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The Daily Wildcat

 

    Roy: Make it 25

    Roy: Make it 25

    NCAA Tournament Commentary

    Read these numbers out loud: 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008.

    Tired yet?

    Had enough?

    Well soak up the number vomit, and tack on another four numerals.

    As in, 2009.

    Today’s parody-driven sports culture makes those digits – and what they signify – so much more impressive.

    Reaching the NCAA Tournament? Well 65 teams can say that every year – which would give 1,560 different schools an opportunity to do the same thing over a 24-year span of the modern-day format.

    But only one school can celebrate the consistency that Arizona has accomplished since the 1984 – because consistency in basketball died with the short shorts.

    Except on the hardwood in Tucson.

    Only the Wildcats have survived and danced in all of the last 24 NCAA Tournaments.

    Now, make it the big ‘ole 25 – as in a quarter century of consistency.

    While all other programs rose, fell, began, divided, submerged, ended and rebuilt – Arizona withstood, prevailed and became the Atlanta Braves of college basketball.

    And just when you thought it was all over, with all signs pointing into the direction of your worst enemy (the tournament whose acronym is still better known as Never In Tucson) – somehow this season’s dramatic storyline took another dramatic u-turn.

    From a program that has earned top seeds and national top rankings, maybe this year’s bid was the most satisfying of them all.

    “”When they made the announcement, there was a feeling of everything we have gone though is worth it,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell. “”I have never seen a celebration like that. The celebration lasted so long. Again, I must have hugged the same person five times. This is one of the best moments in these young men’s lives and something they will never forget.””

    With the official closure of Lute Olson’s legacy, you thought his program’s most coveted stat would crawl to a slow death, too.

    The streak that signifies the respect that Arizona basketball has earned: It still lives.

    Obviously, a program that wins just one national championship and reaches only four Final Fours in 24 years isn’t overly impressive in itself – at least not enough to give the school an elite, top-10 all-time status.

    But the words “”Arizona Basketball”” do demand as much national respect as just about any program.

    Although this year’s squad was no vintage season, these Wildcats certainly deserved a spot after all they went though.

    Heading into the final minutes of Saturday, six of eight national bracketology Web sites predicted Arizona would not reach the field of 65 teams.

    It would’ve been hard to blame anybody but themselves for missing the dance this season.

    But they survived.

    They survived two infamously stupid fouls committed by Jamelle Horne.

    They survived Aubrey Coleman’s stomp on Chase Budinger’s face.

    They survived, despite not showing up on road games.

    They survived three hard-fought losses to Jeff Pendergraph’s (Sun) Devilish glare.

    And when you recall the tumultuous 2008-09 season in 5, 10, 15 years from now, it won’t be remembered as the year the UA spent three days absorbing enough bubbles to suffocate Spongebob Squarepants.

    It’ll be about No. 25.

    Right after CBS announced UA’s at-large bid, Pennell received a phone call from Lute Olson.

    “”I kiddingly said, “”Hey, the streak’s somebody else’s problem now,'”” Pennell said. “”And he said, ‘Congratulations on that one.’ One of the things I told Coach O was, ‘You built a program that’s able to endure a couple years after you’re gone.'””

    So save the last dance for the Wildcats. There’s something real special about this one.

    Bryan Roy is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    Stay with DailyWildcat.com all week long for NCAA Tournament coverage from Miami, Fla., with Daily Wildcat basketball reporters Lance Madden and Bryan Roy. Follow us on Twitter here

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