The Wildcats are firmly established among the nation's annual power programs, a credit to 22 seasons under Olson. Already the career wins leader at Arizona, Olson now ranks second only to the legendary Wooden for Pac-10 victories (290) and conference championships (ten). His 1997 team won the national championship, and Arizona has reached the Final Four four times since 1988. There's no secret formula for such success: great players. In fact, 24 Wildcats have been drafted by the NBA in the last 15 years, tied with Duke for most in this span. Olson has inked 13 McDonald's All-Americans, and three of them will be playing against State—Hassan Adams, Mustafa Shakur, and Jawann McClellan. And none of them are even leading this team in scoring right now. That distinction belongs to senior guard Salim Stoudamire at 16.7 points. This will be the most purely talented team the Bulldogs face all regular season, including Syracuse, Florida, and Kentucky. It's also likely the deepest, with four starters and nine total lettermen returned from a squad that went 20-10 and ended the year ranked #22. Last March was a letdown for the Wildcats though, as they lost in the first round of the NCAAs. Expectations are much higher for this club, and if all the experienced parts fit together Arizona has all the makings of another certified national contender.
Probable Starting Lineups
Arizona: F Ivan Radenovic, 6-10 SO, 8.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg; C Channing Frye, 6-11 SR, 10.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 9 blks; G Salim Stoudamire, 6-1 SR, 16.7 ppg, 21 3pts; G Hassan Adams, 6-4 JR, 12.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg; PG Mustafa Shakur, 6-3 SO, 9.5 ppg, 6.3 asts.
UA Backups: G Jawann McClellan, 6-4 FR, 8.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg; G Chris Rodgers, 6-4 JR, 2.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg; F Isaiah Fox, 6-9 JR, 4.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 7.4 ppg, 4.3 apg; G Winsome Frazier, 6-4 SR, 14.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 16 3pts; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 6.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 16.2 ppg, 11.2 rpg; F Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 10.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 9 3pts.
Scoring: MSU 68.4 ppg, Arizona 73.7 ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 58.1, Arizona 67.7
Rebounding: MSU 40.7, Arizona 41.8
Shooting: MSU 42.5%, Arizona 40.4%
Defense: MSU 36.3%, Arizona 44.7%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 48 treys on 34.5%, Arizona 39 treys on 35.5%
This is only the third meeting of the two schools from sunbelt conferences, and they have split the previous two games. Way back in 1970-71 Arizona took 77-75 win in the Poinsettia Classic played in Greenville, S.C. Three decades later, playing in Tucson, the Bulldogs handed the Wildcats their first-ever loss in 31 Fiesta Bowl Classic games by beating UA 75-74 on Dec. 30, 2001. There were seven ties and nine lead changes in the game the final coming when MSU guard Antonio Jackson hit a running jumper with ten seconds left for the margin of victory. Jackson was tourney MVP after scoring 22 points in the final round.
Did You Know?
Arizona finally gets a break, hosting Utah on December 11. The Bulldogs return home to face Arkansas-Little Rock on the same date.