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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Arizona looks to reverse poor luck in Las Vegas

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Kyle Wasson
Kyle Wasson / Arizona Daily Wildcat The UA men’s basketball team traveled to Las Vegas, March 13-16, for the 2012-13 Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. Although the Wildcats won their first matchup against Colorado, they fell to UCLA in the semi-finals for the third time this season.

Las Vegas is a weird place. You can pose for a picture with a Disney character on the strip, and 10 seconds later get handed a card advertising escorts. But one thing is crystal clear: The house always wins.

No. 5 Arizona men’s basketball (28-3, 16-2 Pac-12 Conference) enters the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas, Nev., this week as the odds-on favorite to win the championship. The Wildcats won the league’s regular season title by three games over No. 2 seed Oregon, which they beat by 18 points on the road and 34 at home.

Arizona has won eight in a row, 14 of its last 15, and went 5-0 against the two through four seeds.

Arizona owns the Pac-12, having won the outright regular season championship in back-to-back seasons, but history says the Wildcats will lose the Pac-12 tournament.

Arizona is just 3-2 in the Pac-12 tournament since it moved to Sin City. It’s only beaten No. 5 seed Colorado in 2013, No. 8 seed Utah and another fifth-seeded Colorado in 2014.

So, why does the Pac-12 tournament matter? The Wildcats already won the real Pac-12 Championship. Sure, a tournament title means an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. But Arizona needs to win the Pac-12 tourney to keep its hopes of getting a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance, because it’s had bad losses, the most heinous being a continuation of the Las Vegas curse.

The Wildcats lost 71-67 at UNLV on Dec. 23. The Runnin’ Rebels lost to Utah by 13 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, just three days before that, and by 22 to ASU when the Sun Devils were still trying to figure things out.

Arizona is 1-8 in Las Vegas against UNLV, and UA coach Sean Miller is 0-2 versus the Runnin’ Rebels in Sin City. The Wildcats’ only win in Las Vegas against UNLV was in 2007. The Runnin’ Rebels were good before any of the current players were born, and pretty good a few years ago, but Arizona should certainly have a better record than 1-8 against them in Las Vegas.

The conference tournament moved to Las Vegas in 2013, which figured to give Arizona a big advantage, but the Wildcats have yet to win the championship there.

By all accounts, Arizona fans paint the town red. The UA had a team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen in 2013 and a team that made it to the Elite Eight in 2014, but they still came home empty-handed.

The Wildcats lost to UCLA 66-64 in the semifinals in 2013. Arizona lost because of a technical foul called on Miller when he complained about UCLA guard Jordan Adams touching the ball, causing Arizona guard Mark Lyons to dribble again.

The Pac-12 officials missed Adams touching the ball, and probably fouling Lyons, too, and called Lyons for a double dribble.

“He touched the ball,” Miller said.

Afterwards, Miller was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12 for confronting conference officials after the game, and it was revealed that (soon to be former) Pac-12 coordinator of basketball officials Ed Rush offered a reward for whoever gave Miller his first technical foul of the season.

All ball touching aside, Arizona was the four seed, and UCLA was the top seed, so that loss makes sense.

However, last season, the Wildcats lost to the Bruins again, this time in the title game, 75-71. Arizona was the No. 1 seed and had beaten UCLA 79-75 in Los Angeles, Calif.

The UA is tied with UCLA for the most Pac-10/Pac-12 tournament championships with four but hasn’t won since 2002.

Arizona has had as much trouble in Sin City as the Hangover’s wolf pack — only there’s no obvious choice as to who gave them the roofie.

Will this season finally be the one when the Wildcats reverse their Las Vegas curse?

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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