Utah coach Rick Majerus would probably rather be playing any team in the country today than Arizona, a guard-oriented team his Utes have a difficult time matching up with. Then again, maybe he doesn't care that he's facing the defending national champions.
Majerus and the Utes have been exhibiting a quiet confidence since their win over West Virginia and don't seem the least bit intimidated that they're facing another Wildcat team (the Kentucky Wildcats ended their season the past two years)."We have a little plan I really like," said Majerus. "It's nothing big, nothing no one's ever seen before. But it's nice for us. It's a little wrinkle I think our kids feel really good about."
Majerus isn't guaranteeing that it will work, however.
"Tomorrow if it doesn't work, I'll say we didn't do it," said Majerus with a laugh.
WHERE'S HANNO: One of the interesting twists of the Utah postseason has been the emergence of freshman Britton Johnsen and the disappearance of Hanno Mottola.
In last Saturday's win over Arkansas, Johnsen replaced Mottola for the final 9:32 of the game. Then in Thursday's win over West Virginia, Johnsen played more minutes than Mottola (23 to 20) for the first time all season.
Johnsen has gradually been rounding into shape after sitting out several weeks with a knee injury, gaining more confidence and having coach Majerus show more faith in him.
He scored eight points on 4 of 6 from the field against Arkansas and had seven points and four rebounds against West Virginia.
But what has happened to Mottola, who scored a season-low four points Thursday after getting just nine against Arkansas? Mottola told Majerus that he has been "trying too hard" lately. So Majerus instructed Mottola to "let the game come to him more."
Majerus also said that "maybe it's a good omen" that Mottola hasn't played as well as he should have. Perhaps he's been saving one of his best games for today against Arizona.
WHERE'S ALEX: When Majerus and the Ute starters showed up for the press conference after practice Friday afternoon, Alex Jensen was a noticeable absentee.
"Alex is not here because he's playing Catlett one-on-one right now," said Majerus. That got a roar from the media because West Virginia coach Gale Catlett had said he could beat Majerus in a one-on-one game.
Actually Jensen was taking a final exam for school back at the hotel.
SIMON SAYS: Arizona's all-American guard Miles Simon is the son of former Utah guard Walt Simon, who played for the Utes back when they were called the Runnin' Redskins in the late 1960s. In fact, Simon was a member of the 1966 Utah team that went to the Final Four.
Young Simon said he wasn't recruited to Utah out of Mater Dei High School in nearby Fullerton. "They didn't even recruit me and I've never even been to Utah," said Simon.
However, last year when Simon had to sit out because of academic difficulties he considered transferring to Utah.
"When I was out, I had thought a lot about transferring to Utah, to tell you the truth," Simon said. "My dad is friends with (Utah assistant) Donny Daniels and he talked to him, but I decided the best thing was to stick it out."
SIMON SAYS II: Simon said he has watched some old films of his father when he played at Utah (he started with Merv Jackson in 1967-68).
"It was terrible, it was slow. They ran some kind of funny offense and it was different to watch it because it was 30 years ago."
SIMONS SAYS III: Besides playing in last year's Final Four, Simon made a habit of attending Final Fours as a youngster with his father. He said he has gone to "six or seven" and that his favorite was the 1992 Final Four in Minneapolis.
So how did he obtain tickets, which are among the most difficult in sports to get?
"Just like everybody else, from scalpers," he said.
NCAA NOTES: Notes and quotes from the West Regional:
- Arizona coach Lute Olson on comparing himself with Majerus: "He eats a lot more pizza than I do. Rick is a great teacher who does an excellent job of teaching fundamental basketball."
- Utah first-year assistant coach Brock Brunkhorst is a former point guard for Arizona under Olson. He played from 1981 to 1985, averaging seven points and four assists.
- Doleac moved into 12th place on the Ute career scoring chart with 1,472 points and needs 14 more to pass Buster Matheney and 22 to pass Manny Hendrix into 10th place. He's also in eighth place in rebounds and needs 17 more to pass Tom Chambers.
- The only common opponent for Utah and Arizona is Oregon State. The Utes defeated the Beavers at the Rose Garden in Portland 69-61, while Arizona beat OSU by 13 in Tucson and just 71-70 on a last-second shot in Corvallis.