The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

73° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Facing the NIT

Colin Darland/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona freshman forward Derrick Williams fights off UCLA defenders during the Wildcats
Colin Darland/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona freshman forward Derrick Williams fights off UCLA defenders during the Wildcats

LOS ANGELES — Fans felt the divine right to poke fun at college basketball’s loser’s bracket, the NIT, for 25 years.

“”Never In Tucson,”” they called it.

A quarter century of sustained postseason consistency became Arizona’s biggest selling point to recruits, the best bragging right for fans and a last grip on national prestige.

“”Every kid knows,”” said UA freshman Momo Jones about  The Streak.  “”You hear about it, you read about it, you see it on TV, and that’s what you want. I have no doubt in my mind everyone coming in here wanted that. But it didn’t happen, so you have to move on.””

Just like that.

Arizona’s streak of 25 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances concluded innocently, was mourned appropriately and became history effectively Thursday afternoon in the heart of southern California.

The Wildcats fell to UCLA 75-69 in the first round of the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament — their last shot-of-disparity attempt at winning three games in three days for an automatic bid to the Big Dance.

They stumbled out of the gate from the first minute.

One and done.

Done and gone.

“”It’s kind of like second nature — you’d thought you’d be in the tournament,”” said UA freshman Solomon Hill. “”It just kind of sucks when the tradition is stopped.””

All senior Nic Wise needed was one word to articulate the emotional burden he endured by leading the team that snapped a generational bond between fans old and young.

“”Disappointment,”” he wrote on Twitter, a medium of expression probably nonexistent in 1985.

That’s the position Jamelle Horne is slated to overtake by default next season as another lone senior.

Is he ready?

“”Absolutely. I just don’t want to feel what Nic is feeling right now, man,”” he said.

So, what’s the past tense of streak? Is it struck? Stroke? It feels more like a swift sendoff now starting Arizona basketball’s 2010-11 preseason conditioning camp that some will call the National Invitational Tournament.

The Wildcats should earn a bid based on program reputation alone, but according to NIT-ology, even the consultation bracket considers them on the bubble.

The games would give Sean Miller a few more opportunities to tweak lineups, experiment with sets and, most of all, improve continuity as a whole. His big-picture attitude would certainly embrace any chance at further making this team a real contender for the 2011-12 season.

It was easy for players to crown the regular season a success from the standpoint of player development: Derrick Williams, Kevin Parrom, Jones and even Kyle Fogg as of late.

A few games — possibly even on the road — would elevate this team even further, right?

It can’t hurt.

Parrom paused a few moments before deciding his stance on the NIT Tournament: “”I’d rather go somewhere than go back home and not play anything. I just look at this as a learning experience for every game.””

He shares the same it-can’t-hurt mindset the rest of the team does. And, with other national powers like Connecticut and North Carolina potentially in the same bracket, the NIT might even find unusual exposure.

“”It’s still another game,”” Jones said. “”We can’t look at (the NIT) as, ‘Oh, it’s a lower tournament,’ or whatever the case may be. It’s another game. It’s great teams.””

Now, the Wildcats can return to regular games and not worry about pressures of carrying a backpack full of tradition along the road.

Take the group of six fans in Staples Center wearing T-shirts that said “”The Streak Matters”” for instance.

For whom did the streak matter on this current roster? Did it matter to Miller, who was 16 years old the last time Arizona failed to make the NCAA Tournament, just learning how to drive a car in Pennsylvania?

Or did it matter to someone from the Bronx, N.Y., who doesn’t allow easy buckets anywhere?

“”I didn’t know about The Streak until I came here and I heard about it,”” Parrom said. “”We’re trying to build our own dynasty. We’re not worrying about the past.

“”It didn’t affect me. I’m just trying to build my own dynasty as a team.””

That’s what matters.

— Bryan Roy is an interdisciplinary studies junior. Reach him at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

More to Discover
Activate Search