conference will likely send two teams with Butler’s at-large bid.

    If there’s any ray a hope, the Wildcats can be fortunate about a USA Today story that reports the NCAA selection committee will evaluate early-season wins with more weight than years past.

    Now, wins in December against then-No. 4 Gonzaga and Kansas could mean a whole lot more to the committee than years past.

    “”The best way to evaluate a team is based on a full body of work,”” Mike Slive, the NCAA tournament selection committee chair told the USA Today. “”Otherwise, in a sense you’re going to have November and December being an exhibition season, and it’s not. It is important for the committee to not get so caught up in what a team does this week and overlook what it has done over the course of the last four months.””

    Added UA forward Jordan Hill: “”We think we did a good job this year in spite of everything that went on. It gave us a lot of key wins. (But now) it’s not up to us.””

    Last season, Arizona primarily made the program’s 24th consecutive Tournament appearance based on its superb strength of schedule, which was in the top 5 throughout the entire season, and RPI.

    With a 19-12 record, the Wildcats sweated out the committee by earning a No. 10 seed.

    If you ask ASU head coach Herb Sendek, whose team was snubbed from last year’s Big Dance, if UA should be in or not, Sendek said “”I would say yes.””

    So what can a nail-biting team do for the next couple days?

    “”It’s going to be a long, long couple days,”” said UA guard Kyle Fogg.

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