How many roasted asparagus tips can these guys eat?
The grind of NCAA tournament time leads to visions of grinder after grinder, sandwich after sandwich, hotel meal after hotel meal, all of it beginning to get a bit boring for the Arizona Wildcats.
“We’ve been on the road so much, we’re used to eating hotel food every day,” Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski said. “It’s almost like cafeteria food a little bit. We kind of get bored of it — there are always those days when you just want to go to McDonald’s and pig out on some sandwiches or get some fried chicken. Something good, a huge steak. But we know eating vegetables, drinking milk and staying fit nutritiously keeps our energy there.”
It’s a constant push-and-pull between the Arizona coaching and training staff and players who just want to spike their blood sugar with a French fry or 20.
“When you’re on the road, guys get tired of the food you eat,” Arizona trainer Justin Kokoskie said. “You’re staying in hotels, and that limits the kind of food you’re providing, but as long as there are healthy options, we’re happy.”
San Diego St(unned)
The Wildcats have had such a strong fan base this season, both home and away, that San Diego State’s raucous crowd jarred them a bit Thursday.
“Once we walked out from the locker room, we saw a lot of SDSU fans in the gym last night, and we were really shocked at how much they came out,” UA guard Jordin Mayes said. “They really have some crazy fans.”
Doing it for Bo
Just as much as Arizona players want to advance to a Final Four for Sean Miller, the Badgers are gunning for glory for Bo Ryan.
Ryan has led Wisconsin to 13 straight NCAA tournaments, one Elite Eight and five Sweet 16s, but never further.
“It’s ridiculous when people say (Ryan) needs to get to the Final Four,” Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser said. “His career speaks for itself in terms of his victories and Big Ten titles. It’s the overall consistency of our program over the years.”
For a team that’s had so much success, Arizona sure knows how to make its fans sweat.
The Wildcats’ 70-64 win over San Diego State was their 10th of the season by six or fewer points, and even the team’s losses have been close — three of the four have come by four or fewer.
These guys are sure living up to their nicknames.
“They always calls us the Cardiac Cats,” Tarczewski said. “We like to make it interesting for sure.”
Solidifying a legacy
Every Arizona team has to contend not only with opponent after opponent, but legendary Wildcats of years past. It’s a burden that the team welcomes and expects, and a win today that would put the Wildcats in the Final Four is not being taken lightly, particularly as it would be just the fifth time in program history that they’ve advanced so far.
“We’ve done some really special things this season; without a doubt, we’ve lived up to the rep of University of Arizona,” Tarczewski said. “Tremendous tradition in the program. But we’re not done yet. We’ve got one more game to play … at least.”
Things have been a bit different for Mayes this time around.
As a freshman in 2010-11, Mayes averaged 4.9 points in 14.3 minutes per game for an Arizona team that surprised many by advancing to the Elite Eight. Things have changed for both Mayes, who averaged 1.2 points per game in 5.8 minutes this year, and for the Wildcats.
“My freshman year, we weren’t really expected to make it that far,” he said. “It was as shocker. We had a shocker against Memphis, we came out and got the victory in the end. Texas was a tough ball game, and especially Duke — we didn’t expect to do to Duke what we did to them. This year, we’re expected. We’ve showed up, we’ve showed out, and we’re going to keep advancing.”