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Wednesday February 28, 2001

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Olson opposed to fancy plays, costly turnovers that follow

By Keith Carmona

Arizona Daily Wildcat

For all intents and purposes, Lute Olson can't stand ESPN's SportsCenter. Fancy plays produce SportsCenter highlights.

But those alley-oop slam dunks and no-look passes tend to produce more turnovers than eye-popping television clips.

Not that Olson is trying to split hairs, but he was able to find some fault in Arizona's two consecutive blowout victories.

Even though the Wildcats outscored Southern California and Arizona State by a combined 74 points, Olson said that his team has to cut down on turnovers to become tournament-ready.

"If it is the SportsCenter-type play that they want to make, I remind them that it still counts as two (points)," he said.

Arizona committed 13 turnovers in their 105-61 rout of USC on Feb. 17 and another 14 in their 88-58 victory in Tempe last week, which is actually down from their 15.3 turnover-per-game season average.

"Sometimes we try to make the great play and that's what we need to cut out," Olson said. "On the fast break, it has gotten somewhat better, but we still run it like it is a fire drill instead of an organized break situation. Trying to make something out of nothing is where you get in trouble."

In that sense, the only highlight that matters to Olson is the final score depicting a UA victory.

And if that is procured from lay-ups and routine jump shots, so be it, he added.

"I think our guys have enough confidence in what we're doing offensively that they know that they can get a good shot," Olson said. "So that's why it doesn't make sense to make great plays early in a possession when there is plenty of time to work for a good shot."

Senior forward Justin Wessel said that as his team matures, they will shy away from the sensational antics.

"When it comes down to tournament time, we cannot afford to make mistakes like that," he said. "It is one (loss) and you're out, so I think that over the next few weeks, you'll see a difference in the number of turnovers."

Facing No. 1 Stanford is certainly enough to give a team anxiety.

But at least the Wildcats don't have to worry about entering into a postseason conference tournament, like much of the nation will next week.

This season is the last time Olson's Wildcats will be free from the tension of a Pacific 10 Conference tournament.

Or is it?

Olson, who has always opposed the idea of a Pac-10 tournament, said he and Stanford head coach Mike Montgomery have contrived a better plan.

"(Montgomery) suggested that instead of having to eliminate two teams from the tournament, why not just leave Stanford and Arizona out and let the other eight play," Olson said. "I think it is a no-brainer to leave the two of us out."

The tournament, scheduled to begin next March at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, will include the top eight teams in the Pac-10. The winner will earn the Pac-10's automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.

Stanford and UA were the only two schools to vote against the tournament last fall.

"The tournament is a waste," he said. "When you play 18 games in a conference (and) if you can't determine positions after those 18 games - something is haywire."