Texas guard Cory Joseph was a teammate of Wildcat-to-be Nick Johnson at a Nevada prep school last season, one of many ties between today's NCAA tournament opponents. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Coming back? We'll see

Texas standout forwards Jordan Hamilton and Tristan Thompson both said they are returning to school next season, which means exactly, well …

"In the past, Longhorns and players from other teams have said they were coming back and did not," noted an Austin American-Statesman blog.

But Arizona's Derrick Williams has so far avoided making any definitive statements saying he's returning to school. Williams is projected as the No. 5 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, according to Draft Express.

"As of right now," Williams said with a smile Saturday, "I'm coming back to school. I like being at Arizona. I like college."


When word surfaced that Daniel Bejarano was considering backing off his commitment to Texas in the fall of 2009, Longhorns coach Rick Barnes was surprised to hear from Sean Miller - directly.

"He said, 'There are these rumors and we just wanted to know what's going on. If it's a situation that he's not going to come to Texas, we'd like to be able to recruit him,' and I will tell you very few coaches will do that," Barnes said. "Believe me, there is a lot that goes on in recruiting. The way he handled that situation just shows you how classy he is, and his integrity."

It still isn't definitively clear who backed off of whom or whether the decision was mutual - Barnes said, "I don't know how I can answer that" - though Bejarano's father was killed during the summer of 2009 and he said he wanted to stay closer to his Phoenix home.

Bejarano eventually chose UA over ASU but he has played in only eight games this season and says his situation is constantly on his mind.

"People ask me, 'Do you regret it?' I don't regret it. It is what it is," Bejarano said. "I still think about it. But I'm a Wildcat now so we'll see how it goes."

Relief after tragedy

During his podium interview Saturday, UA coach Sean Miller was asked if the Wildcats rallied after the Jan. 8 shootings.

He responded by detailing the close connection his team and school have to the rest of the community.

"You could see where no one would come to the game. It was just the opposite," Miller said of the UA-Stanford game, which was postponed after the shootings to the following day. "I think at that point it was the biggest crowd of the season. Everybody seemed to want to take their mind off of what happened by watching a great basketball game and cheering on the Arizona Wildcats.

"It was a reminder to all of us who are a part of the University of Arizona how important our university, and in particular our athletic program, is to Tucson. We're in a sense the only show in town. People love to come and enjoy themselves. And I think on that Sunday afternoon, it was a matter of taking their mind off of an unthinkable tragedy."

Horns in hiding

Texas spent much of the season in line expecting to receive a No. 2 or No. 3 seed but slipped to a No. 4 on Selection Sunday. According to Texas guard Jai Lucas, the fall didn't provide the usual "lack of respect" motivation as much as it did provide a nice spot under the radar.

"It's really helping us in the way that we're approaching the tournament," Lucas said. "We're not a No. 1 seed, not a two seed. No one's picking us to win it. No one's picking us to go far. So why don't we just go out there and have fun, play every game like it's our last?"

Friendly rivals

For two teams in different conferences, Arizona and Texas are rich in personal ties.

Not only did Derrick Williams grow up playing with Texas' Jordan Hamilton, but Longhorns forward Gary Johnson was recruited heavily by Arizona in high school and remains a close friend of Nic and Dondre Wise as well as Texas guard Jai Lucas.

"Nic is like a brother to me and Dondre is like a brother to me as well," Johnson said. "I had a really close relationship with Josh (Pastner, the former UA assistant now coaching Memphis), and Hal (Pastner, Josh's father) was my AAU guy."

There's also one Wildcat-Longhorn tie-in-waiting: Texas guard Cory Joseph, left, was a teammate of UA signee Nick Johnson at Findlay Prep of Nevada last season.

"He was great teammate on and off the court," Joseph said. "On the court he's very talented. He can do a little of everything. His athleticism is unbelievable."

Bruce Pascoe

No. 5 Arizona vs. No. 4 TEXAS,

NCAA Tournament Third round at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

3:10 P.m., TNT, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

He said it …

"They have capability from four spots to get 15 or 20 (points). Tristan Thompson's a load and maybe the best offensive rebounder we've seen. Gary Johnson's a physical senior. We're going to have to raise our level of toughness and physicality around the basket. They're probably the most physical and athletic team we've played since Kansas."

Archie Miller, Arizona associate head coach

He said it …

"Their numbers are staggering on defense. They have great athleticism. They can provide great pressure and challenge some shots. We have our work cut out for us offensively in finding ways to score. We have to shoot the ball well and take care of it more. You really have to work to score around the basket against them."

Archie Miller, Arizona associate head coach