Utah, Arizona match differences Stingy Utes have hands full vs. Wildcats' all-out style

West Regional

March 21, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The NCAA West Regional final provides one contrast after another, but what's the most noticeable difference between Arizona and Utah?

"I don't have a lot of combs," Rick Majerus said.

"He eats a lot more pizza than I do," Lute Olson said.

Majerus is the folically impaired, rotund, wise-cracking coach who has brought Utah plenty of basketball glory in the 1990s. Olson is the perfectly groomed, guarded fellow who talks like a character from Lake Wobegon, and woe to the teams that have challenged his Arizona squad the past two Marches.

The Utes have been pressed and pushed in all three of their NCAA tournament games, and today at the Arrowhead Pond they'll try to keep pace with the Wildcats, the defending champions who sound as if they are already preparing for North Carolina at the Final Four in San Antonio.

"Everyone thinks Arizona's going to win," Utah center Michael Doleac said. "I watched a Sweet 16 show, and everyone put Arizona in the Final Four. Well, that's what we're shooting for, too."

Arizona is one of the nation's highest-scoring teams. Utah one of the stingiest. The Wildcats glide like a Jamaican sprint relay team, the Utes plod like a team of Clydesdales.

Arizona's Mike Bibby doesn't like being hassled for autographs, while Doleac said college basketball players "are treated like kings." Majerus recruited several of the Wildcats' stars, while Utes guard Drew Hansen said, "I don't think Lute's heard of Tooele," his hometown in Utah.

The Wildcats have three All-Americans. The Utes have two Academic All-Americans. Numerous strings were pulled in Tucson last year to ensure Miles Simon's eligibility for the drive to the NCAA title. Majerus is campaigning for Doleac, with his 3.41 grade-point average in biology, to get into Utah's medical school.

Bibby and his teammates are the ultimate gym rats, driven to see who can take the most practice shots on New Year's Eve. Doleac considers his physics class a "nice diversion" from basketball, and would rather go fishing than work on his turnaround jumper.

Arizona will throw all manner of full-court defenses at Utah, but really, who's the pressure on? Utah is one of three teams to reach the Sweet 16 three straight years, the others being Kentucky and North Carolina, and one of these years, Majerus is going to sneak a team into the Final Four.

If that's going to happen today, the Utes will have to do a better job of handling the Wildcats' interior defense than Maryland did in Thursday's semifinal.

Center A. J. Bramlett and forward Bennett Davison didn't allow Obinna Ekezie a single shot in the first half. He finished 1-for-5 from the field, and Rodney Elliott was 6-for-16. Doleac is a different challenge, a 6-foot-11, 265-pound load who also has made 40 percent of his three-pointers.

What's the secret to the success of Bramlett and Davison? How do they disrupt so many bigger players.

"A. J. is not going to get in an arm-wrestling contest with Doleac," Olson said. "The thing we try to stress is, 'Don't let your man get a read on how you play him; use your quickness.' "

Like everyone else, Utah frets about Arizona's All-America trio of Bibby, Simon and Michael Dickerson. It's not just the Wildcats' three-point power that is dangerous, but their full-court defense, which Utes point guard Andre Miller will attempt to deflect.

Arizona's speed killed Utah last season, when the Utes had a 40-29 halftime lead on the Wildcats and still lost. How can the Utes hope to keep up, and quash the conjecture that had a talk show man here discussing Arizona's Final Four plans?

"I don't know who that announcer was," Majerus said, "but I venture to say that two weeks ago he had Kansas in the Final Four."

West Regional final

At Anaheim, Calif.

No. 1 seed Arizona (30-4)

vs. No. 3 Utah (28-3)

Time: 3: 30 p.m. today

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Line: Arizona by 10 1/2

Conference record: Arizona was 17-1 and won the title in the Pac-10, which doesn't have a tournament. Utah was 12-2 in the WAC's Mountain Division, and lost a quarterfinal game there to UNLV.

Coaches: Lute Olson is 373-112 in 15 seasons at Arizona, 565-204 in 25 seasons overall; Rick Majerus is 208-58 in nine seasons at Utah, 307-110 in 14 seasons overall.

Starting lineups: Arizona: PG Mike Bibby (17.5 ppg, 5.8 apg), G Miles Simon (17.5 ppg, 4.7 apg), F Michael Dickerson (18.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg), F Bennett Davison (7.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg), C A.J. Bramlett (10.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg). Utah: PG Andre Miller (14.0 ppg, 4.9 apg), G Drew Hansen (5.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg), F Alex Jensen (6.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg), F Hanno Mottola (12.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg), C Michael Doleac (16.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg).

Bench strengths: Arizona: G Jason Terry (10.4 ppg, 4.3 apg), F Eugene Edgerson (4.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg), C Donnell Harris (3.5 ppg, XTC 3.0 rpg). Utah: G David Jackson (3.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg), G Trace Caton (4.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg), F Britton Johnsen (3.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg).

Key matchup: Arizona's interior defense is a given, but Utah might be more concerned with how Miller deals with the pressure defense of Dickerson, the Wildcats' forward who often guards the opposition's point guard.

What Arizona needs to do to win: The Wildcats don't have to bring their "A" game. As always, they want to get their three-point shooters open and produce easy baskets with their pressure.

What Utah needs to do to win: Make their free throws, and don't back off. When the Utes get past the Wildcats' full-court defense, they've got to finish strong at the basket.

Bottom line: If Utah couldn't get a basket in the last nine minutes against West Virginia, how does it expect to keep up with Arizona?

Pub Date: 3/21/98

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