[ {"id":"01f96d17-1c7e-57c1-9b4f-391b83f75333","type":"article","starttime":"1490212800","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-22T13:00:00-07:00","priority":45,"sections":[{"basketball":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball"}],"flags":{"top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Arizona Wildcats have come a long way since last Sweet 16 trip","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/article_01f96d17-1c7e-57c1-9b4f-391b83f75333.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/arizona-wildcats-have-come-a-long-way-since-last-sweet/article_01f96d17-1c7e-57c1-9b4f-391b83f75333.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/arizona-wildcats-have-come-a-long-way-since-last-sweet/article_01f96d17-1c7e-57c1-9b4f-391b83f75333.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Bruce Pascoe\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"Only two current Cats saw action for 2015 team that lost to Wisconsin in Elite Eight.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest"],"customProperties":{"arm_id":"75011"},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"fe2c68a2-c586-5f87-bf97-ec39c56273da","description":"Parker Jackson-Cartwright, playing against Xavier in the 2015 West Regional semifinal, was one of two current Wildcats who made it to that year\u2019s Elite 8, the other being Dusan Ristic. Jackson-Cartwright says this year \u201chas a lot more meaning.\u201d","byline":"Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star 2015","hireswidth":1382,"hiresheight":1498,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/e2/fe2c68a2-c586-5f87-bf97-ec39c56273da/58d092c65209b.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"701","height":"760","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/e2/fe2c68a2-c586-5f87-bf97-ec39c56273da/58d092c6506ce.image.jpg?resize=701%2C760"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/e2/fe2c68a2-c586-5f87-bf97-ec39c56273da/58d092c6506ce.image.jpg?crop=1382%2C777%2C0%2C84&resize=100%2C56&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/e2/fe2c68a2-c586-5f87-bf97-ec39c56273da/58d092c6506ce.image.jpg?crop=1382%2C777%2C0%2C84&resize=300%2C169&order=crop%2Cresize"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/f/e2/fe2c68a2-c586-5f87-bf97-ec39c56273da/58d092c6506ce.image.jpg?crop=1382%2C777%2C0%2C84&resize=1024%2C576&order=crop%2Cresize"}}}],"revision":17,"commentID":"01f96d17-1c7e-57c1-9b4f-391b83f75333","body":"

Life is always pretty fluid at college basketball\u2019s highest levels, and the Arizona Wildcats are no exception.

That\u2019s why, to them, their last Sweet 16 might seem like eons ago. Even if it\u2019s only been two years.

In 2014-15, the Wildcats had two NBA first-rounders (Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson), a soon-to-be surprise NBA player (T.J. McConnell) along with future second-tier pros in Brandon Ashley, Gabe York and Kaleb Tarczewski.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic, the only two current Wildcats who played that season, averaged less than 10 minutes apiece. Jackson-Cartwright was McConnell\u2019s backup while Ristic was firmly behind Tarczewski.

Kadeem Allen, meanwhile, was so unlikely to get playing time behind Johnson, McConnell and York that he opted to take a redshirt season \u2014 despite the fact that he was the reigning junior college player of the year.

\u201cIt\u2019s a different team,\u201d Ristic said. \u201cThere was only Parker and me, and Kadeem wasn\u2019t playing. So this feels a little different, but we have the same aspirations and goals.\u201d

The 2014-15 team had a clear goal, to reach the Final Four after they were edged by Wisconsin in overtime of the 2014 Elite Eight.

All signs pointed toward that as a realistic achievement. The Wildcats lost only three games in the regular season, and two of them were explainable: At UNLV just before Christmas break and at ASU in midseason. In between, however, was a costly one: A 58-56 loss at Oregon State that may have ultimately kept the Wildcats off the No. 1 seed line.

Instead, UA was given a No. 2 seed, and the selection committee looked elsewhere to slip a No. 1 into the West.

They picked Wisconsin.

Two weeks later, the almost inevitable Elite Eight rematch was even worse for the UA, which lost 85-78 in a blaze of Sam Dekker 3-point bombs and Frank Kaminsky free throws.

This season, the Wildcats learned to live without Allonzo Trier for 19 games because of his PED-related suspension, going 17-2 until he returned on Jan. 21, and hit a few bumps while integrating him over the following month.

Along the way, Jackson-Cartwright missed four weeks with a high ankle sprain, and while Kadeem Allen says he feels good this time knowing he\u2019s \u201cout there playing and contributing to our wins,\u201d he had a price to pay, too: A sprained knee early in the season, heavy minutes during Jackson-Cartwright\u2019s absence and a dislocated finger that cost him two games in February.

Then, just when the Wildcats reached the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, wing Rawle Alkins broke his finger.

It\u2019s been a grind. A successful grind, but a grind nonetheless.

\u201cThis feels a lot different,\u201d Jackson-Cartwright said. \u201cI feel we were in total control right until the (2015) Elite Eight. We were really rolling from start to finish other than a couple of games.

\u201c(This season) we\u2019ve worked really hard, tirelessly, and man, this is just paying off in a special way. This year has a lot more meaning. We deserve everything we\u2019re getting right now, but we have a lot of work to do to reach our ultimate goal.\u201d

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In the Arizona Wildcats\u2019 ongoing mission to upgrade their passing game, the quarterback faces the bulk of the scrutiny. No one disputes that the UA needs better play from that position.

Improved play from the guy snapping him the ball would help too. Nathan Eldridge is determined to make that happen in his second year as Arizona\u2019s starting center.

Eldridge, a redshirt sophomore, said he feels \u201c100 percent\u201d more comfortable now compared to last August, when he took over the job under brutal circumstances.

Senior and projected starter Zach Hemmila died in his sleep a few days into training camp. Someone had to replace him. That someone turned out to be Eldridge, who endured the typical ups and downs of a first-time starter.

\u201cI came in with the mentality that I wanted to start,\u201d Eldridge said. \u201cI wanted to be that guy. It was unfortunate how I got it. But we still had games to play. So I worked extra hard to make sure that I was on point with everything and I knew what I was doing.\u201d

UA coach Rich Rodriguez said Eldridge performed \u201cadmirably\u201d in a difficult situation. But he was far from a finished product \u2013 and isn\u2019t one now either. This spring he\u2019s striving to shore up the deficiencies in his game.

Eldridge has spent a ton of time watching film to gain a better understanding of defenses. He has paid particularly close attention to the positioning and movement of safeties, whose whereabouts often dictate blitzes and coverages.

As the center, it\u2019s Eldridge\u2019s responsibility to convey that information to his fellow linemen. Failing to correctly identify fronts can lead to the blocking breakdowns that hurt the Wildcats at times last season.

\u201cHe got thrown into it last year, matured a ton and worked his butt off,\u201d UA offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said. \u201cComing back a year later, he\u2019s seeing the field a lot better. He\u2019s really getting a better understanding of the game of football, of seeing the defense and being able to adjust and adapt on the move.\u201d

Michalczik said Eldridge has a \u201chigh ceiling\u201d but that there are \u201csome mechanical things that are keeping him from that right now.\u201d

Eldridge is working on becoming more patient and balanced in his pass-protection sets. He had a tendency to lean forward too much, enabling defensive tackles to swipe his hands and maneuver past him.

Now Eldridge is trying to sit back, use his hands when engaged and move his feet. He tries to emulate Atlanta Falcons All-Pro Alex Mack, who, like Eldridge, wrestled in high school.

\u201cI try and study how he uses his leverage, his hands, dropping his butt when he\u2019s in his pass protection,\u201d Eldridge said. \u201cHe\u2019s a really good player. I really look up to him.\u201d

Even though he\u2019s still relatively young, Eldridge hopes that the other offensive linemen feel the same way about him.

To be an effective center, you have to be a leader. Eldridge wasn\u2019t completely comfortable in that role at first as a redshirt freshman surrounded by upperclassmen.

He has embraced those responsibilities this spring. Rodriguez can sense it.

\u201cThat position is like quarterback,\u201d Rodriguez said. \u201cYou\u2019ve gotta have guys that (can) lead and take control, and I think he\u2019ll have more confidence in doing that.\u201d

Pro-day preview

Arizona will conduct its annual pro day Friday, so a lot of the conversation after practice Wednesday centered on the Wildcats\u2019 NFL prospects. Although the UA doesn\u2019t have any certain draftees this year, all 32 teams are expected to have representatives on hand.

Rodriguez is particularly bullish on Samajie Grant, who played both receiver and running back last season.

\u201cI think Samajie Grant\u2019s an NFL guy,\u201d Rodriguez said. \u201cHe\u2019s got the athletic ability. He\u2019s got the toughness. More than anything, he\u2019s got a football awareness. He can learn multiple positions in a short period of time.\u201d

Rodriguez said receiver Trey Griffey, who played in the East-West Shrine Game, brings added value because of his special-teams ability.

\u201cHe\u2019s a physical guy,\u201d Rodriguez said. \u201cHe\u2019s got good size. You can put him on every special team, and he\u2019ll be one of the best guys you have there.\u201d

Griffey and linebacker Paul Magloire Jr. are Arizona\u2019s highest-rated prospects, with some projecting Magloire as a mid-round pick. Rodriguez described Magloire as a \u201creally good athlete\u201d and praised him for moving from safety to linebacker in midseason in 2015.

Extra points

\u2022 The Wildcats practiced in the morning, and Rodriguez liked the energy level. Most of this spring\u2019s workouts have been in the afternoon. Arizona practiced in the morning last season for the first time under Rodriguez.

\u2022 Former Arizona All-American Scooby Wright worked out in the UA weight room wearing Cardinals gear. Wright joined the Cardinals late last season.

\u2022 Regarding the overall influx of players on defense in the past two recruiting cycles, Rodriguez said: \u201cI think we\u2019re deeper talent-wise than we\u2019ve been in maybe three or four years.\u201d

\u2022 Linebackers coach Scott Boone said redshirt freshman Jacob Colacion has been a \u201cpleasant surprise.\u201d Unlike last season, Colacion is practicing without a bulky knee brace. He has been working at \u201cWill\u201d linebacker and at times at \u201cMike\u201d when Brandon Rutt has class conflicts.

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Kobi Simmons sat at his locker, eyes on his cellphone, as a horde of media stampeded past him following the Arizona Wildcats\u2019 win over Saint Mary\u2019s on Saturday night.

Rawle Alkins was the UA\u2019s hero that night, playing with a fractured finger. Lauri Markkanen led the Wildcats with 16 points, another milestone on his way to a certain NBA future.

Then there\u2019s Simmons, the forgotten freshman. He hasn\u2019t played much recently, but if he\u2019s frustrated about that, he\u2019s not letting it show.

\u201cJust playing hard and doing my job,\u201d he said.

One day earlier, he touched on making sacrifices for the betterment of the team: \u201cWe\u2019ve been winning games and that\u2019s what I\u2019m all about. I look at it on the other side of, you know, with team success comes individual accolades.\u201d

The fact of March is that coaches sometimes shorten their rotation. Simmons, it seems, has been a casualty of that.

In a stretch ranging from Arizona\u2019s season opener against Michigan State on Nov. 11, until Allonzo Trier returned from a 19-game suspension at UCLA on Jan. 21, Simmons was a key member of the rotation.

In that stretch, which included multi-game absences from guards Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Kadeem Allen, Simmons started 15 games and averaged 30.3 minutes.

He took an average of 9.5 shots and scored an average of 12.1 points during that span. He scored a season-high 20 points in the Wildcats\u2019 win over UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.

In the 14 games since, Simmons\u2019 playing time has been cut nearly in half. The freshman has averaged 16.3 minutes, 5.6 shots and 4.9 points per game in that stretch. He\u2019s shooting 32.6 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from 3-point range.

Those numbers have dwindled even more of late.

Simmons has played in six minutes or fewer in five of Arizona\u2019s last six games, the outlier coming in a first-round victory over North Dakota, when he played 14.

So what\u2019s happened?

\u201cRecently he hasn\u2019t played as much,\u201d UA coach Sean Miller said last week. \u201cThat doesn\u2019t mean that he won\u2019t have a big role. \u2026 But that role can change and grow. We\u2019ve shrunk our rotation a little bit, we\u2019ve given some players more minutes, maybe others less. But that\u2019s not really a reflection on Kobi as a player or his attitude.\u201d

Simmons was a five-star recruit from Atlanta who picked Arizona over Ohio State and Kentucky because he felt the situation at UA \u201cwould be best for me.\u201d

The commitment came somewhat as a surprise at the time, as Simmons had previously eliminated Arizona from contention, but he said the Wildcats\u2019 persistence ultimately sold him on the program.

After committing, Simmons was all in \u2014 he pushed both Alkins and forward Terrance Ferguson to join him in the 2016 class. Alkins has been a rising start in March. Ferguson ultimately opted to play professionally in Australia rather than report to college.

\u201cI thought it was a great situation, and I wanted to win,\u201d Simmons said of Arizona. \u201cI felt like seeing the guys we had coming back and committed, I thought it would\u2019ve given me the best chance to win. I could\u2019ve stayed home and I could\u2019ve played for a lot of different schools, but you see where we are now and it\u2019s paying off.\u201d

Simmons isn\u2019t the first highly-touted Arizona guard recruit to ride the bench during the postseason as a freshman.

Gabe York didn\u2019t play in two of Arizona\u2019s three NCAA Tournament games back in 2013. Jackson-Cartwright played 11 combined minutes during the Wildcats\u2019 2015 NCAA Tournament run to the Elite Eight. Last year, Justin Simon took a \u2018DNP\u2019 \u2014 did not play \u2014 in Arizona\u2019s lone NCAA Tournament game.

Simmons is a little bit different from them, though \u2014 he\u2019s a projected NBA Draft pick, even without the playing time. DraftExpress projects him as a second-round pick in the 2017 draft, and it\u2019s easy to see why: He\u2019s a 6-foot-6-inch guard with a 45-inch vertical leap and the ability to shoot 3-pointers.

His future beyond this season is unclear. Right now, his teammates say he\u2019s still important.

\u201cWe\u2019re going to need him, and we need him now,\u201d Jackson-Cartwright said. \u201cI just told him to stay the course and be ready when your name is called.\u201d

Added Alkins: \u201cA lot of guys would be pouting since they\u2019re not playing, but Kobi just wants to win at the end of the day. With team success comes individual success, and he knows that. His time is coming, there\u2019s going to be a moment in this tournament when we need him to step up big and he\u2019s going to do it big.\u201d

Simmons showed flashes of brilliance in the UA\u2019s first-round win over North Dakota. He dunked shortly after checking into the game, and later blocked a shot.

He reverted against Saint Mary\u2019s, however, playing just six minutes and shooting 0 for 3.

\u201cIt\u2019s a humbling experience,\u201d Simmons said. \u201cI\u2019m excited to play out there. It\u2019s fun. Anything for my teammates and for my team to win.

\u201cI try to come out there and do the best job I can do and try to help my team get the win.\u201d

"}, {"id":"912992c0-0f2c-11e7-8ac0-c7fa5e5cf6c1","type":"article","starttime":"1490207700","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-22T11:35:00-07:00","priority":40,"sections":[{"blog":"sports/arizonawildcats/football/blog"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"With Arizona pro day looming, RichRod says ex-Wildcat Samajie Grant is \u2018an NFL guy\u2019","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/football/blog/article_912992c0-0f2c-11e7-8ac0-c7fa5e5cf6c1.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/football/blog/with-arizona-pro-day-looming-richrod-says-ex-wildcat-samajie/article_912992c0-0f2c-11e7-8ac0-c7fa5e5cf6c1.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/football/blog/with-arizona-pro-day-looming-richrod-says-ex-wildcat-samajie/article_912992c0-0f2c-11e7-8ac0-c7fa5e5cf6c1.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":5,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":1,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Michael Lev\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"Quick hitters from the Arizona Wildcats\u2019 media availability after their 11th practice of spring Wednesday morning: * Arizona will conduct its annual pro day Friday, so a lot of the conversation centered on the Wildcats\u2019 NFL prospects. Although the UA doesn\u2019t have any certain draftees this year, all 32 teams are expected to have representatives on hand.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["arizona wildcats football","rich rodriguez","samajie grant","trey griffey","paul magloire jr."],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#editorspick"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"9a975ca0-b3a8-11e6-9c90-3b87b5609146","description":"Arizona Wildcats running back Samajie Grant (10) finds room on the right side during the first quarter. Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star","byline":"Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":3000,"hiresheight":2193,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/a9/9a975ca0-b3a8-11e6-9c90-3b87b5609146/583937651a65d.hires.jpg","presentation":null,"versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1040","height":"760","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/a9/9a975ca0-b3a8-11e6-9c90-3b87b5609146/5839376517b52.image.jpg?resize=1040%2C760"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"73","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/a9/9a975ca0-b3a8-11e6-9c90-3b87b5609146/5839376517b52.image.jpg?resize=100%2C73"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"219","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/a9/9a975ca0-b3a8-11e6-9c90-3b87b5609146/5839376517b52.image.jpg?resize=300%2C219"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"749","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/a9/9a975ca0-b3a8-11e6-9c90-3b87b5609146/5839376517b52.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C749"}}}],"youtube":[{"id":"b6733eea-6ea7-5077-8358-36f07fdcd5c0","starttime":"1490202840","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-22T10:14:00-07:00","title":"Watch: RichRod talks turnovers, previews UA pro day","description":"Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez meets the media after spring practice No. 11 Wednesday morning.","byline":"","video_id":"MiXg-c5vbJ0"}],"revision":3,"commentID":"912992c0-0f2c-11e7-8ac0-c7fa5e5cf6c1","body":"

Quick hitters from the Arizona Wildcats\u2019 media availability after their 11th practice of spring Wednesday morning:

* Arizona will conduct its annual pro day Friday, so a lot of the conversation centered on the Wildcats\u2019 NFL prospects. Although the UA doesn\u2019t have any certain draftees this year, all 32 teams are expected to have representatives on hand.

* UA coach Rich Rodriguez is particularly bullish on Samajie Grant, who played both receiver and running back last season. \u201cI think Samajie Grant\u2019s an NFL guy,\u201d Rodriguez said. \u201cHe\u2019s got the athletic ability. He\u2019s got the toughness. More than anything, he\u2019s got a football awareness. He can learn multiple positions in a short period of time.\u201d

* Rodriguez said receiver Trey Griffey, who played in the East-West Shrine Game, brings added value because of his special-teams ability. \u201cHe\u2019s a physical guy,\u201d Rodriguez said. \u201cHe\u2019s got good size. You can put him on every special team, and he\u2019ll be one of the best guys you have there.\u201d

* Griffey and linebacker Paul Magloire Jr. are Arizona\u2019s highest-rated prospects, with some projecting Magloire as a mid-round pick. Rodriguez described Magloire as a \u201creally good athlete\u201d and praised him for moving from safety to linebacker in midseason in 2015.

* The Wildcats practiced in the morning, and Rodriguez liked the energy level. Most of this spring's workouts have been in the afternoon. Arizona practiced in the morning last season for the first time under Rodriguez.

* Former Arizona All-American Scooby Wright worked out in the UA weight room wearing Cardinals gear. Wright joined the Cardinals late last season.

* No position has changed more since last season than linebacker, and more changes are coming with four more on the way in summer. Rodriguez wants to make sure the scheme is simple enough for them to play right away \u2013 but not so simple that opposing offenses can easily decipher it.

* Regarding the overall influx of players on defense in the past two recruiting cycles, Rodriguez said: \u201cI think we\u2019re deeper talent-wise than we\u2019ve been in maybe three or four years.\u201d

* Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates estimated that Arizona played man coverage about 70 percent of the time last year, largely because he felt the need to create more pass-rush pressure with blitzes. He\u2019d like that figure to be closer to 50 percent.

* Linebackers coach Scott Boone said redshirt freshman Jacob Colacion has been a \u201cpleasant surprise.\u201d Unlike last season, Colacion is practicing without a bulky knee brace. He has been working at \u201cWill\u201d linebacker and at times at \u201cMike\u201d when Brandon Rutt has class conflicts.

* Generating turnovers continues to be a daily point of emphasis in practice, with considerable time spent on specific situations such as third downs in the red zone.

* Rodriguez on whether Arizona will change its approach to recruiting after a rash of de-commitments in the most recent cycle: \u201cThere were a variety of reasons for that. I\u2019m studying why that happened. It was really frustrating. We\u2019re still taking the same approach. Every guy that we took early last year we\u2019d still take again. \u2026 We\u2019ve got to make sure we\u2019ve got guys that are picking the school for the right reason and not just enjoying the recruiting process because they get their name tweeted out more often.\u201d

"}, {"id":"7af15be8-0f2a-11e7-9d57-3f11b4cdf53f","type":"link","starttime":"1490206020","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-22T11:07:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1490208240","priority":41,"sections":[{"greghansen":"sports/greghansen"},{"basketball":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball"}],"flags":{"top_story":"true","editors_pick":"true","featured":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Greg Hansen's Guide to the Sweet 16","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/greg-hansen-s-guide-to-the-sweet/collection_95b255b4-0eac-11e7-b52d-e3a707526348.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/greg-hansen-s-guide-to-the-sweet/collection_95b255b4-0eac-11e7-b52d-e3a707526348.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"Star sports columnist Greg Hansen tells you what to watch for during the upcoming NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.\u00a0","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#topstory","#editorspick","#topread","#top5sports"],"customProperties":{"label":"HANSEN"},"presentation":null,"images":[{"id":"97f7d280-0f2a-11e7-b395-07de5aedeffb","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"640","height":"360","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/7f/97f7d280-0f2a-11e7-b395-07de5aedeffb/58d2bdc72d840.image.jpg?resize=640%2C360"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/7f/97f7d280-0f2a-11e7-b395-07de5aedeffb/58d2bdc72d840.image.jpg?resize=100%2C56"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/7f/97f7d280-0f2a-11e7-b395-07de5aedeffb/58d2bdc72d840.image.jpg?resize=300%2C169"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/9/7f/97f7d280-0f2a-11e7-b395-07de5aedeffb/58d2bdc72d840.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":4,"url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/greg-hansen-s-guide-to-the-sweet/collection_95b255b4-0eac-11e7-b52d-e3a707526348.html"}, {"id":"647314b8-0f22-11e7-856c-c7a7de76fc80","type":"article","starttime":"1490202600","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-22T10:10:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1490209109","priority":45,"sections":[{"pascoe":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/pascoe"},{"basketball":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Arizona basketball: Lavin says Xavier has successfully 'reinvented' itself","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/pascoe/article_647314b8-0f22-11e7-856c-c7a7de76fc80.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/pascoe/arizona-basketball-lavin-says-xavier-has-successfully-reinvented-itself/article_647314b8-0f22-11e7-856c-c7a7de76fc80.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/pascoe/arizona-basketball-lavin-says-xavier-has-successfully-reinvented-itself/article_647314b8-0f22-11e7-856c-c7a7de76fc80.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":1,"gallery":0},"byline":"Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star","prologue":"Arizona can expect to see plenty of zone defense Thursday, the coach-turned-analyst says.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":["arizona wildcats basketball","steve lavin","ncaa tournament"],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#toptwo","#editorspick"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"0954b154-7533-5b8f-ac1f-4f2fe1746c3a","description":"Pac-12 commentator Steve Lavin, left, chats with Allonzo Trier before a game this season. Trier averaged 14.8 points in 27 games (21 starts) as a freshman.","byline":"Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"975","height":"760","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/95/0954b154-7533-5b8f-ac1f-4f2fe1746c3a/58d2c7b2a99c5.image.jpg?resize=975%2C760"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"77","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/95/0954b154-7533-5b8f-ac1f-4f2fe1746c3a/5702fc898a055.preview-100.jpg"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/95/0954b154-7533-5b8f-ac1f-4f2fe1746c3a/58d2c7b2a99c5.image.jpg?crop=1024%2C576%2C0%2C33&resize=300%2C169&order=crop%2Cresize"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/95/0954b154-7533-5b8f-ac1f-4f2fe1746c3a/58d2c7b2a99c5.image.jpg?crop=1024%2C576%2C0%2C33&resize=1024%2C576&order=crop%2Cresize"}}}],"youtube":[{"id":"54aacf24-0f24-11e7-87f0-379ef907005a","starttime":"1490203380","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-22T10:23:00-07:00","title":"\"Who Are Those Guys?\" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid","description":"Steve Lavin says the classic movie line can apply to Xavier's basketball team this season.","byline":"","video_id":"-kbTbg00AJU"}],"revision":21,"commentID":"647314b8-0f22-11e7-856c-c7a7de76fc80","body":"

SAN JOSE \u2013 Received a 15-minute window to speak with former UCLA and St. John\u2019s coach Steve Lavin about the UA-Xavier matchup this morning, and I knew that would be a challenge.

Not only does Lavin know the Pac-12 and Big East probably as well as anybody, having coached in both leagues, but the Turner Sports analyst always has plenty of descriptive things to say.

He stumbled for words only once when he likened Xavier to the posse chasing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where Paul Newman says \u201cWho are those guys?\u201d

\u201cYou know, they\u2019re trying to lose them and they think they\u2019re gone and all of a sudden they hear the hoofsteps,\u201d Lavin said. \u201cYou might need to look it up.\u201d

(A video clip of that line is attached).

The point being that Xavier won\u2019t go away. The point also being that Xavier today, maybe even more so than Arizona, is not the same team it was a month or two ago. Among other issues, the Musketeers lost point guard Myles Davis to a suspension for half the season and then, after just three games, his decision to quit in January, while standout guard Edmund Sumner blew out his knee later that month.

\u201cPeople are evaluating Xavier based on their freefall when they lost seven of 10 games (including six in a row),\u201d Lavin said. \u201cBut they reinvented themselves and this current group is playing at a very high level in terms of confidence. You look at them and it\u2019s `Who are those guys having career nights?' \u201d

Lavin said he\u2019s been particularly impressed with guards Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura, while noting that the Musketeers\u2019 switching defense can be problematic \u2013 especially when they go to a 1-3-1 zone.

\u201cThey\u2019re mixing defenses which they\u2019ve done in the past but this group has been paying better defense than they have all season,\u201d Lavin said. \u201cThey have a fulltime 1-3-1 with Macura and then they have a 1-3-1 that drops into a 2-3 zone. They sometimes trap and they also have a man-to-man. They\u2019ve been very effective at keeping opponents off balance. I would imagine Arizona would see a lot of zone.\u201d

Lavin said Arizona can beat the Musketeers\u2019 defense by getting out in transition before that defense sets up and, in the 1-3-1, by trying to attack the baseline or get good shooting in the corner.


Sean Miller and Lauri Markkanen were given NABC all-district honors.


The Seattle Times' Larry Stone looks at whether Mike Hopkins' passion will translate into success at Washington.


Utah's Kyle Kuzma will test the NBA Draft waters.


If you're headed to San Jose and still without tickets, some more will be released for sale at noon PT.


Arizona will hold its mandatory 50-minute on-court appearance at 3 p.m. today in the SAP Center. It is open to the public though the Wildcats' offsite practice earlier in the day is closed.


The Wildcats are also scheduled for interviews between 2:30-3 p.m. We'll be posting stories online afterward into the evening, while transcripts of podium interviews will be available at asapsports.com.

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Shawn Gray spent his Tuesday afternoon at the UA bookstore. His purchase \u2014 a Sweet 16 t-shirt \u2014 could soon have company.\u00a0

\u201cI hope this isn\u2019t the last shirt I buy this year,\" he said. \"If we make it through the weekend, I will be in line to buy another.\"\u00a0

Like many UA students \u2014 and Wildcats fans in general \u2014 Gray is cautiously optimistic that Arizona will advance to its first Final Four since 2001. The second-seeded Wildcats will face 11th-seeded Xavier on Thursday, with the winner facing either Gonzaga or West Virginia in the Elite Eight. The Sweet 16 has been a hot topic on the UA's campus all week. Students returned from spring break on Monday to find Sweet 16 gear for sale inside the bookstore and McKale Shop. \u00a0University and Fourth avenues are sure to be jammed when the UA and Xavier tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday.\u00a0

Steven Massani, manager at No Anchovies,\u00a0870 E. University Blvd., is expecting big business.

\"We are expecting full capacity by 5 p.m.,\" he said. \"We love the excitement around\u00a0the game and the odds Arizona makes it through the weekend.\"

Jake Abt, UA senior, believes the Wildcats have \"too much talent\" for Xavier.\u00a0

\"This time of year, you never know what\u2019s going to happen,\" he said, \"but I like our odds.\"\u00a0

The Wildcats enter the game an eight-point favorite, but the Musketeers still worry some UA fans. Xavier upset No. 3 seed Florida State in Saturday's second round. The teams have a history: the Wildcats beat the Musketeers in the Sweet 16 two years ago only to fall to Wiscons in the Elite Eight. \u00a0

The Musketeers won their first two games in this year's tournament by a combined 36 points.

\u201cXavier is as hot as anyone right now,\" Gray said. \"I am going to be as nervous as ever watching Thursday night.\"

Randy Lee agrees. The UA junior believes many fans are overlooking Xavier because of its seed.\u00a0

\u201cI think because we have had so much trouble in the Elite Eight, people are quick to assume it will be a cakewalk till then, and at that point we will truly face the test,\" he said. \"This time of year, the seed number that sits ahead of a team\u2019s name is irrelevant; Xavier\u2019s hot.\"

"}, {"id":"8cf25a90-0b34-58fd-b45f-27ec85c9352f","type":"article","starttime":"1490198400","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-22T09:00:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1490206703","priority":45,"sections":[{"basketball":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball"},{"greghansen":"sports/greghansen"}],"flags":{"top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Hansen: NCAA's best teams are forever young \u2014 just look at Arizona","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/article_8cf25a90-0b34-58fd-b45f-27ec85c9352f.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/hansen-ncaa-s-best-teams-are-forever-young-just-look/article_8cf25a90-0b34-58fd-b45f-27ec85c9352f.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/hansen-ncaa-s-best-teams-are-forever-young-just-look/article_8cf25a90-0b34-58fd-b45f-27ec85c9352f.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"Greg Hansen\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"Freshmen have taken over the sport in force. Look no further than the UA and Pac-12.\u00a0","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#hansen","#column","#topread"],"customProperties":{"arm_id":"74990"},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"76ccf2bd-0dfe-5064-9a75-e26bf458ad87","description":"Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen, a national sensation, could become the school\u2019s leading freshman scorer \u2014 if Arizona plays twice in this week\u2019s West Regional.","byline":"Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":1812,"hiresheight":1143,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/6c/76ccf2bd-0dfe-5064-9a75-e26bf458ad87/58d07d7a89397.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1170","height":"738","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/6c/76ccf2bd-0dfe-5064-9a75-e26bf458ad87/58d07d7a876e0.image.jpg?resize=1170%2C738"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"63","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/6c/76ccf2bd-0dfe-5064-9a75-e26bf458ad87/58d07d7a876e0.image.jpg?resize=100%2C63"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"189","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/6c/76ccf2bd-0dfe-5064-9a75-e26bf458ad87/58d07d7a876e0.image.jpg?resize=300%2C189"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"646","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/6c/76ccf2bd-0dfe-5064-9a75-e26bf458ad87/58d07d7a876e0.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C646"}}}],"revision":12,"commentID":"8cf25a90-0b34-58fd-b45f-27ec85c9352f","body":"

Nobody in college basketball picks or publishes an All-Senior team. But every league and every website with a URL address chooses an All-Freshman team.

As with most schools, Arizona keeps a list of its freshman records, but never one of its senior records.

College basketball has changed so thoroughly in the last 25 years, with diminishing contributions from seniors, that the formula to get to the Final Four has changed with it. Age isn\u2019t a factor.

It\u2019s more difficult to make the Pac-12\u2019s All-Freshman team than it is the All-Conference team.

Take a look at the Pac-12\u2019s all-freshman team: Lauri Markkanen, Arizona; Rawle Alkins, Arizona; Markelle Fultz, Washington; Lonzo Ball, UCLA; T.J. Leaf, UCLA.

The best of the rest: junior Dillon Brooks, Oregon; junior Reid Travis, Stanford; sophomore Chimezie Metu, USC; junior Jordan Bell, Oregon; sophomore Allonzo Trier, Arizona.

I\u2019ll take the freshmen.

This applies not just to the conference season, but to the NCAA Tournament.

When Arizona, Xavier, West Virginia and Gonzaga hit the floor at the San Jose Sweet 16 Thursday, those teams will deploy a total of six seniors among each team\u2019s six leading scorers.

Ten of the teams\u2019 24 leading scorers are freshmen and sophomores.

Arizona, UCLA and Oregon have combined for 94 victories entering the Sweet 16, which is a Pac-12 record. No other threesome in league history has won more than 89.

How did the Ducks, Wildcats and Bruins do it?

Only four of the 18 leading scorers for those teams \u2014 UCLA\u2019s Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton; Arizona\u2019s Kadeem Allen and Oregon\u2019s Dylan Ennis \u2014 are seniors.

Oregon freshman point guard Payton Pritchard beat out junior Casey Benson this season. A year ago, Benson led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and helped the Ducks to the Elite Eight.

He lost his job anyway. That\u2019s college basketball in 2017.

While researching Arizona\u2019s history in Sweet 16 games, I read about Lute Olson\u2019s reaction after losing to Seton Hall in a fiercely contested 1991 game in Seattle. The Pirates beat the Wildcats 81-77 that day to advance to the Elite Eight.

After 30 minutes of media interviews, Olson and his wife, Bobbi, entered the UA locker room and noticed junior guard Matt Othick in tears.

Bobbi embraced Othick and said \u201cOh, Matt, we\u2019ve got so much to look forward to next year.\u201d

Indeed, the Wildcats of \u201992 were loaded, built with size and experience the way college basketball teams of that generation planned.

Chris Mills would be a fourth-year senior, perhaps the top player in the Pac-10. Future All-American Khalid Reeves would be a sophomore. The Tucson Skyline \u2014 future NBA draft picks Sean Rooks and Ed Stokes \u2014 would clog the middle. Othick would return to join future All-American Damon Stoudamire at guard.

The Wildcats opened the season ranked No. 5 in the AP poll and climbed to No. 2 in March.

Then the NCAA goofed up the seedings the way it always seems to mis-rank Wichita State. It matched Arizona, a pound-it-inside team, against the best team in East Tennessee State history, a speed machine that finished the previous season No. 17 in the AP poll and beat North Carolina State, Tennessee and BYU \u2014 and barely lost to Arizona at McKale Center.

The Buccaneers won 87-80, and two nights later played Michigan\u2019s Fab Five to the wire, losing 100-92 to an all-freshman team that reached the national championship game.

After that game, Othick was randomly pre-designated by the NCAA drug-testing people to provide a urine sample. Othick sat isolated in a corridor of the Atlanta\u2019s old Omni Coliseum, his career over, unable to quickly provide that urine sample.

When Othick finally completed his duties, he walked slowly to the locker room and said \u201cI wish I could be back another year, we\u2019ve got all those seniors and all that experience; we\u2019re really going to be good.\u201d

With all of those old guys, Arizona lost in the first round a year later to a Santa Clara team breaking in future all-NBA freshman guard Steve Nash.

That\u2019s when the game began to change.

In 1997, Arizona won the national championship behind freshman point guard Mike Bibby and sophomore guard Jason Terry, the nation\u2019s top sixth man. The Wildcats had no scholarship seniors.

The game has never been the same. Sean Miller has started 14 freshmen (for most of the season) in his Arizona years. Some were busts (point guard Josiah Turner), some were short-term solutions (point guard MoMo Jones) and some (forward Aaron Gordon) were quickly on their way to the NBA.

In San Jose, he\u2019ll start Markkanen and Alkins, and if the Wildcats manage to play twice at the SAP Center, it\u2019s likely Markkanen will pass Jerryd Bayless as the leading freshman scorer in school history.

Between 1974-2008, Sean Elliott was the only freshman to lead Arizona in scoring. Since then freshmen Jerryd Bayless, Derrick Williams, Stanley Johnson and now Markkanen have led Arizona in scoring.

Markkanen is a Big Story, and not just because he is 7 feet tall. He is an instant sensation in a game of instant sensations.

A long time ago, Arizona produced a collector\u2019s item video \u201cMemories \u201988,\u201d the heart-grabbing story of the UA\u2019s run to the nation\u2019s No. 1 spot and the Final Four. That team started fifth-year senior Tom Tolbert, fifth-year guard Steve Kerr and senior guard Craig McMillan. The other starters, Elliott and Anthony Cook, were juniors, with more than 90 games of college basketball experience.

Now, bent on reaching their first Final Four since 2001, the Wildcats of the 21st century will start two freshmen, a sophomore, a junior and senior Kadeem Allen.

It\u2019s possible that none of them, or maybe only one of them, will be back when practice begins in the fall.

Yet any time you discuss the Wildcats of 2017-18, it\u2019s not much different than Bobbi Olson in 1991 saying, \u201cOh, Matt, we\u2019ve got so much to look forward to next year.\u201d

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Although the movie title \u201cPlanes, Trains and Automobiles\u201d is copyrighted and unavailable, Arizona\u2019s ventures to the Sweet 16 and beyond have their own level of Madness.

First: Tickets to Thursday\u2019s Arizona-Xavier game are sold out, but you can search the secondary market for upper-deck seats starting at $150 each. Good seats? Think $600.

Second: The average Silicon Valley hotel room is $300 a night this week. If you want to be close to the SAP Center, it\u2019s $400.

Third: If you\u2019re in Tucson and don\u2019t know the way to San Jose \u2014 or hope to accompany the Wildcats to future Sweet 16s or Final Fours \u2014 here are two names you need to know: Joyce Hammer and Katie Clark.

Hammer and Clark sounds like a firm that can get difficult things done right now. In their roles for Bon Voyage/UA Wildcat Travel, Hammer and Clark have arranged planes, trains and automobiles \u2014 not to mention buses, hotels and ticket sales \u2014 for every Arizona NCAA Tournament dating to 1988.

\u201cAt the 1988 Final Four in Kansas City, our first year, we got a hotel in Olathe, Kansas,\u201d Clark remembers. \u201cIt was in a dry county. We had to hijack a bus just to get a cocktail.\u201d

All these years later, after 27 NCAA Tournaments, the Bon Voyage/UA group has seen it all.

\u201cWe chartered a 747 and three other planes to the 1997 Final Four in Indianapolis and had about 1,700 people in our group,\u201d says Bon Voyage founder Peter Evans. \u201cWe commandeered 22 buses from the hotels to the arena.\u201d

Sometimes it doesn\u2019t go quite so well: After Arizona\u2019s 1995 first-round loss to Miami of Ohio, the Bon Voyage group was stuck in Dayton, Ohio, for an extra day when their charter plane was delayed in Mexico with mechanical problems.

There is an art to the NCAA basketball travel business. You\u2019ve got to know the turf and you\u2019ve got to be as quick as Steph Curry\u2019s first step.

The NCAA allotted Arizona 1,000 tickets for the West Regional in San Jose. The UA distributed 625 to Wildcat Club members on a priority points system, 125 to students and uses the remaining for internal purposes, including family members of Wildcat players.

If you got one of those 625 tickets, you needed travel arrangements yesterday.

\u201cIt\u2019s such a quick turnaround from last week in Salt Lake to this week in San Jose, but we sent a group to San Jose (Tuesday) and another group (Wednesday),\u201d says Ryan Hansen, president of Bon Voyage and a former UA basketball manager and director of basketball operations.

\u201cThe unknown can be very stressful. Two years ago, we sold out three Final Four charter planes between Arizona\u2019s Sweet 16 victory over Xavier and its Elite Eight game against Wisconsin. We had to ask: \u2018Are you in if Arizona wins?\u2019\u201d

That\u2019s in and then some.

The Sweet 16 isn\u2019t often comparable to, say the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, when an estimated 12,000 UA fans were at T-Mobile Arena, although Arizona fans occupied about 10,000 seats at Staples Center for 2015 Sweet 16/Elite Eight.

Most weekends in the NCAA Tournament are neither convenient, cost-efficient nor predictable, especially when Arizona doesn\u2019t play in Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

\u201cIn the 30 years we\u2019ve done it, Arizona has lost in every possible position, from first round to the Final Four,\u201d says Evans, a UA grad whose son, Sean, was the Gonzaga student manager for Mark Few. \u201cIf Arizona loses the last game and everything goes perfect on our trip, people are still unhappy. But if a few things go wrong and Arizona wins, it\u2019s a great trip.\u201d

At the 1994 Final Four, a large Bon Voyage/UA group was booked into a Charlotte hotel owned by televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. No alcohol was available. Wake-up calls began with \u201cJesus Loves You,\u201d which didn\u2019t suit the faith of all members of Arizona\u2019s group.

\u201cWe almost got evicted,\u201d Evans remembers, laughing. \u201cAnd then Arizona lost, which made it worse.\u201d

The biggest challenge for those who book UA travel to the NCAA Tournament: committing to charter planes. It costs Evans\u2019 group about $100,000 to reserve a charter \u2014 or about $1,000 per traveler \u2014 and that\u2019s before it has a single Arizona fan on a sign-up list.

As a UA partner, Bon Voyage Wildcat Travel, which has an office at McKale Center, is able to book its customers into the team hotel. After more than 15 years working for Arizona\u2019s basketball program, much of it involved with basketball travel, Hansen has learned to simultaneously stay in the moment and also plan for next week\u2019s games.

\u201cAt the 2005 Elite Eight in Chicago and again in 2011 in Anaheim, I attended the NCAA meetings in which you get a full briefing on what to expect at the Final Four,\u201d Hansen says. \u201cYou start the process of hotels, security, transportation, even the trophy presentation. Everything\u2019s right there; you can almost taste it.

\u201cAnd then, poof, you miss a last-second shot and it all goes away.\u201d

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Forward Deion James scored 31 points and hit all 13 of his free throws Tuesday, and the Pima College men\u2019s basketball team defeated Illinois\u2019 Waubonsee Community College 93-84 in the first round of the NJCAA Division II national tournament.

The Aztecs (22-11) advance to play Iowa\u2019s Southwestern Community College in Thursday\u2019s playoff quarterfinals in Danville, Illinois. Top-seeded Southwestern beat Southern Maryland 94-69 on Tuesday.

The quarterfinal game tips off at 11 a.m.

Sophomore Emilio Acedo provided some scoring punch for the Aztecs, hitting 3-pointers as part of a 14-4 run in the second half. The Aztecs led 54-37 with 16:03 remaining. Waubonsee cut Pima\u2019s lead to seven points in the final minutes before the Aztecs put the game away.

\u201cWe just got onto the open floor, got layups and made our free throws,\u201d Acedo said in a news release. \u201cWe played zone in the second half and it helped us keep our legs; that\u2019s the only big adjustment. \u2026 We played well under the circumstances. We had the tempo the whole game.\u201d

James\u2019 31 points were a game-high. Jacob Anastasi added 18 points, and Acedo had 14 points \u2014 12 of them coming off three pointers. Damon Dubots scored nine points, while freshman Alize Travis had six points, a team-high 11 assists and four steals.

The tournament win came one day after Aztecs coach Brian Peabody received the NJCAA Division II\u2019s Coach\u2019s Award and was named the District I coach of the year. Pima will need James \u2014 and Peabody \u2014 if it hopes to upset the tournament\u2019s No. 1 seed.

\u201cWe\u2019re not intimated,\u201d Acedo said. \u201cWe\u2019ll play our game and hope for the best.\u201d

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That shot.

All anyone ever wants to talk about is Lauri Markkanen\u2019s ability to shoot the ball.

It\u2019s understandable \u2014 the freshman is 7- feet tall with one of the quickest shot releases of anyone in the NCAA Tournament, guards included. Once he gets the ball in his hands, with a sliver of space, he\u2019s probably firing away.

He\u2019s not only offense anymore, though.

Markkanen has become a better defender despite questions about his development. It\u2019s paying dividends as Arizona prepares to face Xavier in Thursday\u2019s Sweet 16 game in San Jose, California.

Consider: In Arizona\u2019s first 30 games, Markkanen had 12 blocks, an average of 0.4 per game. In the last six games, Markkanen has blocked seven shots, a team-high average of 1.2 per game. That includes three in the season finale against Arizona State, one each against UCLA and Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament and two more against Saint Mary\u2019s on Saturday.

\u201cI think I\u2019ve progressed a lot,\u201d Markkanen said after Saturday\u2019s win. \u201cBasically we just work on defense every day, so it\u2019s hard not to get better at it.\u201d

Arizona guard Allonzo Trier said Markkanen\u2019s defensive breakthrough has been \u201cbig.\u201d

\u201cYou got to remember: He\u2019s a 7-footer too, so we expect him to make those plays \u2014 and when he does, that\u2019s big for our team,\u201d Trier said. \u201cWhen he can do that, it\u2019s a game-changer.\u201d

Markkanen\u2019s blocks made an impact, particularly the two against Saint Mary\u2019s star center Jock Landale. The Aussie big man had been bullying Arizona\u2019s rotation of post men Saturday. In the first half, Landale made 5 of 6 shots for 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Landale made his first shot in the second half then proceeded to miss three in a row, the third the result of Markkanen\u2019s defensive stop.

Landale received a pass on the right side of the low post, backed Markkanen down and muscled his way closer to the rim. Markkanen stayed with him and Landale, who can score with either hand, turned and went up with both hands. Markkanen stopped him in his tracks, blocking the ball away.

\u201cHe went out there and out-toughed him, really,\u201d Wildcats center Chance Comanche said.

At that point, Arizona led the Gaels 53-48 with 8:02 remaining. Markkanen blocked Landale again at the 3:04 mark, with Arizona up 61-55. Both stops helped prevent a Saint Mary\u2019s comeback.

\u201cLauri\u2019s post defense was terrific down the home stretch,\u201d Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

\u201cI got a little bit more comfortable as the game went on,\u201d Markkanen said. \u201cI just tried to be as physical as I can and don\u2019t let him get the ball. But of course, he can get it sometimes.\u201d

Defense isn\u2019t only about blocking shots, though, and Markkanen must continue to improve if he is to be a force in the NBA. DraftExpress analyst Mike Schmitz says Markkanen is \u201cfine\u201d defending the perimeter because \u201che\u2019s got good feet.\u201d

\u201cIt\u2019s tough if you\u2019re a young, a big and you struggle at that end a little bit,\u201d Schmitz said. \u201cHe\u2019s not that long, and he\u2019s not that strong. Those are the two things that have maybe limited his ceiling a little bit.\u201d

Still, there\u2019s no doubt he\u2019s improving. During the first weekend of Pac-12 play, Markkanen was tasked with guarding Cal\u2019s Ivan Rabb. The 6-foot-9 forward had his way against Markkanen and other Arizona defenders, scoring 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbing 16 rebounds.

When Cal came to McKale Center on Feb. 11, Markkanen helped hold Rabb to just four points on 2-of-7 shooting. The Golden Bears forward grabbed just three rebounds.

\u201cI guess I\u2019ve been working on my defense all season,\u201d Markkanen said. \u201cBut during Pac-12 play, I think I got a lot better.\u201d

About the blocks, Markkanen said: \u201cOf course it feels good because our team needed them.\u201d

If Arizona is going to advance to its first Final Four in 16 years, the Wildcats could use some more of that.

That\u2019s not a question mark.

"}, {"id":"19d6c2e4-0629-52c4-8202-e30c128d3c53","type":"article","starttime":"1490127300","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-21T13:15:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1490157244","priority":30,"sections":[{"crime":"news/local/crime"},{"football":"sports/arizonawildcats/football"}],"flags":{"top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"$1 million claim filed against UA in ex-football player's domestic abuse probe","url":"http://tucson.com/news/local/crime/article_19d6c2e4-0629-52c4-8202-e30c128d3c53.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/news/local/crime/million-claim-filed-against-ua-in-ex-football-player-s/article_19d6c2e4-0629-52c4-8202-e30c128d3c53.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/news/local/crime/million-claim-filed-against-ua-in-ex-football-player-s/article_19d6c2e4-0629-52c4-8202-e30c128d3c53.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Yoohyun Jung\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"Alleged victim says UA knew Orlando Bradford's history and did nothing.\u00a0","supportsComments":false,"keywords":["university of arizona","orlando bradford","arizona wildcats","domestic violence"],"internalKeywords":["#latest"],"customProperties":{"arm_id":"75029"},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"7895f257-552f-5e3d-a95e-a6a88ff7a361","description":"Orlando Bradford","byline":"Courtesy Tucson Police Department","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"480","height":"600","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/89/7895f257-552f-5e3d-a95e-a6a88ff7a361/57db39044fbbb.image.jpg?resize=480%2C600"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/89/7895f257-552f-5e3d-a95e-a6a88ff7a361/57db39044fbbb.image.jpg?crop=480%2C270%2C0%2C201&resize=100%2C56&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/89/7895f257-552f-5e3d-a95e-a6a88ff7a361/57db39044fbbb.image.jpg?crop=480%2C270%2C0%2C201&resize=300%2C169&order=crop%2Cresize"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/89/7895f257-552f-5e3d-a95e-a6a88ff7a361/57db39044fbbb.image.jpg?crop=480%2C270%2C0%2C201"}}}],"revision":13,"commentID":"19d6c2e4-0629-52c4-8202-e30c128d3c53","body":"

The woman accusing former Arizona Wildcats running back Orlando Bradford of domestic violence has filed a notice of claim against the University of Arizona.

She is seeking a $1 million settlement from the UA and the Arizona Board of Regents, its governing organization, for failing to stop Bradford\u2019s alleged violent behavior.

Bradford was arrested in September after the victim and a second woman accused him of assault. He was charged with three felony counts of domestic violence kidnapping, seven counts of felony aggravated assault and five misdemeanor counts of intentional assault.

Bradford\u2019s trial is set to begin in August in Pima County Superior Court. He was dismissed from the football team on the day of his arrest.

A notice of claim filed on behalf of the woman by her attorneys further described violent acts allegedly committed by Bradford. The Star does not usually identify alleged victims of domestic violence.

The pair met through the woman\u2019s work as a photographer and began a romantic relationship in December 2015, the document said. On at least four occasions in January 2016, she said Bradford allegedly grabbed, strangled and kicked her.

Between then and Bradford\u2019s arrest in 2016, she says he assaulted her several more times, causing injuries such as a concussion, the notice of claim alleged. Some of the incidents were allegedly witnessed by members of the Arizona Wildcats football team, it says.

The woman alleged that the UA athletic department knew of Bradford\u2019s violent behavior toward her and another female athlete who had previously been in a romantic relationship with him, but did not take appropriate action.

Despite being aware, the UA \u201callowed him to continue to play on the football team, be present on campus as a student, and upon information and belief, did not take appropriate action to restrain his violent and assaultive behavior,\u201d the claim alleged.

"}, {"id":"ed33361d-889f-5890-8598-cfa24ed7173d","type":"article","starttime":"1490108400","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-21T08:00:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1490203517","priority":45,"sections":[{"basketball":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Old friends Sean Miller, Chris Mack to renew rivalry when Arizona plays Xavier in Sweet 16","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/article_ed33361d-889f-5890-8598-cfa24ed7173d.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/old-friends-sean-miller-chris-mack-to-renew-rivalry-when/article_ed33361d-889f-5890-8598-cfa24ed7173d.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/basketball/old-friends-sean-miller-chris-mack-to-renew-rivalry-when/article_ed33361d-889f-5890-8598-cfa24ed7173d.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Bruce Pascoe\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"Teams are playing each other for second time in past three seasons; UA held off Musketeers in 2015.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#top5sports","#editorspick","#latest"],"customProperties":{"arm_id":"74984","label":"basketball"},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"04252ecd-6eee-55bf-adb6-84bf349399b0","description":"Arizona\u2019s Sean Miller and Chris Mack still talk often during the season. \u201cI usually listen to him complain about his, you know, 30-4 team or whatever their record,\u201d Mack joked. Mack took over as Musketeers coach after Miller left for the UA in 2009, and has gone 186-90 at Xavier.","byline":"Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star 2015","hireswidth":1653,"hiresheight":1253,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/42/04252ecd-6eee-55bf-adb6-84bf349399b0/58d0a683d6905.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1003","height":"760","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/42/04252ecd-6eee-55bf-adb6-84bf349399b0/58d0a683d4eab.image.jpg?resize=1003%2C760"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/42/04252ecd-6eee-55bf-adb6-84bf349399b0/58d0a683d4eab.image.jpg?crop=1653%2C929%2C0%2C31&resize=100%2C56&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/42/04252ecd-6eee-55bf-adb6-84bf349399b0/58d0a683d4eab.image.jpg?crop=1653%2C929%2C0%2C31&resize=300%2C169&order=crop%2Cresize"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"575","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/42/04252ecd-6eee-55bf-adb6-84bf349399b0/58d0a683d4eab.image.jpg?crop=1653%2C929%2C0%2C31&resize=1024%2C575&order=crop%2Cresize"}}}],"revision":11,"commentID":"ed33361d-889f-5890-8598-cfa24ed7173d","body":"

Sean Miller owes Xavier coach Chris Mack a \u201cdebt\u201d he\u2019s in no mood to repay.

During the UA coach\u2019s appearance on a national radio show Monday, host Jim Rome told Miller that Mack says the two coaching buddies have a pact.

That is, since Arizona knocked his Musketeers out of the 2015 Sweet 16, Miller would allow Xavier to win in their Sweet 16 rematch Thursday.

\u201cAnd Chris rolled over on his pillow \u2014 right? \u2014 and he woke up,\u201d Miller said, chuckling.

While Miller is unavailable to local media this week until Wednesday\u2019s news conference in San Jose, California, he did go on Rome\u2019s show to talk about the Wildcats, Musketeers and having to face his top assistant at Xavier before taking over the Wildcats in 2009.

\u201cIt\u2019s really improbable that we\u2019ve met twice in the Sweet 16, especially with us being out here in the West and him being in the Big East, but it is what it is,\u201d Miller said. \u201cThe thing you find as a coach there\u2019s relationships and storylines throughout the tournament and you can\u2019t get too caught up in the emotional aspect of it.

\u201cBecause at the end of the day, it\u2019s really about the group of kids who are playing on our team this year and the group of kids that are playing on Xavier\u2019s team this year.\u201d

At this point, the ties between the two programs are thinning anyway.

There are no players left at Xavier that Miller\u2019s staff even began to recruit, and the only connections left to Xavier on the UA staff are Miller, basketball operations director Ryan Reynolds, assistant coach Book Richardson, strength coach Chris Rounds and equipment manager Brian Brigger.

At Xavier, staffers who worked with Miller include associate head coach Travis Steele and assistant coach Luke Murray, who was a graduate assistant on Miller\u2019s first UA team in 2009-10, along with basketball administrator Mario Mercurio and longtime publicist Tom Eiser.

But no players, and eight years of distance.

\u201cThat makes it easier,\u201d Reynolds said.

What might not make it easier for Arizona: That Xavier is on the same kind of upswing \u2014 maybe even more \u2014 than the Wildcats are entering the Sweet 16.

The Musketeers have followed a similarly adversity-ridden path as the Wildcats have this season, losing standout point guard Edmond Sumner for the season when he tore an ACL on Jan. 30.

Xavier lost six straight games in February and early March, then went 2-1 in the Big East Tournament and squeaked into one of the final spots with a first-round bye in the NCAA Tournament field.

As an 11-seed, they upset Maryland and Florida State last weekend to become the lowest-seeded team in the Sweet 16.

Miller said this season\u2019s Musketeer journey reminds him of their season in 2003-04, when Miller was a Xavier assistant to Thad Matta. Having lost star forward David West to the 2003 NBA Draft, Xavier was 10-9 at the end of January but won nine of its final 10 regular-season games, won four straight to capture the Atlantic 10 Tournament and kept rolling into NCAA Tournament play.

\u201cWe had a lot of ups-and-downs and injuries, but we caught fire and wound up losing to Duke and J.J. Redick in the Elite Eight,\u201d Miller said on Rome\u2019s show. \u201cIf you looked at us entering the tournament, we didn\u2019t strike fear. But once we established who we were, you recognized we were playing at an all-time high.

\u201cTo me, that\u2019s Xavier this year. You can\u2019t really look at their year or their losses or their seed.

\u201cThey\u2019re playing at a very, very high level and it\u2019s up to us to be ready.\u201d

If some of that detail sounds a bit like careful coach-speak, maybe it is. Or maybe it\u2019s just Miller, as always, worried about his team being the best it can be.

Mack knows that line of thinking. He said during his press conference at Xavier on Monday that he still talks with Miller once every week or two.

\u201cI usually listen to him complain about his, you know, 30-4 team or whatever their record,\u201d Mack said.

Seriously, though, Mack said he\u2019s gained plenty from their relationship over the years, both off the court and on it.

\u201cThe list would go on and on the stuff I took from Sean,\u201d Mack said. \u201cHow to run recruiting, to practice habits, to practice plans, even how we stand during timeouts. There are a lot of things that I stole from Sean.\u201d

How to stand during time-outs?

Mack said he always has the point guard in front of him, with the two-guard and four man on one side, and the three and five on the other side.

\u201cGuys play multiple positions, so you never want to draw up a play for your three-man and find out when you\u2019re on the floor that he\u2019s your four,\u201d Mack said. \u201cIf guys come over to a huddle and sort of stand where they want, that can happen.\u201d

That\u2019s the level of sharing they have done over the years. But all that gets put on hold this week. There\u2019s too much on the line.

And Mack knows Miller really won\u2019t give him a freebie this time.

\u201cWe shared a couple of texts,\u201d Mack said. \u201cThat\u2019s about it.\u201d

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The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth and other items admissible as pure Madness:

ITEM I: No Pac-12 basketball or football team permits reporters in its locker room, a regular-season policy that began to evolve from open to shut about 15 years ago.

But once Arizona reached the postseason, the Pac-12 and NCAA decreed that the Wildcats locker room be open for media interviews for 30 minutes after each game. Now, after about 2\u00bd hours of Q\u2019s & A\u2019s the last two weeks, freshman forward Rawle Alkins has been discovered.

He is all personality. He is what Steve Kerr and Jason Terry were to interviewers in Tucson\u2019s previous college basketball generations.

Each time I entered the UA locker room in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, the largest crowds were those in front of Alkins\u2019 stall. He\u2019s neither silly nor boastful, but rather direct, honest and he doesn\u2019t seem to have the clich\u00e9\u2019 gene in his body.

After breaking the index finger on his shooting hand early in Saturday\u2019s victory over Saint Mary\u2019s, Alkins now famously returned to rally his team from a 10-point deficit.

\u201cHe\u2019s a warrior,\u201d said UA assistant coach Book Richardson, who recruited Alkins from Queens, New York. \u201cHis mom raised him the right way. He\u2019s just a classy young man you want to have on your team.\u201d

Alkins\u2019 ability to play through the pain might endure as a long-told story at Arizona, an equivalent of Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling\u2019s bloody sock in a World Series game. It isn\u2019t that Alkins was used to playing through pain. He told me the worst pain he previously experienced was a cramp.

Beast mode, for sure.

ITEM II: In the middle of the Madness, outgoing UA President Ann Weaver Hart quietly proposed an athletic fee that will probably mean about $3.5 million annually to the Arizona athletic department in a few years.

Talk about good timing. A general giddiness that accompanies a deep run in the NCAA Tournament prevails over a tax on the kids who walk the campus.

\u201cIt\u2019s still early, but Dr. Hart has been very supportive,\u201d UA interim athletic director Erika Barnes said. \u201cNow the proposal, for $100 per student per year, will go to the Board of Regents in early April.\u201d

In Arizona\u2019s first attempt at implementing a student fee, it planned to ask for $200 per student. That was met with predictable opposition.

In the big-money world of the Power 5 Conference sports, an annual fee that raises $3 million to $4 million doesn\u2019t turn a lot of heads. But most years at Arizona, a $3 million donation to the athletic department would be its largest gift; the donor\u2019s name would be put on the wall of a building.

So isn\u2019t it about time to change the name of generic Arizona Stadium to Bear Down Field? It would be instantly identifiable, a tribute to the tens of thousands of students who are likely to throw $100 a year into the athletic department budget into the foreseeable future.

That\u2019s got to be better than Vivint Smart Home Arena, where Arizona chopped down North Dakota and Saint Mary\u2019s last week, and it is certainly more tasteful than the SAP Center, site of Arizona\u2019s Sweet 16 game in San Jose later this week.

ITEM III: When Arizona and Xavier met in the 2015 Sweet 16 in Los Angeles, the 33-4 Wildcats were 10-point favorites over the 23-13 Musketeers. But the game was a grind, not unlike Saturday\u2019s scuffle with Saint Mary\u2019s.

Xavier led 53-49 with 7\u00bd minutes remaining. Arizona didn\u2019t take its first second-half lead until the final 5\u00bd minutes. It took a late 3-ball from T.J. McConnell to give Arizona a cushion to win, 68-60.

Even though the Musketeers lost six consecutive games between Feb. 11 and March 1, even though their star player, point guard Edmond Sumner is lost for the season with a torn ACL, don\u2019t expect a rout.

In Arizona\u2019s 17 career Sweet 16 appearances, with 2,678 total points, the average score is 79-78.

ITEM IV: At the NCAA women\u2019s swimming championships over the weekend, Arizona finished 16th. The Wildcats scored 89 points.

It seems like a misprint, but it is the new reality of what for 15 years, from 1997-2011, was probably the most dominating sport at Arizona, or at least a close challenger to Mike Candrea\u2019s softball program.

The Wildcats finished behind non-traditional swimming schools Minnesota, Missouri and Virginia.

In a period from 2004-10, Arizona scored the following point totals in the NCAA women\u2019s swimming finals: 369, 440, 415, 477, 484, 389 and 395.

It won the national championship in 2008 and finished either second, third or fourth all other seasons.

It is a sad testament to what happened when Hall of Fame coach Frank Busch was hired to run USA Swimming\u2019s national teams.

ITEM LAST: John Daly opted out of the Tucson Conquistadores Classic over the weekend, choosing to use a sponsor\u2019s exemption in the PGA Tour\u2019s Arnold Palmer Invitational. He missed the cut by five strokes, shooting 74-77.

I\u2019m not sure Big John was missed.

This was one time the Champions Tour had a more powerful viewing optic. Four of the top five finishers on the final leaderboard \u2014 Ryder Cup veterans Steve Stricker, Tom Lehman, Bernard Langer and Fred Couples \u2014 have a combined 48 wins on the PGA Tour and a combined $98 million in PGA Tour earnings.

That\u2019s as good as it gets on the Champions Tour.

By comparison, the top four on Sunday\u2019s final Palmer Invitational leaderboard \u2014 Marc Leishman, Kevin Kisner, Charley Hoffman and Rory McIlroy \u2014 have 20 PGA Tour wins and a combined $82 million in earnings.

Advantage, old guys.

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By the end of last season, Larry Tharpe Jr. had become the Arizona Wildcats\u2019 most effective defensive lineman \u2014 a remarkably swift rise for a player who had no Division I experience and arrived on campus in late August.

Tharpe\u2019s success is even more improbable when you consider that he didn\u2019t always know what he was doing.

Tharpe primarily relied on instinct after ascending from the scout team to the defensive line rotation about a month into the season. In eight games, he compiled 16 tackles \u2014 tied for second most among UA linemen \u2014 including 2.5 for losses. He also broke up three passes, more than any other non-defensive back.

\u201cGiven the circumstances, I think I did pretty well,\u201d Tharpe said. \u201cBut I definitely could have done a lot better.\u201d

Tharpe is in the process of taking those next steps. The redshirt junior is focusing on his improving his technique this spring.

Defensive line coach Vince Amey wants Tharpe to learn to play within the scheme after he spent much of last season, in his words, \u201cfreestyling.\u201d The coaching points include keying in on the blocker lined up across from him, maintaining gap integrity and generally executing his responsibilities.

\u201cHe understands the game of football,\u201d Amey said of Tharpe, whose father played in the NFL from 1992-2000. \u201cI have to teach him now how to take on blocks. He likes to swim (make swim moves) and do all this other stuff. He\u2019s very productive doing that. But if he does things in the scheme of our defense, he\u2019ll be really, really good.\u201d

The other tenet of Tharpe\u2019s offseason improvement plan is to build up his body. Because he arrived late after transferring from Tyler (Texas) Junior College, Tharpe didn\u2019t have a chance to participate in Arizona\u2019s weight program last summer. He has natural size at 6-foot-5 \u2014 size the Wildcats desperately need \u2014 but needs to add more bulk.

While he has gotten stronger since he arrived at the UA, Tharpe said he has lost weight, from his listed 275 pounds to about 270. He\u2019d like to play at around 285.

\u201cWhat\u2019s going to set him apart is getting in that weight room,\u201d Amey said, \u201cjust getting him bigger, faster and stronger.\u201d

Tharpe is more comfortable in his surroundings. He often felt like the new guy last year. He was quiet. Now he talks trash with quarterbacks Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate and has developed close relationships with fellow defensive linemen Justin Belknap and Marcus Griffin.

\u201cI came in as a walk-on. I wasn\u2019t really sure what was happening,\u201d Tharpe said. \u201cI\u2019m more vocal now. I definitely feel like one of the guys.\u201d

Amey has high expectations for Tharpe and told him as much in a recent conversation. Tharpe might have as high an upside as any current UA defensive linemen, despite being a walk-on \u2014 a situation that probably won\u2019t change until 2018.

If Arizona gave Tharpe a scholarship now, he would count against its annual allowance of 25 initial counters. That rule no longer would apply after two years on the team.

Earning a scholarship remains a source of motivation for Tharpe. But even if he gets one, it won\u2019t change his approach.

\u201cI don\u2019t want to get complacent,\u201d Tharpe said. \u201cIf I get it, I\u2019m still going to work like I need one.\u201d

Extra points

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Quick hitters from the Arizona Wildcats\u2019 media availability after their 10th practice of spring Monday afternoon:

* UA coach Rich Rodriguez said running back is the position he feels best about in terms of depth (assuming reasonably good health) and experience.

*\u00a0Regarding injury-prone senior tailback Nick Wilson, Rodriguez said: \"When he\u2019s been healthy, he\u2019s played well. But he hasn\u2019t been healthy that much. It\u2019s been uneven simply because of the injuries. I think Nick is determined to have a great year to get back to having the kind of production he had as a freshman.\"

*\u00a0Rodriguez said \"some guys were still about half on spring break mentally\" in the team's first practice since having a week off. Overall team conditioning is not where Rodriguez wants it, but he's confident that won't be an issue come August.

*\u00a0Offensive line coach Jim Michalczik said he feels better about the depth of his group than at any time since he's been at Arizona.

*\u00a0Rodriguez expects center Nathan Eldridge to have more confidence in taking control of the line entering his second season as Arizona's starter. Eldridge, who will be a redshirt sophomore, said he's \"100 percent\" more comfortable now vs. last year thanks to extensive film study and technique work.

*\u00a0Rodriguez said right tackle Gerhard de Beer hasn't been able to practice this spring. De Beer missed time at the end of last season (knee).

*\u00a0The following offensive linemen, all redshirt freshmen, are practicing after missing time earlier in camp: Michael Eletise (car accident), Harper Sherman (ankle) and Keenan Walker (ankle).

*\u00a0As was the case before spring break, receiver Cam Denson had a walking boot on his right foot. The injury is not believed to be serious.

*\u00a0Defensive end Jalen Cochran again had a yellow jersey on as he left practice, indicating he still isn\u2019t back from an undisclosed injury.

*\u00a0Nose tackle Parker Zellers, who has been limited, exited practice wearing pads and carrying a helmet, a possible sign that he\u2019s back to full strength.

*\u00a0Rodriguez again mentioned an expanded role for the tight ends. They will be split it out more, creating less of a need to sub and enabling the offense to play faster.

*\u00a0Does Arizona's basketball success help football? \"When our name is out there, I think it helps everybody,\u201d Rodriguez said. \u201cIt\u2019s a positive.\"

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Attention, Arizona Wildcats basketball fans:

I know you\u2019re a little preoccupied right now. I totally understand. March Madness is intoxicating and irresistible.

But I come to offer a friendly reminder that Arizona spring football is still a thing. After taking last week off for spring break, the Wildcats resume practice this afternoon. They have six more left before switching to offseason-training mode.

Here\u2019s a look at what\u2019s to come and what ground has been covered so far:

REMAINING SPRING SCHEDULE

SPRING FOOTBALL COVERAGE TO DATE

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Araiza / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":3000,"hiresheight":2074,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/bc/3bcf91c1-5d3c-53f7-8e37-7e346940e798/58cf3b68e8d0f.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1100","height":"760","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/bc/3bcf91c1-5d3c-53f7-8e37-7e346940e798/58cf3b6892077.image.jpg?resize=1100%2C760"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"69","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/bc/3bcf91c1-5d3c-53f7-8e37-7e346940e798/58cf3b6892077.image.jpg?resize=100%2C69"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"207","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/bc/3bcf91c1-5d3c-53f7-8e37-7e346940e798/58cf3b6892077.image.jpg?resize=300%2C207"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"708","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/bc/3bcf91c1-5d3c-53f7-8e37-7e346940e798/58cf3b6892077.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C708"}}}],"revision":10,"commentID":"49c2f842-b059-5a93-8784-a2dd578ffba6","body":"

Tom Lehman\u2019s youngest son, Sean, celebrated his 14th birthday Saturday. He had a simple request for his dad entering the final round of the Tucson Conquistadores Classic.

\u201cDad, for my birthday, I want you to win this thing,\u201d Sean told his father.

\u201cWell, I\u2019m three shots behind Steve Stricker; the chances are slim,\u201d Tom replied. \u201cBut I\u2019ll do my best.\u201d

Lehman\u2019s best turned out be just good enough.

The Scottsdale resident edged Stricker by one shot Sunday to conclude a back-and-forth duel on the Catalina Course at Omni Tucson National Resort.

The victory was Lehman\u2019s 10th on the PGA Tour Champions and his first since 2015. It was also his third professional win in the state of Arizona.

\u201cWhere you win and who you beat, those two things are really the things that you think about when you think back on victories,\u201d Lehman said. \u201cSo to win here in Arizona, here in Tucson, and then to beat Steve Stricker \u2026 is something that I\u2019m very proud of.\u201d

Lehman shot a 7-under 66 Sunday to finish at 20 under par. After sinking a 1-foot par putt on the 18th hole to clinch the victory, Lehman shared the prize \u2014 the iconic Conquistadores helmet \u2014 with Sean. He wasn\u2019t the only member of Lehman\u2019s family to benefit from Tom\u2019s triumph.

Daughter Rachael is getting married next month. She, her sister, Holly, and their mother, Melissa, were in New Orleans this weekend for Rachael\u2019s bachelorette party.

\u201cThis check just paid for the wedding,\u201d said Lehman, who earned $255,000 for the victory.

As Lehman noted, Stricker entered Sunday with a three-stroke lead after a sizzling second-round 63. He was seeking to become the 19th player to win his Champions Tour debut.

Stricker had played the first two holes in 5 under par over the first two days. Sunday was a different story.

After hitting a perfect drive on No. 1, Stricker misjudged the wind on his approach shot. The ball plugged in the front bunker. While Stricker bogeyed the hole, Lehman made par. The lead had shrunk to two.

One hole later, it was gone. Stricker pushed his drive on the 535-yard par-5 into a trap to the right of the fairway. He had to lay up and ended up with a par. Lehman, meanwhile, reached the green in two, hitting a 6-iron to about 4 feet. He sank the eagle putt. Suddenly, they were tied.

\u201cI felt like I was behind the eight-ball right away,\u201d Stricker said.

\u201cThat was a big deal,\u201d Lehman said. \u201cTo be three shots down and to erase that entire lead on two holes put everything on an even level. But \u2026 I have momentum and you don\u2019t.\u201d

Lehman took the lead for the first time with a birdie on No. 5 and expanded his advantage to two with another birdie on No. 6.

A birdie on No. 8 turned the tide back in Stricker\u2019s favor. He made four birdies in a five-hole stretch, and another on No. 15 gave him a two-shot lead.

Everything changed on the par-3 16th. Stricker\u2019s approach landed about 50 feet below the hole; he three-putted for a bogey. Lehman rolled in a 20-footer for birdie. They were tied again heading to the 17th tee.

\u201cI stole all the energy walking off that green,\u201d Lehman said.

\u201cThat was really the tournament,\u201d Stricker said.

Both birdied the par-5 17th. The Catalina Course\u2019s famed finishing hole would decide the tournament, whether in regulation or in a playoff.

Lehman hit his driver and found dry land. Stricker hit what he thought was a perfect 3-wood. But as happened to last year\u2019s champion, Woody Austin, the ball bounded through the fairway into the left water hazard. The difference: Austin led by two shots. He made bogey and won by a stroke. Stricker made bogey and lost by one.

\u201cHe put the pressure on all day long,\u201d Stricker said of Lehman. \u201cI just didn\u2019t have enough there at the end.\u201d

Lehman saved perhaps his firmest hug for his caddie, Doug Summers. Summers is the husband of Joanie Summers, the Lehmans\u2019 longtime personal assistant. Doug always had wanted to caddie for Lehman, and Tucson presented the ideal opportunity.

Like Lehman\u2019s son, his caddie for the week wasn\u2019t just along for the ride.

\u201cI want that helmet,\u201d Summers told Lehman. \u201cI\u2019m not going back to Phoenix without that helmet.\u201d

It was easier said than done. Lehman had played only one event this year after November elbow surgery. But Summers\u2019 appeal put positive thoughts in Lehman\u2019s head.

\u201cIt definitely got me thinking, hey, there\u2019s no reason why we can\u2019t play well,\u201d Lehman said. \u201cLet\u2019s go try and get that helmet.\u201d

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There\u2019s nothing like taking a nice, long walk with your son on the golf course.

Both Woody Austin and Russ Cochran were fortunate to have their sons working their bags this weekend at the 2017 Tucson Conquistadores Classic at the Omni Tucson National Resort.

Austin\u2019s son, Peyton, who is 17, was the caddie last year when his dad won the tournament. This year, said Woody, his son didn\u2019t bring him much luck. Austin finished 11-under for the tournament, shooting a 68 Sunday to put him in a tie for 13th.

\u201cI like having someone on my bag that I like spending time with,\u201d Austin said. \u201cI like to teach him things \u2014 he doesn\u2019t always listen to me. But, on the course, he sees how I address the ball, what is going on in my mind when I hit shots. I think it helps him understand how we go about our business.\u201d

For much of the round, they talked about their favorite team in the NCAA Tournament, Wichita State, and hoped they\u2019d pull an upset over Kentucky. Unfortunately, the Shockers didn\u2019t win.

And then there was that one moment in the middle of the day when Woody had his arm around Peyton.

\u201cI told him I loved him,\u201d said Peyton. \u201cAnd, thanked him for letting me caddie.\u201d

For a dad, it doesn\u2019t get much better than that.

Cochran, 58, also cherishes the time spent on the course with his son, Ryan.

Ryan, who played college golf at the University of Florida in the early 2000s, started caddying for his dad in 2010 and spent a few years on the PGA tour carrying Jesper Parnevik\u2019s bag.

Cochran finished with a 4-under for the tournament.

All of Cochran\u2019s sons are involved in golf. Case plays on the Latino America Tour, and Reed, who was in the crowd this weekend, has caddied for Russ, as well.

For Ryan, time with his dad is even more special now after Russ had three stents placed in his heart in December. The elder Cochran has a history of heart issues in his family, having lost his father at 60.

\u201cIt was pretty scary,\u201d said Ryan of his father\u2019s recent heart issues. \u201cHe was on the road in Australia and wasn\u2019t feeling well. It doesn\u2019t get any better than being out here with him.\u201d

Russ chipped in: \u201cI\u2019m not sure I would be battling out here on the tour without my family. Ryan makes it easy for me and I enjoy every second with him. It was emotional for me, too. I have a small sense of pride that I caught this early enough and can live longer and have a great healthy lifestyle.\u201d

What\u2019s in the bag?

Some golfers need to eat to keep fueled up for their rounds. Not Mark Brooks. He\u2019s not an eater and carries nothing in his bag. He might take a banana from the tee box at the turn, but that\u2019s about it.

Tom Pernice Jr. takes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and protein bars with him. But the most extensive eater on the course Sunday was Billy Mayfair.

\u201cI carry granola bars and turkey,\u201d he said. \u201cI make little bison burgers in my hotel room. I even take butternut squash and peas and put them in a blender for soup. Food and carbs, especially are really important for me. It\u2019s hot and we are out on the course for five hours. I carry coconut water, and yesterday we got backed up out there and I think I drank at least four bottles of water on four holes.\u201d

One of the pickiest eaters is Tom Kite. His caddy of 17 years, Sandy Jones \u2014 who is one of only a handful of women caddies on the Champions Tour \u2014 said Tom likes \u201ccrunchy peanut butter on wheat bread and no-grape jelly. He also like nuts \u2014 pecans and almonds and dried blueberries.\u201d

Chip shots

\u201cI wasn\u2019t aware of that,\u201d said Langer after his round of 8-under 65 Sunday. \u201cIt\u2019s better than having 32 rounds over par! I struggled today with uphill putting; I left all of them short. I need to adjust quicker to down slopes and up slopes on the golf course.\u201d

Langer narrowed the margin in the Charles Schwab Cup race. He trails Fred Couples by $54,616. Couples finished tied for fourth at 14-under. It was Langer\u2019s 75th top-3 finish in 191 starts on the Champions Tour.

"} ]