By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
How's this for a grueling schedule: Arkansas, Michigan, Georgetown, Marathon ...
That's right, the Arizona men's basketball team gets a break from Top 25 competition tonight when it faces Marathon Basketball, a traveling team made up of former college players.
For Wildcat head coach Lute Olson, the task will be to have his team avoid a letdown after winning the Preseason National Invitation Tournament championship Friday in New York.
Olson said the game was scheduled after the NIT because he anticipated that the tournament committee would send Arizona to Fayetteville to play Arkansas at Walton Arena, where the Razorbacks had lost just once before, and never to a non-conference opponent. He said he wanted to ensure there would be another tuneup game if the Wildcats lost to Arkansas.
But after defeating three straight ranked opponents, Olson said he feels the Marathon game is just as important now than if the team had lost to the Razorbacks.
"A lot of guys need to play, and this is an opportunity to look at guys who, due to the schedule, haven't been seen," Olson said, referring specifically to sophomores Donnell Harris and Kelvin Eafon and freshmen Jason Terry and A.J. Bramlett.
"Those four will log a lot of time," he said.
For Harris, a 6-foot-11, 214-pound redshirt freshman who has played three minutes so far this season, Marathon will provide a game atmosphere for him to display his skills.
"I'm looking at it as a real game," Harris said. "It will give me a chance to show what I can do. It helps to know I'm going to get a chance to go out there and have some fun, play hard and beat the other team."
Olson said Michael Dickerson would not play tonight and Joseph Blair would see limited playing time. Dickerson, who spained his left ankle early in the game against Georgetown and did not return, did not practice yesterday. Reports said he suffered the injury after landing on a torn sole from his shoe, but Dickerson said he didn't know where that came from.
"I don't know anything about the sole," he said. "I just came down on it wrong and I sprained my forefoot and my ankle. They said something about the sole, but I don't know anything about the sole."
Olson said he hoped to have Dickerson, who said the ankle is "doing fine," back practicing by Wednesday and ready to play Saturday when the Wildcats travel to Houston to play the Cougars. Corey Williams is scheduled to start in Dickerson's place.
Olson said he is hopeful Blair will be back to full speed by the Houston game. The 6-10, 265-pound senior said his ankle was still a bit sore.
For college basketball fans, there are some familiar faces on the Marathon team. Former Arizona State Sun Devil Isaac Burton, a 6-3 guard, plays on the team, as does 6-3 guard Joey Wright, a standout for Texas in the early 1990s.
Missing Valuable Player: In the aftermath of Arizona's 91-81 win over Georgetown, Olson was miffed that the Hoyas' Allen Iverson got the most valuable player award and not Reggie Geary, even though the tournament MVP has come from the winning team the last 11 years. But while he said he could understand Iverson's appeal (the sophomore scored 40 points in the championship game), he was downright amazed by Geary's absence from the all-tournament team.
"My personal feeling has always been that whoever wins the tournament should have the MVP, but my choice for MVP wasn't even on the all-tournament team," Olson said. "Reggie Geary would have been far and away the MVP as far as we would look at it.
"It's ridiculous, really Ÿ anyone who's a knowledgeable basketball person and watches those two games and could not recognize the value Reggie has to us is not a very knowledgeable basketball person."
Geary, who is averaging 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and nine assists a game, brushed off the exclusion, saying there are more important things than individual awards.
"If those accolades come, they come, but we came home with the championship trophy, and I represented myself and my teammates well," he said.
Geary said a lot of voters might have been turned off to him because much of his game Ÿ steadying the offensive attack, clogging passing lanes and applying defensive pressure Ÿ does not show up in the box score.
"I think if you look at the numbers, statistically on paper it might look like I played an average game," Geary said, "but I think I do a lot of things not seen on paper that makes me a better player than people think."
He's a P-T-P'er, baby: It was brought to Olson's attention that Dick Vitale, who was announcing the UA-Michigan NIT semifinal game for ESPN Wednesday, said during the broadcast something to the effect that Arizona, which shot 45 percent for the night, "was throwing up enough bricks to build a condo."
Olson laughed off the comment from the verbose commentator.
"When we use scouting tapes, we try to keep the sound down," he said, "but when it's my buddy Dick, we try to keep the sound off."
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