The nets have been cut down. The basketballs have been put away. The upholstery has been extinguished.
The 2012 college basketball season is now in the history books. With the Kentucky Wildcats in the championship game you couldn’t blame Arizona fans for thinking of their own “One Shining Moment” 15 years ago.
March of 1997 was the month it all came together for Lute Olson and his brand of Wildcats. Thanks to modern technology you can relive the title game in its entirety for free. Join me for a dribble-drive down memory line.
0:00:01 – How did we survive without the score and clock on the screen at all times? We’re going to have to use the elapsed time on the video instead.
0:00:07 – Kentucky entered this game with a 35-4 record. The Wildcats would not beat that win total until this year’s team won 38.
0:00:54 – Mike Bibby scores the first basket of the game on a nice crossover in transition. I’m really surprised the tight-neck sleeveless undershirt didn’t take off.
0:01:03 – The first score graphic appears on the screen. I don’t think of the ‘90s as that long ago but, compared to TV today, this may as well be the 1977 championship game.
0:01:43 – Close-up of Michael Dickerson’s floating sideburns. I’m not surprised at all that trend didn’t take off.
0:02:14 – “Road to the Championship” graphics. Arizona’s largest margin of victory in the tournament was eight points. Kentucky won games by 38, 15 and 13. Survive and advance.
0:04:51 – UK’s Scott Padgett with a pick-and-pop three. He’s now an assistant coach for the Manhattan Jaspers. Now you know.
0:07:28 – “Over the last 10 years Arizona has the best win percentage in all of college basketball.” It was .812 compared to Kansas’ .799 and Kentucky’s .779. Thank you, Coach Olson. Thank you.
0:07:50 – The first-round losses are mentioned. Come on now, 2-seeds lose to 15-seeds all the time. Right, Coach K?
0:07:58 – Immediately after that we’re told Lute was 4-0 in Regional Finals (including at Iowa). Starting with the next season he went 1-3 to finish his career.
0:11:10 – Dickerson makes Arizona’s first 3-pointer and trips over Rick Pitino on the sidelines. Dickerson was actually the leading scoring on this team. He averaged 18.9 points per game to Simon’s 18.4
0:13: 50 – Arizona 16, Kentucky 13 at the 10:16 mark. Neither team shooting well.
0:15:15 – A young Eugene Edgerson pulls down a rebound. He hadn’t grown his hair out yet but his elbows were already flying.
0:19:50 – Kentucky shoots its first free throws with just over seven minutes left in the half. Arizona ended up with a 41-17 free throw advantage. Any UK fans watching this might start another riot.
0:27:55 – Tied at 28 with 3:37 left in the 1st half. Both teams are shooting under 40%. We’re reminded Arizona only shot 33% in the national semifinal game against North Carolina. Defense (and free throws) wins championships.
0:31:53 – Young Gene makes both of his only free throws of the night. They say he’s a 39% shooter on the year. How could any UA fan have been worried at that point?
0:33:40 – 33-32 West Cats at the half.
0:37:39 – Simon scores on a floater in the lane. He owned that shot.
0:38:55 – Simon commits a foul with 16.5 minutes left, his first foul in 115 game minutes. I guess he owned that too.
0:41:07 – Donnell Harris with the steal on one end and the offensive putback on the other. Arizona leads by six with 15 minutes left. Take a TO, Ricky P! Take a TO!
0:46:15 – With Arizona’s white warm-ups the Cats look like they’re ready for a karate tournament.
0:49:20 – Ron Mercer with a tip-in and we are tied at 44 with 11 and change remaining.
0:50:25 – Kentucky is really picking it up on the glass. Mercer with a circus and-one to give the East Cats the lead.
0:52:16 – Harris banks in a free throw. Again, why was there any worry?
0:57:08 – Jason Terry with a high-arcing three with Padgett in his face to give the UA a 55-54 lead with 6:35 remaining. Money player (in more ways than one).
0:58:20 – Harris goes over the back to join A.J. Bramlett with four fouls. Six minutes to go. Can you feel the 15-year-old anxiety??
1:02:44 – Scattered sequence: Kentucky steal, pass ahead to midcourt, Terry re-steal, crosscourt pass to Bibby who drains the three to break a 59-all tie at the five minute mark. Lots of jumping on the UA bench.
1:03:10 – Padgett answers with a three of his own. He is carrying Kentucky in the 2nd half.
1:08:28 – Bibby with a big offensive rebound and two free throws to extend the lead to three. The freshman point guard ended up with a team-high nine boards.
1:09:35 – But Bibby also had eight turnovers. He commits a charge after jumping to make a pass near midcourt with two minutes left. Two free throws from Padgett and UK is back in front.
1:12:12 – Simon leaks out on an inbounds play in the backcourt for a breakaway. Jared Prickett grabs him from behind and is called for an intentional foul. This could have just about iced things but Simon missed one of the free throws and Anthony Epps stole the inbounds pass.
1:16:15 – Mercer comes around a screen for a catch-and-shoot three to narrow the gap to one with 51.1 seconds left. I’m glad I know how this turns out.
1:16:50 – Bibby drive and dish to Davison for the layup. The lead is three!
1:17:00 – Epps with an up-and-under three past Bibby. The lead is zero!
1:17:10 – No timeout. Simon tries to go one-on-four and his shot doesn’t hit the rim. Overtime.
1:25:18 – Arizona makes five free throws around a lot of Kentucky misses.
1:28:18 – Padgett with a pump-fake and a good look at a three… Short! Simon grabs the rebound, gets fouled and the parade to the free throw line begins again.
1:31:09 – Simon makes free throws 13 and 14 for points 29 and 30. I went to the Dave and Buster’s in Irvine once and they had Polaroids of the customers who made the most consecutive free throws. Number one on the list? Miles Simon. I wonder how many tickets he got for that.
1:32:22 – “A Miles-stone victory for Arizona!” “Simon says, ‘Championship.’”
Pitino and Kentucky won the tournament in 1996. Tubby Smith won it with UK in ’98. Kentucky was that close to the only three-peat since Wooden. This year the Wildcats are champions once again.
As for Arizona? The transition from the Lute Olson era was anything but smooth but Sean Miller appears to be assembling the pieces needed to make a championship run.
Can he take the Cats all the way back to the mountain top? That’s the question and the waiting game. At least it won’t take 15 years to find out.
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