Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fear Not, Said Simon to Arizona National Champions Proved to Be Ready

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fear Not, Said Simon to Arizona National Champions Proved to Be Ready

Article excerpt

We're not scared, Miles Simon spent the month of March proclaiming. And even if it was just his way of trying to brainwash himself and his University of Arizona teammates, no fear ever surfaced.

Not when the Wildcats trailed South Alabama and College of Charleston by 10 points in their first two NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional games. Not when Arizona, a mere No. 4 seed, was preparing for No. 1 seed Kansas (Southeast) . . . and No. 1 seed North Carolina (East) . . . and, finally, No. 1 seed Kentucky (West) in Monday's NCAA title game at the RCA Dome.

The only time Simon so much as blinked amid March Madness was last week at the "Fan Jam," adjacent to the RCA Dome, where he turned away when told he would have to pay a $6 entry fee. But in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, after this remarkable Arizona team had out-endured Kentucky 84-79 in overtime, Simon could let go of his bravado. "This," he said, "is the most unbelievable thing I've ever done." Simon could be pardoned if he was referring only to himself, considering he had tied his career high with 30 points, considering he had told his teammates to keep giving him the ball because nobody on Kentucky could cover him. His context, though, was as it has been all season: The team. He was part of an unbelievable team. A team that: Wouldn't have surprised had it lost in the first round, considering it had done that six times in 12 previous tournament berths under Olson. For the aforementioned reason was scrawled in the Final Four in, oh, about three office bracket sheets in cities not named Tucson, Ariz. Lost its last two regular-season games, finished in fifth place in the Pacific 10 Conference and had no senior in its regular rotation. "It definitely was something," Arizona coach Lute Olson said, "that seemed like a stretch." Few would dispute Arizona's talent, but the Wildcats were nearly universally perceived as a team a year away from peaking. Instead, as Kentucky coach Rick Pitino had almost forecast, Arizona didn't know what it didn't know - or what it couldn't or shouldn't be able to do. "I think we went into the Final Four with an advantage: We didn't have a care in the world. …

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