Strange season comes to an end

As the end of the 05-06 men's basketball season draws to a close, it's a welcome end to one of the wildest basketball seasons. At no time in recent memory had fans experienced so many highs and so many lows. The final game against Villanova left fans with a good taste in their mouths, but there were plenty of frustrating moments as well.

Consider some of the highlights. This is an Arizona team that beat the Washington Huskies, a sweat sixteen team, on their home court. They gave UConn, another Sweet 16 team all they could handle. They beat Kansas early on and went to double overtime with a decent Michigan State club.

Of course, this is the same Arizona team lost to both Oregon and Oregon State, two of the worst teams in the Pac-10. At some points the Cats looked in danger of not making the tournament at all, while at others they looked like world beaters. Then in the NCAA tournament they gave Villanova, a number one seed and title contender, a major scare in what amounted to a home game of the East Coast Wildcats.

Which brings us to the legacy this team while leave on the Arizona program. This will be the team that looked, at times, like it had not gotten over the devastating loss to Illinois in the elite eight the previous season. Jawann McClellan had a summer that would be hard for any young man, dealing with personal tragedy, academically ineligibility and injury. The team dealt with a blow that effect the entire athletics program-the death of Shawntinice Polk. This will be the team whose senior leadership consisted of Chris Rogers, who was kicked of the team for part of the season, Hassan Adams who was in legal trouble-twice and Isaiah Fox, who spent part of the season, injured and contributed little to the team.

This is the Arizona team that is full of ‘what ifs'. What if Arizona had swept the Oregon schools instead of being swept? What if they could have made some free throws against Michigan State? What if they hadn't blown the last home game of the season against Washington-a game that Arizona lead for all but the final half minute?

A few of those ‘what ifs' go their way and we are talking about a four or five seed, not a scrappy eight seed. We're discussing an Arizona team playing their first Tournament games in San Diego, not Philadelphia.

This is also the Arizona team that went into the tournament with all the chips down-and dominated a Wisconsin team from the physical Big Ten. This is an Arizona team who seemed to come up with a big win when they need one, such as the first round of the Pac-10 tourney where they really helped themselves by eliminating the possibility of Stanford winning the conference. This is the Arizona program that went deeper in the tournament then Kansas and was not alone in second round elimination, joined by the likes of North Carolina and Kentucky.

When all is said and done this team could be one of the worst in the Olson era. It might also have also been one of the least "likable." In ten years, fans likely won't remember much about this team. They didn't go to the Final Four, but they didn't lose in the first round. There are not many, if any, top NBA prospects at least among the seniors class.

The real legacy of this team will be what happens next year. How do the returning players react to the way this season went? If they learned from this teams miss steps and accomplishments then next year has a chance to be a great year and this season will be looked as a "building year." If they are not able to learn-then this could be looked at as the beginning of the end of the Arizona basketball program as we know it.

Wildcat Authority Top Stories