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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

A chance to keep dancing: Arizona looks for upset over Villanova

There are three things that are certain: Death, taxes, and the fact that a Wildcat team will win on Sunday.

Whether the No.1 seed Villanova Wildcats save face or the upset minded No.8 seed Arizona Wildcats pull out a win at the Wachovia Center, at least one of the three teams nicknamed the Wildcats still in Philadelphia will dance on to the Sweet Sixteen. Villanova, who played three home games at the Wachovia Center, has their own locker room with their logos on the walls, stamping the first/second round location as their unofficial home.

The Arizona Wildcats, meanwhile, have had a turbulent if not completely frightening season in which they lost 12 games before hiding their regular season bodies in the closet and showing another element in their first round killing of Wisconsin.

“”There’s plenty of things you can write for a soap opera,”” junior point guard Mustafa Shakur said.

With a powerhouse team waiting in the wings, Arizona feels more confident than ever heading into a game many prognosticators didn’t think would even happen.

“”We are definitely one of the most dangerous teams at this moment,”” junior forward Ivan Radenovic said.

“”With our confidence that we have as a unit, that’s really all we need,”” senior guard Hassan Adams added.

While confidence may not have been lacking, shooting has been. Arizona’s dismal 44 percent shooting percentage, 31.6 3-point percentage and lack of offensive production – 72.9 points per game, compared with 79.7 last season – have prevented them from having any kind of consistency. In its last 19 games before the NCAA tournament, Arizona had gone a pedestrian 10-9.

In the meantime, Villanova scattered just four losses in their 30 games, losing to four tournament teams, all ranked in the top 25. But having the No.1 seed for the first time, Villanova is not a clear cut favorite in the tournament by any means.

“”We’re battling and scrapping just to win by two or win by a tip-in,”” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “”And we are vulnerable. Arizona was one of the most impressive of any teams in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

While Wright may be downplaying his team’s achievement and kissing the proverbial donkey of Arizona, Villanova is drastically undersized and suffered the consequences in their 89-75 loss to Connecticut when the Huskies blocked 11 shots and took 11 more second half free throws.

Arizona’s size and strength could cause similar problems, especially if junior center Kirk Walters can stay on the floor and out of foul trouble. Arizona’s offense is predicated on getting easy shots, and it did just that against Wisconsin scoring 40 points in the paint.

“”We want to be the aggressors tomorrow,”” freshman forward Marcus Williams said. “”We have the personnel and the quickness on the perimeter. Of all the No. 1 seeds, I feel like we match up the best with Villanova.””

Both teams have had problems off the court. Senior guard Allan Ray was sidelined with a soft tissue injury in his eye but came back to lead Villanova past Monmouth 58-45 in the first round, scoring a team-high 19 points and draining five 3-pointers. Adams came back in the first round to score 21 points after missing two games because of a suspensions stemming from a DUI arrest to which he plead not guilty. Both teams have had their share of injuries as well. Sophomore guard Jawann McClellan is out for the season with a wrist injury while senior forward Curtis Sumpter is out for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

“”I really like this team,”” Arizona head coach Lute Olson said. “”Yes, there have been some problems here and there but it’s a fun group of guys to be around.””

On the court, the two teams couldn’t be more different. While Ray helped Villanova set the all-time Villanova record for 3-pointers in a season, Adams shot 27.4 percent from that distance.

Villanova shot just 28 percent on 3-point field goals against Monmouth though, and Arizona’s stingy defense allows opponents to shoot 34 percent from downtown compared with Villanova’s 38.3 percent season clip.

Arizona attempted just 10 3-pointers in their first round game and shot 132 less 3-pointers than its opponents on the season.

Arizona’s split personality could mean the team from Friday will be back for a consecutive game or the team from the rest of the season will be back to its old tricks. On Sunday Arizona will face the Wildcats and the Wildcats, themselves, with a chance to put the regular season to sleep.

“”No one remembers what happened during the season,”” Olson said. “”They just remember if you’re wearing a ring or not. This is really the chance to take whatever may have been bumps along the road and smooth them out.””

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