Notes From Wonderland: Expectations surpassed

Wow! That's all I can say about this basketball team. Lute Olson and his staff did an incredible job and guided this freshman-laden team to a 20-win season and a spot in the Sweet 16. Despite losing four starters and three key reserves, the Wildcats proved to the world that Arizona basketball does not rebuild they reload.

I sat at press row at the Compaq Center in San Jose and with about 3:00 left resigned myself that this was indeed the end of the road. I was disappointed, but not upset. I was disappointed the way I'm disappointed when I don't win the lottery. Sure I wanted this team to go a long way, but I knew it was a long shot. Oklahoma was bigger, stronger and older.

This team will be very good next year, possibly great. I hate to say, "wait until next year," but this is a team that is a year away. With everyone back and an infusion of talented recruits, this team could be scary-good.

Honestly, this team did what I thought they'd do, just in a different manner. I told people before the season that they would lose 8-10 games and win a game or two in the tournament. How many games they won didn't surprise me, who they won those games against did. I had no idea Oregon and UConn would be that good. I didn't think they'd lose to ASU. I also didn't think they'd beat Maryland, Florida and Illinois. I didn't think they'd sweep the Bay Area or win the Pac-10 Tournament.

Who knew Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire would be so good? Who knew Jason Gardner could score so well? Who knew Luke Walton could do so much? The only thing that didn't come as a surprise was the coaching ability of this staff. Coach Olson along with Jim Rosborough, Rodney Tention and Jay John did an incredible job and barring one of those coaches leaving for a head coaching job, the group should be back for a title run next season.

Now it is time to switch gears. The softball team has a legitimate shot at another ring. The baseball team enters Pac-10 play with a shot at the post season. Track and Field has a number of great athletes including Briana Glenn and Amy Linnen. Both golf teams will be in the post season. Swimming and diving and gymnastics are also both ranked and headed for great things. It's a good time to be a Wildcat sports fan.

Basketball has concluded, let's salute those young men. At the same time let's get out and salute some other Wildcat athletes.


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