NCAA Tournament Notes: March 16, 2009

March 16, 2009

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Date: Friday, March 20, 2009

Time: 7:10 p.m. EDT

Location: American Airlines Arena (19,600), Miami, Fla.

Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)


GAME DATA: No. 12 seed Arizona (19-13, 9-9 Pac-10) makes its 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance - 28th overall - and will open play in the Midwest Region ... The Wildcats face No. 5 seed Utah (24-9, 12-4 MWC) Friday in the first round at the American Airlines Arena ... UA has a 41-26 (.612) record in its 27 previous NCAA Tournament appearances ... This is Arizona's first-ever NCAA Tournament visit to Miami, and is just the 10th tournament game for the program in the Eastern Time Zone, though the Cats have opened the tournament in the Eastern Time Zone in three of its last four appearances ... Arizona is 3-6 previously when tipping off on Eastern time ... UA is 3-10 against the 2009 NCAA Tournament field, and 2-1 against teams in the Midwest Region

THE RANKINGS: Arizona remains unranked in the March 16 edition of both polls. UA was out of the polls to start the season for the first time since the 2001-02 season and just the second time since the start of the 1987-88 campaign.

ARIZONA INTERIM HEAD COACH Russ Pennell . . . is in his first season at the University of Arizona and his first overall as a college head coach with a career record of 19-13 (.594) ... He assumed the interim coaching responsibilities on Oct. 24 in the wake of Lute Olson's retirement a day earlier ... Pennell returned to college basketball on May 5, 2008, when he joined the Wildcat staff, ending a two-year stint as the head of the Arizona Premier League in the Phoenix area ... He also provided color commentary for the Arizona State University radio network during the 2007-08 season ... Most recently, Pennell served as an assistant coach for Arizona State for eight seasons from 1998-2006 ... While working for the Sun Devils under coach Rob Evans, the program amassed a 119-120 (.498) record that included one NCAA Tournament berth (2003) and three trips to the N.I.T. ... Prior to his tenure in Tempe, Ariz., Pennell served on Evans' staff at the University of Mississippi for six seasons (1992-98), where the Rebels went 86-81 (.515) and made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 1997 and 1998 ... In those two seasons, Mississippi won the Southeastern Conference West Division championship and won at least 20 games ... It was the first time the program had posted consecutive 20-win seasons in 60 years ... Pennell began his coaching career at Oklahoma State University from 1990-92, helping the Cowboys to a 52-16 (.765) record under coach Eddie Sutton ... During the 1990-91 campaign, the Cowboys shared the Big Eight Conference championship with a 24-8 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament ... The following year, OSU posted a 28-8 record, and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Cowboys advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in both of Pennell's seasons in Stillwater ... Pennell, 48, earned a degree in physical education from Pittsburg State University in 1989 and received his master's in P.E. from PSU in 1990 ... He is assisted by Mike Dunlap, Reggie Geary and Matt Brase.

LAST TIME OUT: Arizona State used a 10-3 burst to open the second half to take the lead and never looked back in the 68-56 win, March 12 in the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals. Arizona struggled offensively all game, including just 25.7 percent shooting in the second half, and was held to less than 60 points for the third time in the last five Pac-10 Tournament games. ASU was the aggressor early in both halves, outscoring UA 17-6 in the first three minutes of each period. Jordan Hill (20) and Nic Wise (18) combined for 38 points, but the rest of the Cats mustered just 18 points.

SCOUTING UTAH: The Utes enter tonight's game with a 24-9 record (12-4 MWC) following Saturday's 52-50 win over San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament title game. As a team, Utah shoots 47.6 percent from the field (792-of-1,663), including 37.6 percent (234-of-623) from three-point range, while averaging 71.2 points per game. Opponents shoot at a 40.1 percent clip and are averaging 64.0 points per game. Four Ute players average in double figures, led by Luke Nevill's 16.9 ppg figure. Nevill leads the team with a 9.1 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight's game is the 49th meeting of the two schools with Utah holding a 28-20 series advantage. Arizona captured the last two meetings in the series, which dates back to Dec. 21, 1953, by a 73-43 count on Dec. 17, 2005, in Salt Lake City. While each were members of the Western Athletic Conference (1962-78), Utah held a 17-15 series advantage. The Utes and Cats have met once previously, a 76-51 Utah win in the 1998 West Regional Final on March 21 in Anaheim, Calif. All-time, Arizona is 13-8 in series games played in Tucson, 6-19 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and 1-1 in neutral-site games. Please see page 98 in the UA media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 73, Utah 43, Dec. 17, 2005: Arizona forced 24 Utah turnovers and held the Utes to 36.4 percent shooting and a season-low 43 points in the decisive 30-point win. The Wildcats jumped out to an early nine-point lead and led by double figures for the last 13 minutes. Hassan Adams led all players with 27 points, while Mustafa Shakur added 12 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.

AGAINST THE MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona is 185-133 (.582) against teams that currently make up in the Mountain West Conference. Over the last five-plus seasons, the Wildcats are 9-1 vs. Mountain West foes, the only loss coming on Dec. 20, 2008, in a 79-64 loss at UNLV. UA defeated San Diego State, 69-56, in its only other game this season against an MWC opponent.

AS A NO. 12 SEED: This will be Arizona's first NCAA Tournament appearance as a No. 12 seed. It is the lowest seed for the program since seeding was introduced to the tournament in 1985. On the flip, the Wildcats are a spotless 5-0 when playing a No. 5 seed with the last win coming in 2003.

THE BEAT GOES ON: This is Arizona's 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, which is the longest active streak and second longest tournament appearance streak in NCAA history. The streak trails only North Carolina, which made 27 straight appearances from 1975-2001. Regarding active numbers of appearances, here are the leaders: Arizona 25, Kansas 20, Duke 14 and Michigan State 12.

IF YOU READ NOTHING ELSE, READ THIS ONE: While it's true that Arizona heads into its 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament, but even more impressive is the fact that the Cats have accomplished the feat with three different coaches in the last three seasons. In NCAA Division I tournament history, Arizona becomes the third program to make three consecutive appearances with three different head coaches. The others: Seattle University (Vince Cazetta, 1962; Clair Markey, 1963; Bob Boyd, 1964) and Southern Illinois (Bruce Weber, 2003; Matt Painter, 2004; Chris Lowery, 2005). Russ Pennell becomes the fifth UA mentor to lead the Cats to the NCAA Tournament, joining Fred A. Enke (1951), Fred Snowden (1976, `77), Lute Olson (1985-2007) and Kevin O'Neill (2008).

UNDERDOG: When looking at Arizona's tournament history, it hasn't played as a seeded underdog too often. Since 1985, the Wildcats have played a total of 62 NCAA Tournament games, and only 18 of those had Arizona as the lower seed. UA has a 7-11 (.389) record in those contests.

UPHOLD THE LEGACY: Arizona enters play tonight looking for its 20th win of the season. If the squad is able to do that, it would be the 31st 20-win season in school history and the 21st in the last 22 seasons. Only last year's club, who posted a 19-15 record, failed to win 20 games in that span. Since the start of the 1984-85 season, Arizona has averaged 24.8 wins per season. The program has also won 39 NCAA Tournament games in that span.

ALL-AMERICA: Jordan Hill was a third-team All-American as selected by The Sporting News. Hill is the 23rd Wildcat to earn a total of 86 All-America honors since 1950-51. Additionally, he is just the second Wildcat to earn All-America kudos (Jerryd Bayless, 2008) since Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire in 2004-05.

ALL-DISTRICT: Two Arizona players earned all-region honors in voting recently released by the USBWA. Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill were first team all-District IX picks. It was Budinger's second all-district selection and the first for Hill.

ALL-CONFERENCE: Four Wildcats were honored with Pac-10 postseason honors, as Chase Budinger (1st), Jordan Hill (1st) and Nic Wise (2nd) were all named all-conference, while Kyle Fogg was an honorable mention all-Freshman pick. It marks the 26th consecutive season that UA has had at least one all-Pac-10 player and the 25th time with at least one first-team selection.

AN IMPOSING FIGURE: With Arizona making its 25th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, here's a number to put that into perspective. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics for 2007 (the most current available), there are more than 103 million people in the United States who have never witnessed an NCAA Tournament without Arizona's participation. That covers 34.5 percent of the nation's population.

GEOGRAPHIC SIGNIFICANCE: One thing 25 years of competing in the NCAA Tournament does is tack on the miles, as witnessed by UA's 1,903-mile trek to Miami. Arizona's tournament destinations range from the bus-worthy - a 100-mile hike up Interstate 10 to Tempe -- to farther jaunts to the east coast and Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The trip to Philadelphia is the winner - 2,057 miles as the crow flies. `Staying in the region' means something different to Arizona - the Cats' pair of trips to Seattle totals 1,223 miles one way. Six trips to the metropolitan Los Angeles area took a little 80-minute flight of 455 miles and top the next most-visited locale, Salt Lake City (595 miles).

A NEUTRAL SITE: Former Western Athletic Conference brethren (1962-78) Arizona, Arizona State and Utah all convene this week in Miami under the umbrella of the NCAA's Midwest Region. Interesting that the three clubs separated by less than 600 miles will travel a total of 5,965 miles to make the games happen. Sounds like a routine Spring Break trip to south Florida, as is the case for Arizona this week.

PILING UP POINTS: Look no further than Arizona's 'Big Three' of Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise for offensive productivity, as the trio has tallied 1,631 of the Wildcats' 2,310 points scored in 2008-09. That's 70.6 percent of the offense. Combined, those three have finished in double figures in 82 of a possible 95 games this year. UA is 6-0 this season when each of the Big Three score 15 or more points.

A RARE OCCURRENCE: Should Nic Wise score 16 points before Arizona's tournament run comes to an end, that would vault the 2008-09 club into elite company. Wise enters Friday's game just 16 points shy of 500 for the season, which would give the Cats three 500-point scorers this season. That's a feat that hasn't been reached since 1997-98, when Michael Dickerson (630), Mike Bibby (603) and Miles Simon (601) each scored more than 500 points in a single season.

A TELLING STATISTIC: Bolstered by Jordan Hill (13) and Jamelle Horne (9), Arizona posted a 36-30 advantage on the boards March 12 vs. Arizona State. Though it didn't hold true on that date, Arizona generally wins when it posts a rebound advantage, as the club is 12-6 when outrebounding the opposition. Overall, Arizona carries a +2.5 rebound margin on the season, but that figure fell to -0.7 in Pac-10 play.

DOUBLING UP: Junior forward Jordan Hill put forth another solid effort in the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament, posting 20 points and 13 rebounds against Arizona State. For the 6-foot-10 Atlanta, Ga., product, it was his Pac-10 leading 18th double-double of the season and the 30th of his career. Only Chase Budinger (2) and Jamelle Horne (1) also have double-doubles to their credit in 2008-09.

ELITE COMPANY: Forward Jordan Hill enters the NCAA Tournament with per-game averages of 18.5 points and 11.0 rebounds, figures that rank second in the Pac-10 Conference. Should Hill end the season with double-figure averages in both categories, he would become the first Wildcat to do so since Larry Demic averaged 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in 1978-79. Demic parlayed those numbers into the ninth overall selection in the 1979 NBA Draft.

TARGET PRACTICE: Arizona has shot 50 percent from the field 12 times this season and the team is 10-2 when that happens, including a spotless 6-0 record at home.Additionally, UA is 16-5 this season when outshooting the opposition.

AT THE LINE: Arizona managed just 7-of-8 shooting from the line in its last game, which was one of the reasons it struggled offensively. For a team that averages 20.0 free throw attempts per game, just getting to the line is key, as Arizona outscores the opposition by an average of 4.7 points per game. This season, Arizona is 15-4 when attempting 20 or more free throws in a game.

SCOREBOARD WATCHING: Through 32 games this season, Arizona is 12-3 when scoring 70 or more points and 7-10 when scoring 69 or fewer points.

CHASING GREATNESS: Junior Chase Budinger enters the NCAA Tournament posting career-best averages of 17.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. In addition to shooting .472 (196-of-415) from the field and .410 (64-of-156) from three-point range, the 6-foot-7 forward from Encinitas, Calif., leads the team with 64 treys and has registered career-highs in points (573), rebounds (202), assists (109), blocks (14) and steals (45). Over the last 13 games, Budinger has played a 508 of a possible 525 minutes (96.8 percent). He currently ranks 12th on Arizona's career scoring list with 1,640 points.

GOOD THINGS IN SMALL PACKAGES: Don't overlook the exploits of Nic Wise, who has developed into one of the Pac-10's finest guards. He currently ranks eighth in the conference in scoring (15.1 ppg), sixth in assists (4.6 apg) and steals (1.5 spg), while shooting a team-leading 42.2 percent from three-point range. Arizona is 11-4 this season when Wise passes out five or more assists.

DEVELOPING NICELY: Freshman Kyle Fogg has had quite a debut season for the Wildcats. After being recruited just 10 months ago, Fogg ascended to the starting lineup in early December and remained there for all but two games since. The Brea, Calif., product averaged 6.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.7 percent (59-of-129) from the field, on his way to earning honorable mention all-freshman kudos by the Pac-10 coaches. A `self-made guy' according coach Russ Pennell, Fogg has certainly been key for Arizona throughout the year, proven by his seven double-figure scoring efforts this season.

HIS NUMBERS ARE UP: Of the many Wildcats to enjoy a spike in production this season, the biggest leap may have come from Zane Johnson. The 6-foot-5 sophomore tallied only 14 points in 74 minutes of action after being pulled from his redshirt midway through the 2007-08 season. In his first full season, Johnson has become one of Arizona's most feared shooters, knocking down 34 treys on his way to averaging 4.8 points per game in 584 total minutes.

THAT'S MORE LIKE IT: Sophomore Jamelle Horne tallied eight points and nine rebounds March 12 vs. Arizona State, equaling a season rebounding high against a conference opponent. The 6-foot-6 forward connected on 3-of-4 field goals, including a career-best two treys, in 36 minutes. Over the last three games, Horne is averaging 9.3 points and 7.0 rebounds, while shooting .588 (10-of-17) from the field.

CONSISTENTLY GOOD: Although Arizona was an unimpressive 2-9 while on the road this season, the Wildcats did post a record of 3-1 record neutral-site games this season. In addition to last week's brief stay at the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles, Arizona won two N.I.T. Season Tip-Off consolation games in Athens, Ga., in November and knocked off then-No. 4 Gonzaga in Phoenix. In those four games, UA averaged 70.0 points (+7.5 scoring margin), posted a +5.5 rebounding margin and shot 50.5 percent from the floor (105-of-208).

SCORING 80: Arizona scored 101 points March 7 vs. Stanford, breaking the 80-point barrier for the ninth time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 179-19 (.904) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points. Arizona is 9-0 this season when topping the 80-point plateau.

IN MARCH: Since the start of the 1996-97 season, Arizona has a 51-27 (.654) record in the month of March. In that span, 35 of those games have been played in the NCAA Tournament and UA is 24-11 (.686) in them. Over the three previous seasons, the Cats were 7-9 in March.

UP NEXT: A win today moves Arizona into Saturday's second round against the Wake Forest/Cleveland State winner. Game time is TBA.

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