[ {"id":"9e385458-8847-576a-b9d7-a86443d24404","type":"article","starttime":"1490396400","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-24T16:00:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1490420033","priority":43,"sections":[{"greghansen":"sports/greghansen"},{"basketball":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Hansen: Chris Mack, Xavier had Arizona's number in final few minutes","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/greghansen/article_9e385458-8847-576a-b9d7-a86443d24404.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/greghansen/hansen-chris-mack-xavier-had-arizona-s-number-in-final/article_9e385458-8847-576a-b9d7-a86443d24404.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/greghansen/hansen-chris-mack-xavier-had-arizona-s-number-in-final/article_9e385458-8847-576a-b9d7-a86443d24404.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":2,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Greg Hansen\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"It's still hard to digest Arizona's NCAA Tournament loss. Here's a look at how Xavier was able to do it.\u00a0","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#editorspick","#hansen","#top5sports"],"customProperties":{"arm_id":"75155"},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"70724e96-e85b-5c28-9cd3-854046d106cb","description":"Allonzo Trier\u2019s foul of Malcolm Bernard resulted in two foul shots, allowing Xavier to creep closer. In a game of just 61 possessions for each team, the margin for error was slight.","byline":"","hireswidth":1490,"hiresheight":1390,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/07/70724e96-e85b-5c28-9cd3-854046d106cb/58d5a4121ab12.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"815","height":"760","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/07/70724e96-e85b-5c28-9cd3-854046d106cb/58d5a41218e9a.image.jpg?resize=815%2C760"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"93","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/07/70724e96-e85b-5c28-9cd3-854046d106cb/58d5a41218e9a.image.jpg?resize=100%2C93"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"280","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/07/70724e96-e85b-5c28-9cd3-854046d106cb/58d5a41218e9a.image.jpg?resize=300%2C280"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"955","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/07/70724e96-e85b-5c28-9cd3-854046d106cb/58d5a41218e9a.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C955"}}},{"id":"0e39a6e4-abf3-5dae-af5d-c8925c2d6d4a","description":"Musketeers forward Tyrique Jones floats underneath the backboard ahead of three Wildcat defenders.","byline":"Photos by Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":1263,"hiresheight":1639,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/e3/0e39a6e4-abf3-5dae-af5d-c8925c2d6d4a/58d5a412a9867.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"586","height":"760","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/e3/0e39a6e4-abf3-5dae-af5d-c8925c2d6d4a/58d5a412a8a38.image.jpg?resize=586%2C760"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"130","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/e3/0e39a6e4-abf3-5dae-af5d-c8925c2d6d4a/58d5a412a8a38.image.jpg?resize=100%2C130"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"389","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/e3/0e39a6e4-abf3-5dae-af5d-c8925c2d6d4a/58d5a412a8a38.image.jpg?resize=300%2C389"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"1329","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/e3/0e39a6e4-abf3-5dae-af5d-c8925c2d6d4a/58d5a412a8a38.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C1329"}}}],"revision":10,"commentID":"9e385458-8847-576a-b9d7-a86443d24404","body":"

SAN JOSE, Calif. \u2014

Nick the Greek\u2019s restaurant stays open till 3 a.m. in downtown San Jose. A few ticks before 2, my colleagues and I walked in, lined up behind assorted clubbers, boozers and wayward souls.

I never eat Greek food, but in the wee hours of Friday morning I had no other option and had to make a quick choice. I selected a Beefteki Pita with Tzatziki sauce.

It was Greek to me.

That\u2019s a newspaper guy\u2019s version of the finish to Arizona\u2019s Sweet 16 loss to Xavier. A few hours earlier, whatever Xavier did was Greek to Arizona.

In the final 2:17, with limited options, Arizona missed five consecutive shots and committed a turnover. Xavier\u2019s zone defense was like a great Sphinx to the Wildcats.

It was Tzatziki sauce.

Xavier coach Chris Mack successfully took away three of Arizona\u2019s strengths:

1. He slowed the pace to 61 possessions, which was the second-slowest of Arizona\u2019s season. His zone defense forced Arizona to shoot with an average of nine seconds left on the shot clock. The UA\u2019s season average was to get a shot with 14 seconds. Those five seconds led to a lot of rushed and forced shots Thursday.

2. Because Arizona lacked the proper movement, passing, spacing and imagination against Mack\u2019s zone, it was forced to shoot from the edge, attempting 27 3-pointers, a season high. Ordinarily, 3-point shots make up 24 percent of Arizona\u2019s shooting attempts. On Thursday it was 43 percent.

3. The Musketeers committed only 14 fouls, permitting Arizona to shoot a mere 11 free throws. Arizona made 221 more foul shots than opponents this year, and only once since December (a loss at Oregon) did the Wildcats shoot fewer foul shots than they did Thursday.

Remember when UA forward Kevin Parrom used to pledge \u201cno easy buckets?\u201d It turned on the Wildcats; on Thursday, Arizona got few easy buckets.

Mack, who succeeded Sean Miller at Xavier in 2009, coached the game of his life.

Beyond that, I think Arizona lost for three reasons not as easily tracked by metrics or the box score.

The first is that Lauri Markkanen did not attempt a shot in the final 11:12. That\u2019s because he was used in the role Kaleb Tarczewski played for Arizona. Markkanen became a high-post screener, rarely rotating to the corner, where he often gets lost by opposing defenses.

At halftime, Miller told CBS that \u201cwe\u2019ve got to be unselfish against this zone, move the ball and find Lauri.\u201d

No one found Lauri. He didn\u2019t attempt a foul shot in the second half, either, which is unfathomable. Against a shorter team like the Musketeers, you\u2019d expect him to spend the night at the foul line, the way he did against Saint Mary\u2019s (he was 9 for 10) and when he shot 19 foul shots in the Pac-12 Tournament.

But some of that is on Markkanen\u2019s transition to college basketball. He is learning to play the mid- to low-post and it\u2019s not easy against a zone that often found him trapped by three Musketeers. He does not go strong into the paint and use his size as an advantage. He doesn\u2019t demand the ball, instead keeping his arms low. He is probably too unselfish.

It was like having Mike Trout on your team and batting him eighth in the lineup.

Second, Allonzo Trier appeared to be gassed in the final three minutes. When he scored 15 consecutive points, expanding a 49-48 lead to 64-61, he probably emptied his tank.

Trier missed a quick 3-pointer from the baseline with 2:17 remaining \u2014 Arizona was leading 71-67 \u2014 a shot that could\u2019ve extinguished the Musketeers. As Xavier sped to the other end of the court in transition, Trier was a step late. When he finally got to the other end of the court, he reached over Malcolm Bernard and fouled him.

Those two foul shots made it 71-69 and it was a different game.

Trier played 19 minutes in the second half. Markkanen played the full 40 minutes; he averages 30. Inside the final two minutes, neither seemed to have his legs.

One more thing: the heartbeat of Arizona\u2019s team, senior Kadeem Allen, appeared to get chippy with Xavier\u2019s best player, Trevon Bluiett. Allen got two fouls in the game\u2019s first 2:30. It was a mano a mano showdown versus two Alpha males, and it was costly. Allen spent 15 minutes on the bench in the first half.

While he was out, Bluiett, with 18 first-half points \u2014 16 while Allen was on the bench \u2014 allowed his team to gather itself and build enough confidence to win the game.

Ultimately, Xavier won in the final 40 seconds when Mack drew up a play not to Bluiett nor the Musketeers\u2019 No. 2 option, J.P. Macura, but to junior center Sean O\u2019Mara. Arizona didn\u2019t seem to be expecting it.

O\u2019Mara caught a simple lob pass over Markkanen, 3 feet from the bucket. Help defense from Keanu Pinder and Rawle Alkins was about one second too late to prevent the game-winning basket.

Such is life in the NCAA Tournament.

In a game of just 61 possessions for each team, foul trouble, tired legs, the inability to get the ball to your tallest player and an unexpected lob pass can make a No. 11 seed come off as No. 1.

There are no second chances to get it right.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. \u2014

Arizona has been sent home by Sooie Pigs, Sooners, Shockers, Blue Devils, Badgers and Boilermakers, you name it, it all feels the same.

If feels like you\u2019ve been embalmed.

On Thursday night the Wildcats went slip-slidin\u2019 away, sent home by the Musketeers. The names don\u2019t seem to matter. Xavier. Wichita State. Purdue. To Arizona, unable to reach the Final Four for 16 years, it has become a Paul Simon song.

The nearer your destination, the more you\u2019re slip slidin\u2019 away.

By the time the Wildcats get to Phoenix it\u2019ll be 2018. It\u2019ll be in Tempe, not Glendale. It\u2019ll be too late.

Over the last 78 years, there have been more than 624 Sweet 16 games played in the NCAA Tournament. Of those 624 winners, none had more losses than Xavier did entering Thursday\u2019s game. Xavier was 23-13.

Let that sink in.

Arizona\u2019s last five possessions were almost chaotic. It shot 0-for-5. It was out of timeouts. It had non-shooting Keanu Pinder on the court. It lived and died with Allonzo Trier\u2019s free-lancing.

Arizona\u2019s basketball season expired at 9:57 p.m.

At exactly 10:13, Sean Miller climbed the stairs to a podium at the SAP Center and said that Xavier not only outplayed the Wildcats, but outsmarted them too.

He spoke the truth. His team was flummoxed by Xavier\u2019s zone defense, as had been an issue much of the year with any team from A to Z.

\u201cI\u2019m equally disappointed in myself,\u201d said Miller. \u201cOur team never did establish great confidence against the zone. The game never really felt good. That\u2019s on me. The job when you get to this level of college basketball \u2014 I don\u2019t care what defense they\u2019re playing \u2014 you have to get them shots, and I didn\u2019t feel like we did that tonight.

\u201cThat\u2019s the worst feeling you can have as a coach.\u201d

His former team, his former assistant, put a checkmate on Arizona that stopped it in its Nikes.

Xavier coach Chris Mack began his postgame comments with a bolt of perspective, saying \u201cany team that can get through the eye of the needle to get to the Elite Eight. \u2026 \u201d

He didn\u2019t need to say much more. Since 2001, Arizona has found the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament like trying to squeeze an elephant through the eye of a needle. It is a recurring nightmare for the Wildcats and their fans.

One year it\u2019s an inconceivable collapse against Illinois, another it\u2019s Wisconsin playing the game of its life, and on Thursday it was Arizona failing to score on its final five possessions.

It led 69-61. It lost 73-71.

Trier slumped onto the court at the SAP Center after his potential game-winning 3-point shot teased the rim, jigging in and out. It was SAP, all right. Sorrow. Agony. Pain.

Miller spoke of \u201cthe promised land\u201d and how that \u201cit\u2019s on me.\u201d And he spoke bravely about the journey, but it\u2019ll be a bit before anyone in Tucson wants to hear it.

\u201cIt\u2019s never easy when it ends, especially when you\u2019ve had a great team or a great season,\u201d said Miller. \u201cWe define our own success and if you\u2019re a team that is 32-5 and won both the Pac-12 regular season and Pac-12 Tournament and the journey ends in the Sweet 16, it\u2019s hard to look at that as not getting it done, or failure.\u201d

The words don\u2019t matter. Failure. Loss. It all adds up to an exit few saw coming, especially after punching out Oregon and UCLA at the Pac-12 tournament, teams with superior forces to the Musketeers, who, after all, were missing their most talented player, injured point guard Roland Sumner.

Xavier shot 53 percent from the field. Only Gonzaga shot better than that against Arizona this season.

Xavier\u2019s defense was so impenetrable that it forced Arizona to shoot 27 3-point shots, its most of the season and 11 more than its average.

Arizona is not a 3-point shooting team. Xavier turned the Wildcats into one, a bad one; the Wildcats missed 20 of them.

\u201c(Mack) had his way with us tonight,\u201d said Miller, who had a double-meaning message. Not only couldn\u2019t the Wildcats find a good shot, it kept giving Xavier too many.

\u201cWe could not guard them. We had as hard a time defending them as any team we played this season. We had no answers. They did a better job of that than I did.\u201d

The Musketeers ran the old-fashioned pick-and-roll that your eight-grade PE teacher taught. It gave Arizona fits. There were dunks and bunnies. At times it was like Route 66 the hoop, with no stop lights all the way across New Mexico.

And yet Arizona still had the last shot, an in-and-out 3-ball from Trier, that would\u2019ve won the game and made it all go away.

After a game like that, after examining Xavier\u2019s r\u00e9sum\u00e9, you wonder; how did the Musketeers lose 13 games? How did they lose six straight games from Feb. 15 to March 1? How did it get blown out by 25 at Villanova, 22 at Marquette, 15 at Baylor?

Why, in the year\u2019s most important game, did Arizona\u2019s defense turn to burnt toast?

Can you simply write it off to the Madness? It\u2019s not the first time Arizona exited a season that days earlier was primed, poised and gleamed with possibilities.

Now you wait. You slog through the weeks ahead asking yourself why Lauri Markkanen didn\u2019t get more touches, why Xavier was tougher than Oregon and UCLA, and will Arizona ever get through this long shutout from the Final Four.

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SAN JOSE, Calif.

Sean Miller is such an insatiable recruiter that the only way to fully understand how far he goes is to grab an airline magazine out of the seatback in front of you and examine the flight chart.

Look for Denver. From Denver you can get anywhere. There are dozens of loopy lines connecting Denver with every part of America. There are so many connections that the lines mesh together.

That\u2019s life for any coach in the Sweet 16. That\u2019s life for Miller, who in October 2013 decided he\u2019d go to Hutchinson, Kansas, to recruit a relatively unknown junior college guard, Kadeem Allen.

Because Miller simply didn\u2019t call and pledge to see Allen when the schedule was more favorable \u2014 it would never be more favorable to find Hutchinson on the map \u2014 Arizona has won 32 games and is in the Sweet 16.

Arizona goes home without Allen in its lineup.

In the early fall of 2013, when the Wildcats were building toward the nation\u2019s No. 1 ranking, Miller had to decide whether he\u2019d get to Hutchinson Community College through Oklahoma City (210 miles away) or through Kansas City (217 miles).

There was going to be some rubber on the road.

The coaches of the Kansas Jayhawks had not made the commitment to drive the 187 miles to Hutchinson; they had not seen Allen, who would become the NJCAA Player of the Year, in person.

People at the West Regional this week draw a laugh by asking \u201cdo you know the way to San Jose?\u201d But the real story for Arizona is \u201cdo you know the way to Hutchinson College?\u201d

Miller walked into the Blue Dragons\u2019 gymnasium during an informal workout. Allen did a double-take.

\u201cI didn\u2019t know he was coming,\u201d Allen said Wednesday at SAP Center. \u201cWe were playing a pickup game and I glanced and saw him; I really didn\u2019t know who he was. When I realized it was (Miller), wow, it was just a blessing.\u201d

Hutchinson coach Steve Eck had been expecting Miller. He told Allen about the visitor. Two weeks later, without visiting nearby Kansas \u2014 who then offered Allen a scholarship \u2014 the man who would become the 2014 NJCAA player of the year was in Tucson and made a commitment to play for Arizona.

It\u2019s not much different than how Miller laboriously tracked down Lauri Markkanen in Finland and Dusan Ristic in Serbia. Unlike UCLA, where recruiting a roster of blue-chippers doesn\u2019t always require use of an airplane, Arizona stays at the top because their coaches spend so much time in the air.

The story of how Miller became sold on Kadeem Allen \u2014 how he even knew about him \u2014 is even better.

Miller\u2019s uncle Joe Miller moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, in the early 1980s and became a local football coaching legend. Much like his brother, John Miller, Sean\u2019s dad, Joe Miller was a high school sports lifer. After his football coaching career he became a noted prep sports administrator in Wilmington. He went to all the ballgames and charted the prospects.

So when Kadeem Allen of Wilmington\u2019s New Hanover High School emerged as a prospect of note, Uncle Joe would tell his nephew that he should take a look. New Hanover went 30-1 and won the state championship, a memorable run that included six straight playoff victories over everyone from Hoke County to West Charlotte.

Uncle Joe made sure the news got to McKale Center.

\u201cKadeem was one of my uncle\u2019s favorite kids,\u201d Miller said Wednesday. \u201cHe called me and told me about him. He would get on my dad, telling him about this kid, Kadeem Allen. And then ironically we knew the coaches at Hutchinson as well. So I think between the two of those relationships it allowed us to get in the door.\u201d

Allen completed his senior year at New Hanover one vote shy of being North Carolina\u2019s Gatorade Player of the Year. The winner, five-star Raleigh guard Rodney Purvis, chose to attend North Carolina State over offers from many of the game\u2019s heavyweights.

While Allen was becoming academically eligible at Hutchinson Community College \u2014 he is two classes shy of graduation at Arizona \u2014 Purvis left N.C. State and transferred to UConn. This year the Huskies went 16-17 and missed the Madness.

Uncle Joe, who died 2\u00bd years ago, knew his business.

Allen\u2019s unusually long journey to Hutchinson and Tucson has led him to SAP Center in San Jose. When he plays his final game as a Wildcat, he will be remembered as one of the top defensive players in school history, and an indispensable, team-before-me contributor.

\u201cHe beat all the odds,\u201d Miller said. \u201cHe\u2019s a winner.\u201d

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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":21,"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

"}, {"id":"973eaace-642b-545a-ae0c-1b933e91a165","type":"article","starttime":"1490078700","starttime_iso8601":"2017-03-20T23:45:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1490125082","priority":42,"sections":[{"greghansen":"sports/greghansen"},{"basketball":"sports/arizonawildcats/basketball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Hansen: Rawle Alkins has the personality to match Arizona Wildcats greats","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/greghansen/article_973eaace-642b-545a-ae0c-1b933e91a165.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/greghansen/hansen-rawle-alkins-has-the-personality-to-match-arizona-wildcats/article_973eaace-642b-545a-ae0c-1b933e91a165.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/greghansen/hansen-rawle-alkins-has-the-personality-to-match-arizona-wildcats/article_973eaace-642b-545a-ae0c-1b933e91a165.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":2,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"prologue":"UA freshman's direct approach, honest answers are a godsend in March.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#editorspick","#top5sports"],"customProperties":{"arm_id":"74967","label":"hansen"},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"00bc55c5-fa4f-57e1-b338-0a2888aa07a4","description":"Rawle Alkins, celebrating with Lauri Markkanen after beating Saint Mary\u2019s on Saturday, is open, direct and personable in interviews with reporters.","byline":"Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":1685,"hiresheight":1230,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/0b/00bc55c5-fa4f-57e1-b338-0a2888aa07a4/58cf18f10f28e.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1041","height":"760","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/0b/00bc55c5-fa4f-57e1-b338-0a2888aa07a4/58cf18f10d40a.image.jpg?resize=1041%2C760"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/0/0b/00bc55c5-fa4f-57e1-b338-0a2888aa07a4/58cf18f10d40a.image.jpg?crop=1685%2C947%2C0%2C0&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/0/0b/00bc55c5-fa4f-57e1-b338-0a2888aa07a4/58cf18f10d40a.image.jpg?crop=1685%2C947%2C0%2C0&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/0/0b/00bc55c5-fa4f-57e1-b338-0a2888aa07a4/58cf18f10d40a.image.jpg?crop=1685%2C947%2C0%2C0&resize=1024%2C576&order=crop%2Cresize"}}},{"id":"5d873da1-af5b-5843-86fb-aab66cd1a231","description":"University of Arizona president Ann Weaver Hart, left, chats with Dave Heeke before Heeke was introduced as the new athletic director at the University of Arizona, in Tucson, Ariz., Thursday, March 2, 2017. (A.E. Araiza/Arizona Daily Star via AP)","byline":"A.E. Araiza","hireswidth":3000,"hiresheight":1782,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/d8/5d873da1-af5b-5843-86fb-aab66cd1a231/58cf18f2c1b88.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1170","height":"695","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/d8/5d873da1-af5b-5843-86fb-aab66cd1a231/58cf18f2721e6.image.jpg?resize=1170%2C695"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"59","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/d8/5d873da1-af5b-5843-86fb-aab66cd1a231/58cf18f2721e6.image.jpg?resize=100%2C59"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"178","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/d8/5d873da1-af5b-5843-86fb-aab66cd1a231/58cf18f2721e6.image.jpg?resize=300%2C178"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"608","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/d8/5d873da1-af5b-5843-86fb-aab66cd1a231/58cf18f2721e6.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C608"}}}],"revision":16,"commentID":"973eaace-642b-545a-ae0c-1b933e91a165","body":"

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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SALT LAKE CITY \u2014

Rawle Alkins said the pain in his broken index finger was an 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

\u201cIt was crooked, turned sideways,\u201d he said, crunching up his face. \u201cI looked at it and thought, \u2018Oh, man, this can\u2019t be good.\u201d\u2019

In a sword-swift moment, the burden on his team multiplied. Arizona trailed Saint Mary\u2019s 17-12. Jock Landale and the Gaels had made the Wildcats come off as the Apple Dumpling Gang.

Jock looked to be a lock.

Without their enforcer for the final 30 minutes, minus the toughness of the A-Train, the Wildcats might\u2019ve been cooked.

Alkins jogged with UA trainer Justin Kokoskie to the locker room, no more than 15 yards from the team bench. It\u2019s unclear who groaned louder: UA fans or Alkins. The Gaels would grow their lead to 22-12.

Admit it. You and everyone in front of a TV set in Tucson freaked out.

That\u2019s when medical science kicked in.

Kokoskie took a picture of Alkins\u2019 finger and emailed it to a Tucson hand surgeon in maybe the time it took for a rotation of the 30-second shot clock. Then Kokoskie, Alkins and team physician Dr. Donald Porter took advantage of the Utah Jazz\u2019s NBA-level medical resources and took an X-ray of Alkins\u2019 finger.

They quickly emailed the image to the hand surgeon.

\u201cYou could see the fracture, a little piece of bone disconnected from where it should\u2019ve been,\u201d Kokoskie said. \u201cIt was broken.\u201d

On the bench, UA assistant coach Book Richardson tried to convince himself Alkins would return and the Wildcats would somehow chop up Saint Mary\u2019s lead.

\u201cI kept thinking, \u2018He\u2019ll be all right, he\u2019ll be all right,\u2019\u201d Richardson said 90 minutes later. \u201cBut deep inside I had doubts Rawle would be all right. Most people wouldn\u2019t come back from that.\u201d

Racing the clock but abiding by their professional training, Porter and Kokoskie consulted with the surgeon and determined Alkins could safely return.

Not Tuesday or Thursday, but right now.

Alkins was back in the game with 3:43 remaining in the first half. His team was shooting a dreadful 26 percent. That\u2019s RFD \u2014 recipe for disaster \u2014 territory in March.

Amazingly, with his right index and middle finger taped together, Alkins drove to the bucket and banked in a game-changing layup 77 seconds after he returned.

Talk about feeling no pain.

\u201cIt\u2019s the miracle of medical science,\u201d Kokoskie said with a big smile after Arizona overhauled and beat up the Gaels 69-60, outscoring them 53-36 upon Alkins\u2019 return.

Arizona won Saturday night for many reasons, especially Lauri Markkanen\u2019s ability to block shots, draw fouls and make nine free throws, and also Allonzo Trier\u2019s clutchness. Is that a word? If not, it should be. Trier scored all 14 of his points in the final 17 minutes.

Ultimately, the Wildcats were too big for Jock the Lock and his teammates, who ended the game like someone who just finished an overtime shift, exhausted, loosely holding their empty lunchpails.

Landale opened the game making five consecutive shots. He ended on a 3-for-9 streak.

Arizona shot 59 percent in the second half. You don\u2019t often lose when you do that in March. More importantly, you usually don\u2019t lose when you look at a 22-12 deficit and don\u2019t swallow your tongue.

\u201cWe had another whole half,\u201d said UA senior Kadeem Allen, who was terrific with 12 points, three steals and a late thunder-dunk that helped to change the game.

\u201cWhat we do,\u201d said Richardson, \u201cis play four 5-minute wars each half. We lost the first three wars, but then we won the fourth and that got us going. In the second half, we got a fifth war and a sixth. You don\u2019t have to do it all at once.\u201d

Saturday\u2019s game was almost a duplicate of Arizona\u2019s by-the-seat-of-its-pants opener in the 1997 NCAA Tournament, trailing slow-paced South Alabama by 10 points in the final seven minutes. The Wildcats ultimately won 65-57 and 10 days later were in the Final Four.

You wonder if escaping Saint Mary\u2019s pesky tactics will lead to a similar opportunity.

Gaels coach Randy Bennett knows more about Gonzaga than any coach who isn\u2019t named Mark Few; his team was 0-3 against the Zags this season. Asked to compare Arizona to Gonzaga, about a potential Elite Eight game in San Jose on Saturday, Bennett made several funny faces and then said, \u201cIt\u2019s a pretty even game.\u201d

But he did say that Arizona\u2019s ability to stop Landale, and those like him, might be more essential than the oft-quoted \u201cguards get you to the Final Four\u201d formula.

\u201cArizona can wear you out (inside),\u201d said Bennett, allowing that the Markkanen-Dusan Ristic-Chance Comanche rotation is a blessed resource. \u201cTo be good, you need to have that.

\u201cWhen you get down to the last 32 or 16 teams, the other team is going to have some quality big guys. There\u2019s going to be a Landale or a Markkanen or a Przemek Karnowski (of Gonzaga). Those guys are why their teams are still in there.\u201d

Over 72 hours in Salt Lake City, the Wildcats proved that they have more than three big guys. They\u2019ve also got Alkins, who has drawn a lot of laughs this month by using the term \u201csavage life\u201d to describe the way he goes about business.

On Saturday, when Arizona had so much to lose and the Gaels so much to gain, Alkins wasn\u2019t as much a savage as he was a force breathing life back into his team.

Do you know the way to San Jose? Arizona does.

"} ]