Arizona unwilling to Pac it in like Western brethren

March 20, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Where have you gone, Lew Alcindor? Bill Russell, please call home. Can Pete Newell come back and give these guys some lessons?

Here in the western world, they are wondering what happened to college basketball west of the Rockies. When second-seeded Arizona meets seventh-seeded Virginia (3 p.m.) in a second-round West Region game at the Arco Arena, the Wildcats not only will be playing for themselves, but for the rest of the Pacific-10 Conference and a couple of time zones.

California, UCLA and Washington State, Arizona's Pac-10 brethren, lost first-round games. Heck, Arizona State, Stanford and Southern Cal even lost their NIT openers. The Big West, Big Sky, Western Athletic and West Coast conferences? Likewise, 0-for in the NCAAs.

"It's a relief to have one team show up and play well," Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said after Arizona buried its first-round failures of the past two years and Loyola in an 81-55 rout Friday. "I thought we were a better conference this year, but this is the time you have to show it."

Western hopes are down to Arizona, winner of the Pac-10 for the seventh time in 10 years, against Virginia, which didn't feel completely secure of its NCAA berth until it beat Maryland in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. A March 5 loss at Maryland left the Cavaliers (18-12) with a 15-11 record and on the NCAA bubble.

"Sometimes we beat up on each other so much in the ACC, it can hurt you," Cavaliers coach Jeff Jones said. "But if you can survive there, you're ultimately going to be stronger."

Don't make the mistake of boiling it down to western style vs. eastern substance, because the Wildcats' top player is from New York.

Khalid Reeves, a second-team All-American, burned Loyola for 32 points, improving his season average to 24.0.

Reeves and junior point guard Damon Stoudamire are billed as America's best backcourt, and they have been nearly unstoppable in Arizona's past 15 games. Against Virginia, Stoudamire will be bumped by freshman Harold Deane and Reeves by the 6-7 Cornel Parker, who held Duke's Grant Hill to four points.

"Maybe I'd compare Reeves to [Florida State's] Bob Sura," Parker said. "I really don't know if he has a weakness. He creates shots not only for himself, but for his teammates."

Virginia, which lost junior guard Cory Alexander to a broken leg in the season opener, is viewed as an over-achieving bunch.

Ninth-ranked Arizona, meanwhile, really needs another win to shed the choker label it only partly tore off against Loyola.

"It's not been easy the last 12 months," coach Lute Olson said of the questions the Wildcats faced regarding their first-round losses of the past two tournaments. "We approach the tournament like everyone else. It's a one-game extension of the season, and you hope that you can make it another one-game extension."

The Arizona-Virginia winner will advance to the round of 16 Thursday in Los Angeles against the winner of today's second game between third-seeded Louisville and sixth-seeded Minnesota.

Clifford Rozier, the Louisville All-American who began his college career at North Carolina, got his 23rd double-double of the season in Friday's first-round victory over Boise State.

He'll get plenty of attention from Minnesota, which forced Southern Illinois' front line into 21 turnovers in the Golden Gophers' 74-60 first-round win.

It was only the sixth win away from its home court this season for coach Clem Haskins' team.

WEST REGIONAL

TODAY'S GAMES

at Sacramento, Calif.

No. 2 Arizona (26-5) vs. No. 7 Virginia (18-12), 3 p.m.

No. 3 Louisville (27-5) vs. No. 6 Minnesota (21-11), 5:30 p.m. approx.

Arizona-Virginia: Pacific-10 champion Arizona has maybe the nation's premier backcourt in Khalid Reeves (24.0 points per game) and Damon Stoudamire (18.2), but they'll face a physical challenge from Cornel Parker and Harold Deane, respectively. More than 500 pounds of beef will collide in the pivot, where Junior Burrough (14.8 points, 7.1 rebounds), Virginia's junior center, will test sophomore Joseph Blair. The second-seeded Wildcats shoot better than 49 percent, and the seventh-seeded Cavaliers are at 39.0. Virginia must out-rebound Arizona if it hopes to win.

Louisville-Minnesota: The Golden Gophers can't match the Cardinals' inside game, but in junior Voshon Lenard (18.9 points) and senior Arriel McDonald (10.9 points, 5.5 assists) Minnesota has the kind of backcourt that means so much in the NCAAs. Louisville revolves around junior C Clifford Rozier (19.9 points, 11.3 rebounds), an All-American. Rozier got his 23rd double-double of the season in Friday's first-round victory over Boise State. Coach Denny Crum, who won national titles in 1980 and 1986, has three other starters in double figures. The Cardinals' last loss came in this time zone, March 6 at UCLA.

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