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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats on the bubble

    Arizona junior guard Mustafa Shakur pushes off ASUs Tyrone Jackson during the second half of Arizonas game against the Sun Devils, Jan. 25, in Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. Arizona beat ASU 80-70, and now will play for a regular-season sweep against the Sun Devils tomorrow at 2 p.m. ASU has not won in McKale Center since 1995.
    Arizona junior guard Mustafa Shakur pushes off ASU’s Tyrone Jackson during the second half of Arizona’s game against the Sun Devils, Jan. 25, in Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. Arizona beat ASU 80-70, and now will play for a regular-season sweep against the Sun Devils tomorrow at 2 p.m. ASU has not won in McKale Center since 1995.

    As the Arizona men’s basketball team begins its much-anticipated home stretch to end conference play, the national media is discussing whether the team is worthy of postseason consideration.

    The Wildcats (16-10, 9-6 Pacific 10 Conference) play host to ASU (10-14, 4-11) tomorrow at 2 p.m. in McKale Center, televised on FSN, with the chance to improve their streak of three victories in the last four games.

    Even with the continued improvement, the Wildcats still have to face the fact that this could be the year Arizona’s nation-leading active streak of 21 consecutive years in the tournament might be broken.

    “”One of those types of streaks never happen again really,”” freshman forward Marcus Williams said. “”The chance of it happening again with the program are slim to none, so definitely you never want to be that team, especially my first year, (being) the letdown guys.””

    With the trend of the tournament committee in recent years to look more at the Rating Percentage Index and strength of schedule than wins and losses, junior center Kirk Walters said he just wants to keep the winning streak going to help his team’s chances of reaching the tournament.

    “”I don’t necessarily understand the formula behind (the RPI),”” Walters said. “”We know how important it is. We have a pretty good RPI, but it comes down to winning games, and we have three games, and we have to win them.””

    According to www.kenpom.com, Arizona is projected to have a No. 18 RPI and a strength of schedule ranked No. 3, behind only Baylor and Duke.

    “”As far as I know of strength of schedule, we’ve played some really good teams, and it’s not like we were getting blown out by (Connecticut) or anything like that,”” Williams said. “”We played them really close in Maui and I don’t think our team was playing at its best. We were kind of new, and I was really inexperienced.””

    As ASU looms tomorrow and both Washington schools head to Tucson next week, Arizona head coach Lute Olson said that only taking care of business will ensure a postseason berth.

    “”We’re in a position where if we do the job at home, we can have some real momentum going in,”” he said. “”If the NCAA pays attention to the teams that play tough schedules as opposed to the people that play really weak nonconference schedules, then I don’t see any way that they can say we’re a bubble team.””

    Even with the quality RPI Arizona holds, Walters said that the team doesn’t want to get in a position where that is something it has to rely on.

    “”You can’t come to a situation where you have to fall back on your RPI,”” he said. “”You really just want to get in a situation where you’re winning ball games and you don’t have to think about that.””

    For the weekend, which nears this roller coaster season’s end, Williams said that urgency isn’t a factor because it is something the team has felt all year.

    “”We’ve kind of had an urgency the whole year because we’ve never been on that long streak of 13 or whatever-some games,”” Williams said. “”Every win’s been really important – but every game’s been really important, home or away, so I think it’s good we have these last three games at home.””

    With bubble talk one of the top subjects for sports fans in the Old Pueblo, Williams and freshman forward Fendi Onobun both said they can’t let it get to their heads.

    “”I don’t try to think about it, but on the other hand, it’s sometimes in the back of my mind, but I can’t think about it too much or else it’s distracting,”” Williams said.

    Onobun added that “”(Bubble talk) goes in one ear and out the other. I know the kind of guys we have and I know the mentality our team has, and I think our guys are fine. (Winning these games) is all I’m worried about.””

    Notes

    Arizona class of 2006 signee Chase Budinger was named to the McDonald’s All-American team yesterday, according to www.espn.com. Budinger, a senior forward at La Costa Canyon High School in San Diego, will get the chance to play in front of his hometown when the game is played at San Diego State’s Cox Arena on March 29. …

    Arizona walk-on freshman guard David Bagga broke his nose in practice Wednesday. He is listed as probable for tomorrow’s game.

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