Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Meltdown doesn't mean season a failure
The shock of the UA men's basketball team's second last-minute Elite Eight loss in the past three years - Arizona had a chance to defeat Kansas in 2003 for a trip to the Final Four, behind Jason Gardner and Luke Walton, but Gardner missed two shots in the final 10 seconds - may be starting to finally wear down for students and fans, even if the players might still be a tad numb themselves.
It is necessary, however, to not only thank those 15 on the UA roster for ending the Wildcats' one-year stint as, well, a mediocre team, but to also remember that in a time where the Terry Schiavo case, deadly earthquakes and school shootings are dominating the headlines, a one-point overtime loss is not life and death, even if the lead was 15 with four minutes to play.
It's vital to remember the good that came from the Arizona team this season, even after all seemed hopeless, and especially after a heartbreaking loss like the one that saw Arizona blow a 15-point lead to top-ranked Illinois in the game's final four-plus minutes.
Look back not too far and it was surprising the Wildcats even made it to the Elite Eight. An early season, an unimaginable double-digit road loss to Virginia, a blowout loss at Stanford, and an unthinkable defeat to Washington State at home gave Wildcat fans reason to think this season could be headed toward mediocrity.
But the team persevered, led by the senior leadership of all-around good-guy Channing Frye and the enigmatic Salim Stoudamire, both four-year starters in the era of the one-and-done, and in some cases none.
Stoudamire overcame another suspension, and a half-season full of more scowls, to put up one of the best half-seasons college basketball has seen in a long while - complete with game-winning buzzer-beaters and records galore.
Frye did everything right, so much so that the big man's presence in the post has been overlooked for most of his career, what with having to play second fiddle to Stoudamire for the last two, and after spending a pair behind Walton and Gardner.
But he and junior Hassan Adams - expected to leave school after just three years - played out of their minds during the postseason, doing anything and everything to help their draft stock.
Arizona posted one of the best seasons in school history, winning 30 games for just the third time ever and reaching the Elite Eight for the third time in five years.
Fans packed Fourth Avenue and littered University Boulevard, wanting nothing more than to send Frye and Stoudamire to a Final Four, continuing the school's string of graduation classes making the final weekend of NCAA play.
But it wasn't to be, and no matter who we blame, whatever the reason for defeat, this Wildcat team deserves to go out as winners in the minds of the fans - those same fans who can't wait another six months.
That's when Lute and Company hit the court again, ready to make another march to March.
Opinions Board: Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Evan Caravelli, Brett Fera, Caitlin Hall, Ryan Johnson and Lisa Rich.