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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Commentary: Accept the NIT as ‘Now In Training’

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

“”Never In Tucson,”” they called it.

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

“”Every kid knows,”” UA freshman Momo Jones said about The Streak. “”I think that’s why every kid, 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, mourned expectedly and become history effectively yesterday 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 Minute No. 1.

One and done.

Done and gone.

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

All Nic Wise needed one 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 2010-2011 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 consolation 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, Parrom, Jones and even Kyle Fogg as of late.

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

It can’t hurt.

UA wing Kevin 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.””

Parrom 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, we can’t look at as oh it’s a lower tournament or whatever the case may be, it’s another game, it’s great teams.

“”There are going to be teams in (the NIT) that should be in the NCAA tournament for a long time as well as us so we got to go in there and we have to play,”” he added. “”I mean, it’s basketball. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the NIT, we still gotta go out and play as hard as we would like a regular game.””

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 who did the streak matter to on this current roster? Did it matter to Miller, who was 16 years old the last time Arizona failed to make the NCAA Tournament and 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,”” UA wing Kevin Parrom said. “”We’re trying to build our own dynasty, we’re not worrying about the past.

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

That’s what matters.

Streak ends on gradual closure

Exactly one year ago to the day, Jordan Hill laid sprawled across four chairs in the Staples Center guest locker room.

Reporters hovered over the 6-foot-10 forward just to get a few mumbles out of him. Questions of postseason uncertainty circulated — it was unsure whether the Wildcats could earn an NCAA Tournament at-large bid after an embarrassing 68-56 loss to ASU to open the Pac-10 Tournament.

This year the mood was about the same — somber disappointment.

But this time everybody was certain.

It’s not happening.

“”You want to live up to (expectations) and never want to let the fans down,”” Solomon Hill said yesterday. “”We didn’t work for that. We shouldn’t even have to win the Pac-10 tournament to make the tournament.

“”It was just a desperation thing. We didn’t show up tonight.””

THEY SAID IT: 

Solomon Hill:

I love playing in the NIT. I want to play with Nic Wise a couple more games. I know guys are going to have their heads down about the situation, but another game is another game.

Kevin Parrom:

To me I don’t look at it as frustrated, I just look at it as us getting better for next year. I don’t see frustrated.

Jamelle Horne:

Postseason play is definitely the most important thing. It’s not the NCAA tournament, but we’ll take what we can get. Coach is definitely for it, it’s an honor. We shouldn’t see things in a negative light just because it’s not continuing the streak.

Nic Wise:

It was a great accomplishment, that many years in a row. I knew from the beginning of the season it would be tough. We barely made it last year so it was going to be tougher this year.  

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