Enjoy the ride

There is one game left this season and I still don't know what to make of this Wildcat basketball team. I think they are really good, but just how good I don't know. This is a team that could be in for a long run in March, but then again, can't you picture them losing early.

They aren't the most likeable team, I mean Tucson turns on them every few weeks. Before the Washington State game fans were practically cursing out radio talk show hosts who said "it is doubtful that Arizona will win the national championship." Then after the trip to the Evergreen State callers on the "Lute Olson Coach's Show" actually called in to ask Jim Rosborough why Dick Bennett out-coached them and why the team was not better coached.

It is almost funny how quickly the fans turn on these guys. Sure, Tucsonans have always been fickle, but this is strange. You have a five loss team, tied for the lead in the Pac-10, and the fans are not on board.

The problem is that there is no Sean Elliott, no Jason Terry, no Miles Simon. There isn't even a Steve Kerr or a Jason Gardner. There is no player that the fans love and have the utmost faith in.

For whatever reason the fans have not embraced Channing Frye. Here is a smart, well spoken, four-year starter who is going to leave as one of the top three or four centers in school history, yet the fans bash him. They want him to be a bruiser inside and because he's a finesse, face-up big man they call him "soft". Instead of praising him for his ability, wit and character off the court, they seem ready to usher him out the door.

The fans have never embraced Salim Stoudamire. Sure he's moody. He's been a distraction. He's been suspended for on-court reasons, but he isn't a bad guy. He is at worst the second best shooter in the Olson era. He's never been in any trouble off the floor. No arrests, no academic suspensions, no character issues. Salim has been in trouble for having bad body language and not always being the best team guy.

Frankly, he's bad with the media, but he's better than a lot of guys. Few remember that Gilbert Arenas refused to speak with the media for over a month while he was struggling in 2001. Other guys have refused to answer questions or been so difficult that it wasn't worth the effort.

Salim is not the easiest player to cover, but he isn't a bad guy. He may not be all smiles and sound bites like Jason Terry, but he's one of the best scorers the program has seen.

Fans are frustrated with others on this team and because of it they refuse to get on board. Sure Ivan Radenovic is up and down, but so was Ricky Anderson. Mustafa Shakur hasn't been the dominating player he was billed to be, but when did Jason Terry take over games? Sure, you can argue there were better players ahead of him, but was he ready to have the keys to the program handed to him as a sophomore?

This is a team that has lost five games. Three of which you can argue were bad losses. Other Wildcat elite teams have lost bad games. In 1988 the Cats lost at New Mexico and at Stanford. That Stanford club was not half as good as the one the Cats faced in January.

In 1994 the Cats lost to Cal, at Washington and at ASU. That wasn't this year's version of Washington. Granted it was a pretty good Cal team, but the Cats did just fine come March. The 98 edition fell at Florida State and at USC. That Florida State team was not as good as Virginia and Washington State would have downed that edition of the Trojans.

Is this team guaranteed success? No. They have a lot of questions to answer. They have to get solid play at the point. They need to rebound well and halt dribble penetration.

They also have a lot of good things going for them. They have one of the best scorers in the country. The have three players in the post over 6-10. Hassan Adams has shown he can fill up the stat line with improved rebounding and passing.

I firmly believe they can beat any team in the country. I also know that there are probably 30-40 teams in the Tournament that can upend them. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, look at the possibilities. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

It may just be a long one.

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