Now we can talk about the streak.

Twenty-five glorious years. The second-longest NCAA basketball tournament run of all time. And the Arizona Wildcats have a chance to make it 26.

All season long the message has been to let go of the streak and prepare for it to end. I still maintain that was the proper mindset…for the first 30 games of the season.

Now it’s time to give in to four months of built-up anxiety. Arizona’s beloved March Madness streak ends if the Cats lose this week! Dwell on it, obsess about it, and hope our team plays like it.

This week isn’t about foundation-building and long-term thinking. This week Sean Miller needs to do all he can to win three games and get into the Dance.

Whatever it takes. Gimmicks. Tricks. Junk defenses. Hack-a-Boateng. You name it, it should be in play.

The best players get all the minutes they can handle this week. You can develop other players next week. Just win. No excuses. No distractions.

The streak is on life support. But it’s not dead yet.

– – – – –

Nic Wise. Dominique “Niq” Wise. How often do you get four chances at a storybook ending on your senior day after playing for four coaches in four years?

Dribble it off your foot down one at the end of regulation. Miss two free throws up four with 49 seconds left (then your coach draws up the next in-bounds play to get someone else to the line). Miss a jumper at the end of the first overtime. But Niq got his rewrite and the fourth time was the charm for #13.

How does Kyle Fogg go from 0-for-9 against Oregon (and 28% from the field over a five game streatch) to raining seven threes on UCLA and making the most intense three free throws possible against USC? Let’s hope Kyle hasn’t used up his cool guy points.

Note to the McKale Center technical staff: Before next season you may want to adjust the scoreboard closed captioning so it no longer credits the occasional basket to “Bobo Jones.”

You have to bench Jamelle Horne for the UCLA game, don’t you? After floating around for nine rebounds in three games Horne sat for the opening tip last Thursday and responded with 16 boards over the weekend. Mind games should certainly be in play this week.

It took Kevin O’Neill 31 seconds to call his first timeout on Saturday. Ah, the memories.

KO

"And don't get me started on the Gem Show!"
Photo from TucsonCitizen.com

So how much does KO hate the University of Arizona right now? He gets run out of town after being named Lute’s successor, then he takes over at USC after the UA has pillaged his recruiting class. In this game you had the shot clock violation (no way Fogg got that shot off), the three-point foul (hardly ever called), and the game-winner where Wise may or may not have travelled (I don’t think he did). The Tucson Visitors Bureau should probably cross O’Neill off the list of potential spokespeople.

The longest regular season in the past 25 years didn’t want to end but the postseason is finally here. How on earth are the Cats going to win the Pac-10 tournament? I’m glad you asked.

Start stronger.
Arizona has been trailing at the half in each of its last six games (and the margin has been at least five every time).

Attack.
If someone is Fogg-like from beyond the arc, so be it. But don’t launch up three after three while you wait for someone to get hot. Get into the lane and make things happen. Niq and MoMo – a.k.a. Wise and Otherwise – need to keep the pedal down.

Feed the big man.
Derrick Williams is our best offensive player. Give him the ball. I don’t care if they’re playing a zone. Move the ball, dribble-penetrate, and create lanes for #23 to get clean touches.

Big man, feed yourself.
Williams made 63% of his free throws in his first 12 games. It then jumped to 80% over his next 12 games, but now he’s back down to 57% over his past six games. I’ve never heard of a streak free-throw shooter, but it would help a lot to have the good streak come back.

Win on Thursday.
Just don’t lose to UCLA in the first round. Please? If Cal’s big three all hit their shots and you exit in round two, so be it. But don’t kill the 25-year tournament streak by losing to the worst UCLA team since Steve Lavin and his exercise bike were involved.

Bottom line, is it possible? In a word, yes. If you could hand-pick a year to try and steal the Pac-10’s automatic bid this is it. Six of the nine teams in the tournament are 16-14 or worse. This is the time to be thankful for conference mediocrity.

The Wildcats could have quit any number of times this year. But they didn’t. They could have been defeated in each of the past three games. But they weren’t. Now they might end the most impressive achievement in the history of UA athletics.

Might.