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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA using doubters as fuel

    Point guard Nic Wise said the Wildcats are using the doubters words as fuel to do well in the NCAA Tournament.
    Point guard Nic Wise said the Wildcats are using the doubters’ words as fuel to do well in the NCAA Tournament.

    NCAA Tournament

    For the ESPN talking heads who said the Arizona men’s basketball team shouldn’t have made it into the NCAA Tournament this season, the Wildcats only have four words:

    “”We’re in the tournament,”” UA point guard Nic Wise said Monday.

    Arizona (19-13) was a bubble team heading into Selection Sunday, and for what seemed like the rest of the day – and even part of Monday – some ESPN analysts argued about whether the Wildcats should have been picked to participate in the Big Dance.

    Some felt leaving St. Mary’s, Creighton and San Diego State out of the mix wasn’t the right move.

    “”I guess you could use it for fuel,”” Wise said. “”There’s always doubters. There were doubters within our own group. You can’t really (listen) to what other people are saying. If we would have been out and St. Mary’s would have been in, there would have been an argument against them about us. It goes both ways.””

    Before CBS’s Selection Show, the national media members weren’t the only ones doubting whether the Wildcats would make it into the NCAA Tournament for the 25th straight year. There were members of the team with pessimistic minds, too.

    “”All we could do is hope for the best, you know?”” Wise said. “”We got together; we really didn’t think we would get in.””

    UA wing Chase Budinger said he stayed away from ESPN and SportsCenter in the days leading up to the selection because he didn’t want any of the negativity to get to his head.

    Deep down inside, he knew there was only a slim chance of the Wildcats getting into the tournament. But he also knew the Wildcats had beaten some good teams and had played decently in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    He just didn’t know if the members of the selection committee had taken notice.

    “”We just kind of thought we were going to be screwed,”” Budinger said. “”… We got lucky, I guess you could say, that we made it into the Dance. The story continues and we can still make something special happen.””

    After the tournament’s field of 65 teams had been announced, ESPN’s Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale had an on-air discussion over whether St. Mary’s should have been picked over Arizona.

    “”I think Santa Claus came early for them,”” Vitale said of the Wildcats’ bid.

    When asked of Vitale’s comments against Arizona, Pennell pointed toward Vitale’s bias toward east-coast conferences.

    “”We’re not in the Big East or ACC,”” Pennell said. “”You know what though? It’s interesting, because one of the arguments that I hadn’t heard in a while was, ‘Well the Pac-10’s down.’ I really feel like that, about 6 weeks ago, became old news.””

    Pennell pointed out, just as Wise did, that if the Wildcats didn’t make it, they would be arguing their case in vain. The same is true for St. Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett.

    “”I was hoping common sense prevailed,”” Bennett told the Mercury news. “”Using common sense, we’re one of the top 34 (at-large) teams. This was the best team we’ve ever had, so it’s just disappointing to be in this situation.””

    St. Mary’s did have a No. 47 ratings percentage index, but its strength of schedule was No. 150. Those numbers are compared to Arizona’s No. 62 RPI and No. 34 SOS.

    Numbers aside, Pennell is just happy to be in the position he and the Wildcats are in.

    “”You can’t win it if you’re not in it,”” he said.

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