Coach's Corner: Olson on the West Region

Lute Olson has been to the NCAA Tournament 18 straight times. If you factor in his time at Iowa, the legend has participated in the "Big Dance" 23 of the last 24 seasons. His surprising Wildcats are the third seed in the very difficult Western Region.

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Question: What do you see in UCSB?

Olson: "If I were to discuss the style of play, I would say they probably prefer a more controlled half-court offense. They are a man-to-man team, but they will also play a little 2-3 zone. They haven't been a pressing team. I would expect that they would prefer to tempo the game and keep the number of possessions down. The average is 66 points a game, so that is really how they play, a lot of half-court offense. They have excellent shooters as evidenced by their three-point shooting percentage. They, in their tournament, primarily used seven or eight guys. But on the year, they have 10 guys in double figures in minutes."

Question: How tough is the West Region?

Olson: "When you look at the West regional, the number of conference champs that we're talking about certainly indicates that the region, I think, is the toughest of the four. As far as the number three seed, I thought that after winning the tournament we would get a two because of our strength of schedule. There are a lot different RPIs, so the one that the tournament committee uses is not the one that the print media puts out or the net.

"I'm sure the thing that made us a three was the two losses to Oregon because Oregon got a two seed. It's probably unfortunate from our standpoint that we played them as early as we did, with our young team having to play them on the road up there before Christmas and then when we played them back here again we did not have Luke Walton. It's as evident to everybody else now as it was to our staff at the time that trying to play without Luke is very difficult for us. Our schedule is ranked second in the country so it can't be a case of not playing a tough enough schedule. But, I would assume that that had to be the reason-the two losses, early losses to Oregon."

Question: What do you think of what happened to Gonzaga?

Olson: "I'm not on the committee, but I was surprised. I thought Gonzaga would be one of the top four seeds in the West. But it shows you when you play in a league where there are not ranked teams, it's out of your hands. You can't do anything about that, I don't know who Gonzaga played in the non-conference. But I know that they have tried to make that non-conference schedule very difficult. But once conference starts, you can't do anything about it. And we've seen that too, back in the earlier years in the Pac-10 when we didn't have any ranked teams. Our RPI went down as the season progressed. This year because of the ranking of so many of the teams, the RPIs of all of us in the league ended up getting better as the season went on."

Question: Are you worried about having to rely on so many freshmen?

Olson: "They (the three juniors) will be able to give the freshmen a good idea of what it's all about and they've done a good job of that in the past. When you look at our opening the season in Madison Square Garden, there had to be a lot of input from them to the players as far as what to expect. That'll be very true with the NCAA Tournament.

"We've had a lot of time being played by a lot of freshmen. If you take the freshmen group as a core, there are a lot of minutes that have been put in by the freshmen. I said some time ago, maybe a month ago, that Salim Stoudamire doesn't play like a freshman anymore with his composure. If you take a look against USC, he got that 29 points by taking just 10 field goals and missed one shot the whole day and on that one he got clobbered. He didn't get hit on the elbow, he got smashed all the way on the forearm and everything. I couldn't believe that one didn't get called. His movement without the ball was the best out of any of our guys on Saturday. He did a great job of moving and making hard cuts. Right now, he moves better without the ball than our veterans."

Question: What do you think about taking over the nation's longest active streak of consecutive tournament appearances?

Olson:"Maybe we start with 10 points on the board (laughter). That's about as much good as it does you. It's a great compliment to the program that it's been 18 years. If you look at it, it's not a university in a populated area with a lot of players around. That's been the amazing thing that we've been able to stay consistent from year to year. Certainly if anybody were going to say that strong was about to be broken, I'm sure it would have been this year that that would have happened to us."


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