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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    No time for complacency

    Arizona forward Jordan Hill leaps for a dunk in an 86-57 win over Oregon State last Wednesday in the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Wildcats are happy they made it to the NCAA Tournament but wont be satisfied without a hot run.
    Arizona forward Jordan Hill leaps for a dunk in an 86-57 win over Oregon State last Wednesday in the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Wildcats are happy they made it to the NCAA Tournament but won’t be satisfied without a hot run.

    Hoops Notes

    Jawann McClellan predicted it.

    He said before its trip to Oregon March 6-8 that the Arizona men’s basketball team needed two more wins to get into the NCAA Tournament for the 24th consecutive year. After beating Oregon State twice, the Wildcats did just that.

    But that doesn’t mean the Wildcats weren’t nervous.

    “”I was kind of sweating it when three (brackets) were announced and the top of the West Region was announced and we still weren’t announced,”” McClellan said. “”It was a big sign of relief.””

    Forward Bret Brielmaier said he was nervous when he heard “”Arizona”” announced on CBS’ selection show, not knowing if it was for the Wildcats or ASU.

    “”A sign (Arizona’s logo) popped up after that (and) it was a big sign of relief,”” he said.

    Guard Jerryd Bayless said he wasn’t as worried as his teammates because he didn’t watch the selection show. But he did get phone calls after Arizona wasn’t placed in the first three announced brackets.

    “”But we got in and it’s very exciting, so we’ve just got move on and get ready for the game,”” Bayless said.

    Now that the Wildcats are in, UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill is hoping that his team doesn’t become complacent, adding that the Wildcats have the drive to go far in the Tournament.

    “”Getting in, to me, was a big accomplishment,”” O’Neill said. “”But 65 people did that. I would hope we’d want to accomplish more.””

    Said forward Chase Budinger: “”If we lose our first game, that would be a disappointing season. We’re a very talented group of guys and we think we should make a good run in the tournament.””

    Players get well-deserved rest

    After playing back-to-back games at the Pacific 10 Conference Tournament in Los Angeles last Wednesday and Thursday, the team got some well-deserved rest.

    The Wildcats lifted Saturday, but didn’t practice as a team until yesterday.

    “”It was very important with (guard Nic Wise’s) knee, Jerryd’s back, my back,”” McClellan said of getting some time off. “”Bret needed some rest. Everybody needed some rest. … This is probably the healthiest we’ve felt since the beginning of the season.””

    O’Neill said this week’s practices are important because Wise and Brielmaier weren’t able to practice in full before the Tournament last week, with both coming off of injuries that kept each out for seven straight games.

    O’Neill also looked ahead to Thursday’s game against West Virginia, thinking of ways to keep his players as fresh as possible.

    “”The thing that I like about our situation is that the timeouts are going to be longer,”” O’Neill said. “”They’ll be national TV timeouts, which are 2:45. I don’t know if I’ll do it, but it’ll be smart of me to sub guys right before timeouts so they can get an extra minute and stretch it out.

    “”I can get Chase out a minute before the timeout,”” O’Neill added. “”That’s 3:45 and by the time he walks back out there that’s 4:15 of rest.””

    Time for Hill to go to work

    After Arizona’s outing against Stanford last Thursday, when the Cardinal took the Wildcats down via 7-foot brothers Brook and Robin Lopez, Arizona doesn’t want to see the likes of any other big men.

    But when West Virginia starts 7-foot center Jamie Smalligan, the Wildcats won’t worry, as he averages 11.9 minutes per game.

    “”They play him for a couple minutes and then they downsize,”” O’Neill said.

    That’s good news for UA forward Jordan Hill, who is 6-foot-10. The downsized Mountaineers could mean plenty of inside baskets for Hill.

    “”It’s time for me to go to work,”” Hill said.

    But Hill did admit, half jokingly, that his monster dunks do get monotonous.

    “”It feels good, but now it’s getting boring,”” Hill said with a smile. “”I like just really dunking the ball hard. Showing aggression. Just going up there and trying to get my opponents intimidated so they won’t jump with me.””

    So to spice things up, are you going to try fancier dunks?

    “”Yeah, I’ll probably throw it off the backboard one time,”” he said.

    Not satisfied yet

    OK, so the Wildcats made it to the NCAA Tournament after being on the bubble. But they’re not completely happy.

    “”Obviously everything that we’ve been through, the up-and-down season, injuries, everything else that’s happened, I think we’ve done a good job,”” said McClellan, a senior. “”But like I said, our season’s not over with, by far. We want to go as far as we can in the tournament. That’s still our goal.””

    So from now on out, everyone is 0-0. Memories are erased and slates are wiped clean.

    “”It’s a new season,”” Budinger said. “”You’ve got to forget about all the games you’ve played.””

    Budinger added that with all of the adversity that the team has gone through, there’s a little extra motivation for the team’s head coach, Lute Olson, who has been on a season-long leave of absence.

    “”It would mean a lot to him and a lot to us as players to get through a roller coaster ride season with a lot of emotional – with the coaching change and everything,”” Budinger said. “”It would be in everyone’s best interest to make a big run.””

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