ARIZONA'S IN FREEFALL
It's time forArizona to start panicking. After winning their first three games followingcoach Lute Olson's dismissal of senior guard Chris Rodgers (right) on Jan. 19,the Wildcats, who were ranked No. 10 in November, lost three straight to dropto 13-9 (and 6-5 in the Pac-10). Last Saturday they trailed UCLA by 24 pointsin the second half before losing 84-73. Rodgers was the team's best defender,so it's no surprise Arizona is having trouble locking down opponents withouthim. But while getting rid of Rodgers was supposed to help the team's offensivechemistry, Arizona committed 41 turnovers in last week's losses to USC andUCLA. Though his team has no low-post scoring threat and only one playershooting better than 34.0% from three-point range, Olson is trying to stayupbeat. "We'll be judged on how we finish rather than how we're doingnow," he said on Saturday. At this rate that finish will come sooner thanhe hopes.
ILLINI FIGHTINGLOSING BATTLE
It wasdisappointing to see Illinois file an appeal with the NCAA last week seeking torestore its right to host postseason play despite the continued use of itsChief Illiniwek mascot. The school had already won its appeal to have itsIllini and Fighting Illini nicknames removed from the NCAA's "hostile andabusive" list, but waging a battle for an image that is so blatantlyoffensive to Native Americans is bad policy-not to mention a likely loser oncethe appeal reaches the NCAA's executive committee in April. Some people havederided the NCAA's crusade as political correctness run amok, but the bottomline is, nobody would tolerate similarly offensive symbols if they were usedfor any other ethnic group.
1 Michigan Statehas major rebounding problems. The Spartans were beaten on the boards in fourof their first eight Big Ten games, leading coach Tom Izzo to call this theworst-rebounding team he's ever had.
2 Alabama isstill alive. Despite playing without injured leading scorer Chuck Davis (tornright ACL and MCL), the Crimson Tide and guard Ronald Steele (left) beat thenNo. 24 LSU last Saturday to improve to 5-3 in the SEC (and 12-8 overall) andkeep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
3 The Big Eastshould invite all 16 of its teams to the conference tournament. Notre Dame,which was 1-8 in league play despite losing those eight games by a total of 24points, might be the best 10-10 team in history, yet because only the top 12teams play in the Big East tournament, the Irish will most likely stayhome.
For more analysisfrom Seth Davis, go to SI.com/collegebasketball.