By Shane Bacon
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Almost any team in the nation's top 10 has a checklist of things that need to happen in order to get them to St. Louis for the Final Four and the Arizona men's basketball team is no exception.
5) Channing Frye makes his presence known in the paint.
OK, so we lost during the Washington trip, where the senior center Frye was obviously the Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Week (ask Lute Olson).
The thing is, Channing is one of the best centers in the nation and for good reason.
He is the best inside threat this side of Utah's Andrew Bogut and has footwork and size that he lacked in Arizona's disappointing 2002 Final Failure.
The only thing is Channing needs outside help to win games.
His 30-point efforts aren't going to give Arizona a 'W,' but 18 points and eight rebounds, with help from Salim Stoudamire and Mustafa Shakur, will be the biggest threat.
Sleeping on the fact that Channing isn't as powerful as guys from East Coast squads is just being ignorant.
4) Mustafa starts playing like someone from Point Guard U.
The sophomore guard entered Tucson as the next in line to take the torch, but has faltered this year.
Arizona has the talent to be a top-five squad, but with the play of Mustafa this year, has only cracked the top 10 once.
Shakur can play with the best, but his defense and shooting is so off in 2005 you almost beg him to go back to the hurricane-like shot he brought into McKale Center.
We all know Mustafa wouldn't be starting if Lute didn't see something in him, so all I ask is that he bring intensity, court vision and the ability to hit an occasionally outside jumper when the Madness begins.
Nobody will ever forget his Southern California game in the Pac-10 tournament last year, but Mustafa needs a shot of confidence if he's going to chuck up that last shot in '05. Mustafa is the biggest key to a Final Four appearance.
3) Chris Rodgers plays like he did in December.
So the kid that everyone thought would follow in the footsteps of Dennis Latimore and Will Bynum burst on the scene during Arizona's midseason stretch and produced multiple 20-point games.
The problem is, Rodgers is still plagued by off-court distractions.
Too much celebration after the win over Washington in Tucson left him jersey-less, which has really got into the Portland, Ore., native's head.
The kid plays seizure defense, has a solid outside jumper and brings another point guard threat, but has to leave his demons at home to help this team cut down the nets.
Pouting, bitching and partying are only going to get him another seat further down on the bench.
2) Role players: just do it.
Sadly, junior forward Hassan Adams might have been our biggest offensive weapon during 2004 (or, in typical Harry Potter theme, "The Season Which is Not Named"), but is just a few dynamic dunks short of unrecognizable this year.
Adams, sophomore forward Ivan Radenovic and freshman phenom Jawann McClellan have to produce 15-20 points per tournament game to give this team total spark, including their own personal talents.
Points have seemed hard to come by when Stoudamire and Frye have struggled, but these three players can do a lot more if they look for their shots in cold spells.
With all that said, Stoudamire is the past, present and future.
Not since the days of Sean Elliott has Arizona lived games feast or famine as they do now when "Swoosh" graces the court.
The senior is the Pac-10 Player of the Year in my book, solely on the grounds that he produces wins with his big games and makes things happen from places only he can do.
It is a simple equation - Salim plays well, scores his points and makes his free throws, Arizona wins that game.
It will be a scary moment if he enters the second half with fewer than ten points. If Salim averages 20 or more points per game in the NCAA Tournament, you can look for a Final Four berth.
Pray this - we want the senior Salim, not the sophomore Stoudamire.
So, it's that easy. Channing plays like Tim Duncan; Mustafa like Jason Kidd; Rogers like Antwan Jamison; Hassan, Radenovic and McClellan like Udonis Haslem, Eddie Jones and Damon Jones, respectively, from Miami; and Salim takes on the role of a Kobe.
With that, we could end this season with the best feeling in the world - a win.