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Last Ride

March 16, 2009

(ASU 68, UA 56)

I hope we all learned our lesson.

Itís never wrong to root against ASU.

It was the exact scenario we needed as the bubble kept shrinking. Big-conference schools Arizona and Wisconsin got in while little guys St. Maryís and Creighton got the boot. Score one for the Sheriff of Nottingham.

It was the opposite of last year when we had to sweat it out to the very end of the selection show. This year, region #1 appears on the screen and Ė bam Ė thereís Arizona.

For the 25th time in a row.

I was wrong. At the beginning of the year I thought this team wasnít good enough. At the end of the year I thought we had fumbled away our bid. I honestly believed we needed 20 wins. I guess the official scorer felt otherwise.

They say you donít know what youíve got till itís gone. Well, we know whatís going to be gone, so weíd better enjoy what weíve got. Barring a recruiting miracle by the new coach (either incoming or outgoing) his first roster will feature no NBA players. Itís going to be a rebuilding process in every sense of the phrase.

Thatís what makes ride #25 so sweet.

You had better appreciate every second of this. Soak in that NCAA Menís Basketball Championship experience. Fill out your brackets. Speculate about potential future matchups. Complain about someone elseís easier draw. Watch, read and listen to all the analysis. Do not miss out on this.

You have a sick day available? Use it on Friday. If you canít be in American Airlines Arena get yourself glued to the TV. From the opening tip to the final buzzer cheer like mad for our Arizona Wildcats. Itís the proverbial ďone last chance.Ē

We are once again a part of the greatest event in American sports.

The Sun Devils did their best to knock us out, both by winning (against us) and losing (to USC). Weíll end our own streak, thank you very much.

As the clock wound down in our Pac-10 tournament loss I found myself feeling bad for Lute sitting there in the stands. There he was in person, watching his program Ė his legacy Ė slipping away. Obviously four years of decline donít wipe out 21 years of elite play, but when you tack on whatís going to happen next year, itís not Luteís program any more.

Thereís a big difference between building a multi-million-dollar company and smoothly handing it over to your children, and building that same company and leaving your grandkids with nothing but an empty warehouse.

In that sense it seemed fitting to get left out. Kevin OíNeill ended the 20-win-seasons streak and Russ Pennell was going to end the NCAA tournament streak. Hire the new guy and start over at ground zero.

I guess Team Russ gets to carry the Lute banner on one final mission.

°Bienvenido a Miami! Thatís a long way to go for an old-school WAC contest. My key to the game: Bud-Wise-R. Chase and Nic have to be Really great.

Even against Utahís 7-2 guy I expect Jordan Hillís typical game: 15 to 20 points, 8 to 30 rebounds. Itís the other guys who have to bring it. Nic was terrible against Washington and Cal. Chase was dreadful against ASU. We need both guys hitting from the outside or we wonít return from Miami with anything but 3,812 frequent flier miles.

Sun Devil fans have been waiting 25 years to get us out of the NCAA tournament and now they canít even get us out of the site of their game. Hey, times are tough. Maybe we should carpool to South Beach.

Tempe vs. Temple. Who gets the L?

The interesting thing about this year is we have three horses in the race: Arizona, Whoeverís Playing ASU, and Our New Coachís Team. The problem is weíre not sure of the identity of that third steed.

If the heavily-rumored candidates list is correct we have the potential to hire a coach with some serious momentum. 4-seed Gonzaga, 2-seeds Memphis and Michigan State, 1-seed Pitt, and overall #1-seed Louisville. How about a Final Four of Pitino, Calipari, Dixon and Few?

Then thereís this hypothetically dramatic scenario: Kentucky fires Billy Gillispie for failing to make the NCAAs, then they try to bring back Rick Pitino. Could the teams that met in the 1997 championship game end up fighting for the coach who lost it?

Before we find out, Arizona is a couple wins away from another chance to end Pitinoís season.

One last time.

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