Coaches vs. Cancer Classic Kicks Off 'Cats' Season

Nov. 8, 2001

AP MegaSports Writer

Maryland and Arizona made up half of last season's Final Four, but only oneis expected to make a return trip this year.

The second-ranked Terrapins, who begin their season in the Coaches vs.Cancer IKON Classic at Madison Square Garden on Thursday against theWildcats, expect nothing less than a trip to the NCAA finals.

'That's fine. Very few schools have those expectations,' coach Gary Williamssaid. 'You work hard to get those expectations. Anybody we play againstwho's ranked has those same expectations.'

Expectations are high this season with four starters back from last season's25-11 team that bowed out to Duke in the Final Four. The Terrapins have astrong backcourt with Juan Dixon, who led the team in scoring at 18.2 pointslast season, and Steve Blake.

'We've got four returning starters, guys who have been together for a longtime,' said Blake, who is on pace to become only the fourth player in NCAAhistory to reach 1,000 points and 1,000 assists over his career.

'We've already got a lot of plays in, so I think we do have a littleadvantage.'

While Maryland has high hopes for this season, Arizona will be looking torebuild.

The Wildcats were beaten by Duke in the NCAA finals last season, and returnonly one starter. It could have been another championship run for Arizonabut underclassmen, Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas and Michael Wright leftearly.

'We talked about what we would be like if everybody stays,' said LukeWalton, one of three players on the roster with experience. 'A lot of themwere thinking about staying, but when it all came down to it, they madetheir decision. If they stay we are in the top two in the country again.They left and they are doing their thing. We are doing our thing here.'

Point guard Jason Gardner also would have left, but he was persuaded to stayafter attending a few NBA rookie camps and learning he wouldn't fare well inthe draft.

'It was a shock to see everybody leave,' incoming freshman Isaiah Fox said.'You knew some of them were going to leave early, but not everybody.'

Coach Lute Olson will have to rely upon freshmen like Fox as Arizona faces atough early season schedule.

'Our schedule is going to be tough,' Olson said. 'We like to schedule thebest teams to give us the competition we need, but we also assumed this wasgoing to be a veteran team.'

Arizona, which is out of the Top 25 for the first time in 109 weeks, has wonthe two previous meetings with Maryland, including a victory on March 19,1998, in the NCAA tournament.

Temple faces Florida in an earlier game at Madison Square Garden onThursday. The winning and losing teams will square off on Friday.

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