The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

97° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Olson tries to utilize ’97 mentality 10 years later

    NEW ORLEANS – With this being the 10-year anniversary of Arizona’s only basketball national championship, all year long the Wildcats have tried to compare this season to its 1997 title team.

    Besides much internal talk, when guard Jawann McClellan moved to the bench to make room for forward Jordan Hill, UA head coach Lute Olson told him to take on the ’97 Jason Terry role.

    Then the squad finished 20-10, much like ’97’s 19-9 pre-NCAA Tournament record, with an identical 11-7 Pacific 10 Conference mark. Both squads also finished fifth (this year when taking tiebreakers into account) and entered the tournament on a losing note.

    Olson even decided the squad should wear blue jerseys, after being nudged in that direction by assistant coach and 1997 NCAA Tournament MOP Miles Simon, just like the ’97 squad.

    “”We have referred to that team a lot this year,”” Olson said. “”The ’97 team was inexperienced at the beginning and had to get better as the season went along. This team is also fairly inexperienced. The fact is that in 1997 nobody remembers what happened during the season, just that we got the ring. We are trying to utilize that mentality to the fullest.””

    However, UA forward Marcus Williams said this year’s version of the Wildcats needs to do more than rely on the past.

    “”Coach has brought it up a few times,”” he said. “”There are a few similarities, but the fact remains it is not the 1997 team. … In order to achieve what they did we have to take a different route. Once we understand our motivation, it defines our season and it starts in March. We hear a lot about it, but we have to go about it our own way.””

    Purdue players, coach compare Arizona to athletic foes

    When asked which Purdue opponent Arizona reminds them of most, both forward Carl Landry and guard David Teague said athletic Big Ten schools Illinois and Michigan State, especially when the Illini had former guards Dee Brown and Luther Head and the Spartans had Shannon Brown – all three of whom now play in the NBA.

    “”I don’t think it’s anything athletic-wise we haven’t faced in our own conference,”” said Teague, before adding his squad needs to prevent UA point guard Mustafa Shakur from getting out into transition easily, which Landry agreed with.

    “”We need to take care of the ball and not let them get a full head of steam going toward the basket,”” Landry said.

    Purdue head coach Matt Painter, however, said the Wildcats remind him of Georgia Tech, whom the Boilermakers lost to 79-61 back on Nov. 20 in the Maui Invitational.

    “”Georgia Tech has a lot of good athletic guards,”” he said. “”They had a lot of guys when they spread you that you had to worry about. That’s probably the most similar team, Georgia Tech and all their talent.””

    In scouting Arizona, Painter said he found tapes of the Washington State and UCLA games most helpful. Those squads, along with USC, play a similar style to Purdue and beat Arizona all six times.

    But the coach knows you cannot simulate the Wildcats’ speed by looking at tape.

    “”A lot of the things that Arizona does well are things you can’t break down,”” he said.

    ‘A dream come true’ for Painter

    When Purdue hired Painter almost two years ago as the successor to long-time head coach Gene Keady, he started living a dream.

    The 1994 graduate of Purdue has the privilege of coaching his alma mater after playing for the school from 1989-93 and serving as the associate head coach under Keady the season before taking over.

    “”It’s a dream come true for me to be the next coach at Purdue University and follow a legend in coach Keady,”” Painter said.

    Olson said this Purdue squad “”definitely”” reminds him of his old Big Ten Conference foe Keady’s teams because of its physical and mental toughness.

    “”There is no question that he has left his trademark on this program,”” Olson said. “”He had great success through the years, and Matt obviously worked under him and worked under (Illinois head coach) Bruce Weber (at Southern Illinois), and all of their styles of play are very similar. Just watching them you can see all the similarities in the style of play.””

    Just like last year?

    For the second year in a row, the Wildcats find themselves as a No. 8 seed – the only two times in school history they have been seeded there – playing a slower Big Ten school far from home.

    Does that mean Arizona has another easy romp Friday, just like last year’s 94-75 rout of Wisconsin in Philadelphia?

    “”We would definitely take the same score as last year,”” Olson said. “”I think Wisconsin was bothered by our quickness, but last year is last year. We are a different team right now and the difference in the style of play in our conference will help us.””

    Good thing it’s a neutral site for Wildcats

    Maybe there’s a reason Purdue went 16-1 at home and 5-10 in all other contests.

    Olson named Purdue, along with New Mexico and Oregon, the toughest venue to play at in the nation, remembering perfectly that the stadium seats 14,123 people with no chair backseats, only bleachers, from his time at Iowa.

    “”I am just glad we are not playing Purdue in Mackey Arena,”” Olson said. “”I saw Purdue only had one loss at home, so I would not want to play there. Tell Matt that if he wants a home and home series, I would have no interest.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search