Thirty years ago Saturday, Arizona became just the second No. 2 seed in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament to lose its first round game, falling to Santa Clara in Salt Lake City.
The Broncos’ star was a previously unknown Canadian named Steve Nash.
Ironically, Nash would one day bring much joy to basketball fans in the Grand Canyon State by becoming arguably the greatest player to wear a Phoenix Suns uniform. I would put Nash behind Alvan Adams and Walter Davis, but my memory is way too good.
Today, history repeated itself for the Wildcats in Sacramento.
Despite being seeded No. 2 in the South behind top overall seed Alabama, more than a few picked Arizona to reach the Final Four in Houston. Some even had the Wildcats to cut down the nets at NRG Stadium on the night of 3 April, which would have been Arizona’s second national championship. The Wildcats won it all in 1997 in an overtime thriller vs. defending champion Kentucky.
Instead of practicing tomorrow at Golden 1 Center (which should not be the home of an NBA team) in preparation for a date with Missouri, Arizona will be boarding a plane for the long and painful flight to Tucson.
Arizona met its Waterloo this time at the hands of Princeton in embarrassing fashion, going scoreless over the final 4:45 of a 59-55 loss to the Ivy League tournament champion.
The Wildcats led by 12 points with 11:50 to go and somehow lost this game?
Memo to U of A president Dr. Robert C. Robbins: DO NOT consider a move to the Big 12. No. Don’t tilt at that windmill, even if your archrival in Tempe wants to jump.
First, the Wildcat football program is a mess. It can’t stay out of the cellar in the Pac-12 South unless Colorado goes full tank like it did last year.
Second, if your basketball program is going to lay dinosaur-sized eggs like this one and the one in 1993, why test your luck in the Big 12 against the program with the most wins in NCAA history, a Houston program which has regained its place among the elite for the first time since Phi Slamma Jamma, an up-and-coming Kansas State program, plus consistently strong teams in Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia? Once UCLA goes to the Big Ten, there’s no reason Arizona shouldn’t swallow the minnows remaining in the Pac-12 pool.
Third, Orlando is Disney World and a whole bunch of crap. Playing UCF will do nothing for you.