The Guards

Arizona simply has the best guardline in America, bar none, with Mike Bibby, Miles Simon and backup Jason Terry. The L.A. Times called Bibby the "best point guard in college basketball" but went a little far when it called him the "best point guard in Arizona," better than the Suns' Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson and Steve Nash. But still he's very good.Utah's Andre Miller struggled against West Virginia after a great game against Arkansas. Although he had 14 points and eight assists, he also had four key turnovers and missed some open teammates on the break. Drew Hansen also had a tough time against West Virginia, and he'll have his hands full with Simon and Bibby.

EDGE: ARIZONA

The Forwards

Alex Jensen and Hanno Mottola have each had their shining moments for Utah this season, but Thursday night wasn't one of them. Jensen was tentative and afraid to take a shot as he often is, while Mottola played only 20 minutes and had a season-low four points.

Ute coach Rick Majerus calls Michael Dickerson an NBA first-round pick. The 6-5 Dickerson leads the team in scoring with 18.3 points per game, shoots 52 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range. Bennett Davison, a 6-8 senior, is a two-year starter with an impressive 104 offensive rebounds (Jensen, Utah's best offensive rebounder, has 58). The quick Wildcats forwards will be tough for the bigger Utes to handle.

EDGE: ARIZONA

The Centers

Michael Doleac has been the one constant in the NCAA tournament for the Utes with games of 27, 16 and 25 points. He's especially been impressive at the foul line where he has gone 33 for 37. His rebounding has been suspect during the tourney as he has averaged just 6.3 boards per game. Doleac's biggest problem, though, might be his stamina. He has been showing signs of fatigue in each of the last three games against those pressing defenses.

Arizona's A.J. Bramlett matches Doleac in height at 6-11, but gives away nearly 50 pounds with his 217-pound frame. He averages 10.4 points on 51 percent shooting and 7.5 rebounds, but his free throw shooting is nowhere near Doleac's at just 57.6 percent.

EDGE: UTAH

The Benches

Utah's once-deep bench has gotten thinner as the tournament has moved along. Trace Caton, David Jackson and Jordie McTavish are seeing fewer minutes and contributing less when they're in the game. Center Jon Carlisle didn't even play for the first time all season against West Virgina, giving way to seldom-used Nate Althoff. The Utes' top reserve all of a sudden is freshman Britton Johnsen, who put in a career-high 23 minutes Thursday night and scored seven points.

Arizona guard Jason Terry could start for any other team in the country, and he's played starter's minutes with nearly 23 per game. He averages 10.8 points and is the team's best free throw shooter at 82.2 percent, second in steals and third in assists. Eugene Edgerson, a 6-6 sophomore, started three games this year and plays nearly 18 minutes a game, averaging 4.8 points and 5.5 rebounds. The 6-11 Donnell Harris was a part-time starter last year and is the only other Wildcat who sees significant minutes. Former Bingham High star Quynn Tebbs will play only if it's a blowout.

EDGE: ARIZONA

The Coaches

For years Arizona's Lute Olson was known as the coach who couldn't win the big ones, with several first-round flameouts in the NCAA tournament. All that changed last year when the 'Cats went all the way to the NCAA title. Olson has taken his Arizona teams to 14 straight NCAA tournaments, going to the Sweet 16 seven times and the Final Four three times. He has won 77 percent of his games at Arizona and has a lifetime mark of 565-204 (.735) at Iowa and Arizona.

Utah's Rick Majerus has the same career percentage of .735 in 14 years of coaching and is 208-58 (.781) at Utah. The last four years his teams have won 28, 27, 29 and 27 games and gone to the Sweet 16 three times and the Elite Eight twice. His reputation as one of college coaching's finest minds keeps growing.

EDGE: EVEN

The Intangibles

The Wildcats and the Utes will both have sizable contingents of red-clad fans in the sections behind their benches. However, you'd have to think that the neutral local fans will favor the underdog (101/2 points) Utes against the big, bad Wildcats. But the crowd likely won't be a huge factor in the outcome. Motivation would seem to favor Utah, since it's been so long since they've been to the Final Four, but Arizona seems focused and determined to defend its national championship.

EDGE: EVEN

The Decision

The Wildcats have the talent edge in nearly every department, and the Utes will need one of their finest efforts of the year to keep up with them. To have a chance, Utah needs to get the Wildcat big men in foul trouble and get Doleac, Jensen and Mottola to the line. However the quickness of Arizona's four perimeter players - Bibby, Simon, Dickerson and Terry - may be too much for the Utes to overcome.

PREDICTION: ARIZONA 78, UTAH 69

*****

Additional Information

Utah Runnin' Utes

Statistics for games through: 3/14/98

Player CL G MIN FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT%

Michael Doleac Sr 29 785 148 306 .484 161 198 .813

Andre Miller Jr 31 965 153 270 .567 107 140 .764

Hanno Mottola So 30 846 141 282 .500 78 104 .750

Alex Jensen So 31 846 63 147 .429 62 83 .747

Drew Hansen Sr 30 802 53 117 .453 27 44 .614

Trace Caton Fr 29 437 38 85 .447 18 22 .818

David Jackson So 29 413 31 73 .425 14 18 .778

Britton Johnsen Fr 18 188 19 45 .422 15 29 .517

Jordie McTavish So 31 326 25 69 .362 21 29 .724

Jon Carlisle Fr 30 308 26 46 .565 21 34 .618

Greg Barratt Fr 15 107 11 36 .306 4 8 .500

Nate Althoff Fr 17 98 12 18 .667 6 13 .462

Zach Dalton -- 3 4 1 1 1.000 1 3 .333

Brandon Sluga -- 3 5 0 2 .000 2 3 .667

Doug Gooch Fr 3 5 0 3 .000 0 0 -

Adam Sharp Fr 1 0 0 0 -- 0 0 -

Player 3PM 3PA ORB TRB AST STL TO BLK PF PTS AVG

Michael Doleac 12 30 62 202 15 10 49 29 68 469 16.2

Andre Miller 20 53 45 151 152 68 70 15 62 433 14.0

Hanno Mottola 14 46 51 153 25 11 66 14 68 374 12.5

Alex Jensen 12 42 65 181 72 23 48 4 78 200 6.5

Drew Hansen 39 84 7 86 66 28 25 4 58 172 5.7

Trace Caton 21 50 7 32 22 5 16 5 31 115 4.0

David Jackson 19 46 3 46 43 13 33 3 43 95 3.3

Britton Johnsen 2 9 12 28 10 4 18 2 25 55 3.1

Jordie McTavish 19 53 6 25 29 6 27 0 35 90 2.9

Jon Carlisle 0 0 20 62 9 7 38 15 61 73 2.4

Greg Barratt 1 5 11 29 2 0 4 4 14 27 1.8

Nate Althoff 0 0 13 30 1 1 5 6 20 30 1.8

Zach Dalton 1 1 2 5 0 0 0 0 1 4 1.3

Brandon Sluga 0 0 2 3 0 2 2 0 0 2 0.7

Doug Gooch 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0.0

Adam Sharp 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0

Stats provided by Stats Inc.

Arizona Wildcats

Statistics for games through: 3/19/98

Player CL G MIN FG FGA FG% FT FTA FT%

Michael Dickerson Sr 34 962 239 461 .518 88 117 .752

Miles Simon Sr 34 1069 200 412 .485 140 177 .791

Mike Bibby So 34 1083 206 435 .474 107 141 .759

Jason Terry Jr 34 769 119 283 .420 61 74 .824

A.J. Bramlett Jr 34 902 139 271 .513 75 129 .581

Bennett Davison Sr 34 841 108 182 .593 43 67 .642

Eugene Edgerson So 34 599 51 104 .490 57 81 .704

Donnell Harris Jr 19 219 26 47 .553 14 21 .667

Quynn Tebbs Fr 22 146 21 47 .447 3 5 .600

Ortege Jenkins Fr 11 35 4 11 .364 5 8 .625

Justin Wessel Fr 23 133 12 19 .632 5 8 .625

Josh Pastner So 16 41 3 13 .231 2 3 .667

Jason Stewart Jr 13 26 1 5 .200 3 4 .750

Player 3PM 3PA ORB TRB AST STL TO BLK PF PTS AVG

M. Dickerson 57 138 67 154 60 38 74 8 76 623 18.3

Miles Simon 57 152 33 118 158 45 102 2 48 597 17.6

Mike Bibby 77 192 27 103 198 83 81 7 54 596 17.5

Jason Terry 57 167 13 79 143 59 71 7 52 356 10.5

A.J. Bramlett 0 0 100 253 39 27 44 36 102 353 10.4

Bennett Davison 0 0 90 223 21 57 32 17 75 259 7.6

E. Edgerson 0 0 83 182 13 16 33 16 64 159 4.7

Donnell Harris 0 0 19 57 4 5 17 17 46 66 3.5

Quynn Tebbs 13 29 6 21 14 5 17 0 22 58 2.6

Ortege Jenkins 2 7 2 5 0 2 6 0 6 15 1.4

Justin Wessel 0 0 12 28 6 7 3 0 9 29 1.3

Josh Pastner 1 6 0 5 5 1 9 0 1 9 0.6

Jason Stewart 1 1 0 2 0 0 3 0 2 6 0.5

Stats provided by Stats Inc.