Purdue and Arizona square off in first round of NCAA Tournament
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) – Tied for the longest individual streak in
NCAA Tournament history with North Carolina’s legendary Dean Smith, Arizona
head coach Lute Olson brings his Wildcats to New Orleans Arena tonight to take
part in his 23rd straight NCAA Tournament, facing the Purdue Boilermakers in
Olson and the Wildcats are chasing the Tar Heels for the longest run in
history, needing another four years to match the 27 straight appearances by UNC
between 1975-2001. As far as the 2006-07 campaign is concerned though, Arizona
ranked as high as seventh in the nation after opening with an 11-1 mark, but
then the soft schedule turned into a rough and tumble run through the Pac-10.
As a result, the team went just 11-7 in league play, at one point losing five
of six games. The team looked completely lost in a 69-50 setback to Oregon in
the quarterfinals of the Pac-10 Tournament, and still the ‘Cats made the
postseason based on past history for the most part. Certainly, being seeded
eighth in the Midwest Region had much more to do with the squad’s 41-24 record
in the event and the fact that they won the 1997 national championship with an
84-79 overtime victory against Kentucky, than it did with non-conference
blowout wins over the likes of Northern Arizona, New Mexico State, Samford and
Houston this season.
As for the ninth-seeded Boilermakers, they too padded their early non-
conference slate with victories over Northern Colorado, Western Carolina,
Delaware State and Loyola-Chicago, and just like Arizona, the team also had
issues when going up against the rest of the Big Ten Conference. Purdue pounded
on the weaker members of the league and fell hard versus the elite, losing to
top-ranked Ohio State during the conference tournament in Chicago last weekend
by a score of 63-52 in the semifinals. Having played in the tournament 20 times
previously, the Boilermakers carry a 27-20 record into the event this time
around, having their greatest success in 1969 when they became yet another
victim of the UCLA machine in a 92-72 decision in Louisville.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood,
the squads are meeting for the 11th time, having already split 10 encounters.
The most recent of those affairs took place during the 2001 Wooden Classic in
Anaheim, with Arizona claiming a 79-66 victory.
The winner of this contest will play again on Sunday in the second round,
taking on the winner of the Jackson State/Florida meeting.
Constantly being compared to two of the top programs in the nation in Ohio
State and Wisconsin, the Boilermakers didn’t stand out all that much this
season. However, Carl Landry did manage to get his name on the All-Big Ten
First Team by leading the squad with 18.9 ppg and 7.1 rpg. Landry, who finished
second in the league in shooting (.598), behind only OSU phenom Greg Oden,
played close to 30 minutes per game for the group and made an incredible 191-
of-264 at the free-throw line. While his 72.3 percent accuracy is nothing all
that impressive, the fact that his closest teammate attempted only 72 shots at
the stripe, meant that he had made almost three times as many opportunities.
Perhaps the one drawback to Landry’s game is that he tries to force the ball
when he doesn’t have a shot, and that has resulted in 94 turnovers, against a
mere 37 assists. As the only other double-digit scorer on the roster, David
Teague accounts for 14.3 ppg and is also second in rebounding (5.1 rpg) and
third in assists (63), while shooting 42.9 percent behind the three-point line.
Chris Lutz (5.9 ppg), a starter in only 10 of 32 games this season, was the
only other player on the squad to have converted more than 20 three-point
baskets for Purdue, hitting 54-of-116 for a team-best 46.6 percent.
Flying under the radar, the Wildcats managed to post the top scoring offense in
the Pac-10 this season with 78.5 ppg, but on the flip side Arizona’s defense
was second-to-worst in the league as well, giving up 72.5 ppg. Playing a little
less physical than in previous years, the Wildcats were deemed too soft by some
as they averaged a mere 13.4 personal fouls per game, which was the fewest in
all of Division I. However, when it came to working the glass the squad was
second to only Washington in the Pac-10 with a rebounding margin of six
rebounds per game. Most of that had to do with the efforts of Ivan Radenovic,
one of three players to have started all 30 games, as he finished with 7.6 rpg
to go along with his 15.2 ppg. Marcus Williams and Chase Budinger accounted for
16.8 and 15.6 ppg, respectively, not to mention a combined 12.7 rpg as well.
Mustafa Shakur, who played the most minutes of anyone on the roster (1,042),
checked in with 12.0 ppg and 4.0 rpg, but more importantly was first in the
conference and third in the nation in terms of assists with close to seven per
outing. Better yet, for someone who handled the ball as much as he did, Shakur
was guilty of just 106 turnovers, giving him an assist-to-turnover ratio of
almost 2-to-1 in 2006-07.