Originally created 03/31/97

NCAA notebook



INDIANAPOLIS - Arizona can become the first team to win the NCAA championship with victories over three top seeds.

Arizona, seeded fourth in the Southeast, upset top-ranked Kansas 85-82 in the regional semifinal and advanced to the championship game by ousting North Carolina 66-58 in Saturday's opener at the RCA Dome.

"This is a youthful team, but it is also fearless. They think they can win, and that's it," Arizona coach Lute Olson said Sunday.

Freshman Mike Bibby, the team's third-leading scorer with a 13.3 average while leading the team in assists, might be the most fearless of the bunch.

"Our team is playing on a confidence-high right now," Bibby said. "We know we can play with anybody if we get off to a good start."

Olson said Bibby was "like a sponge."

"He just wants to learn everything possible about the game," the coach said.

There's speculation Bibby will leave college early for the NBA. Bibby said Sunday he planned to play pro ball, but that it "won't be next year."

"I'd rather have Mike a couple of years than not to have him at all," Olson said.

COLD DOME: Some players thought it was too cool and breezy in the RCA Dome during Saturday's semifinals, perhaps contributing to poor shooting (36 percent) by the Final Four teams.

Minnesota shot the best at 42 percent, and Kentucky won while hitting 38 percent. Arizona shot 33 percent in defeating North Carolina (31 percent).

"That's what Miles (Simon) said," Olson said in reference to the conditions in the RCA Dome. "Bibby was sitting next to him. And I said, `Mike, did it affect your shot?' He said, `Yeah. But, I do a lot of shooting at the outdoor basket, so I was able to figure the wind angle."'

"I noticed it in the second half. In the first I didn't really notice any breeze at all," Simon said.

"You could feel it. Miles talked about it when he was shooting a free throw," said Arizona's A.J. Bramlett. "It's just part of the dome and you have to adjust to."

Kentucky's Anthony Epps said he was too involved in the game to notice a breeze.

"When you've got 47,000 people in one arena, I believe you need a breeze to keep them cooled down a little bit," he said.

TERRY RECOVERS: Jason Terry was back with his Arizona teammates Sunday after a visit to the hospital Saturday night.

"We were going to put him in late in the game," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "... I called for him to come and Ed Orr, our trainer, said he can't go. He was feeling very, very faint, and was just very, very ill at that point.

"He was dehydrated. He was taken to the hospital. He was put on IVs to care came of the dehydration. He's back, he had breakfast with the guys this morning."

SELECT COMPANY: Ron Mercer joined Kentucky's 1,000 point club with 19 points against Minnesota, the 43rd player in school history to reach the mark. Mercer became the 11th player to top 1,000 points in his first two years. Rex Chapman was the last, finishing the 1988 season with 1,073 points.

Jared Prickett needs just eight points to join Mercer on the list, which is topped by Dan Issel with 2,138 points. Mercer, who has announced he'll head to the NBA after this season, would pass three former Kentucky players if he scores 23 against Arizona tonight.

MERCER'S CRAMPS: Mercer's playing time in the semifinal was cut by cramps, but the Kentucky star said he'll be fine for the championship game.

"I don't think cramping will be a factor," the 6-foot-7 forward said. "I don't think we really have time to be tired. We have one more game left for the national championship, and I don't think anybody is going to feel tired. ... I have to go out and deal with it."

MY OLD KENTUCKY DOME: Kentucky began defense of its NCAA title by losing to Clemson in overtime 79-71 in the RCA Dome. Kentucky is no stranger to the RCA Dome, with a 6-4 record in the building after Saturday's victory over Minnesota.

"We knew after our loss to Clemson we had a lot of work to do," Mercer said. "We knew we had the talent and we were in for a long season. Once we got all the pieces together, we'd be in good shape. Now we are in this situation to win another national championship."

TV RATINGS: The ratings for Saturday's semifinals were up for the opening game between Minnesota and North Carolina, compared to last year's opener between Mississippi and Syracuse. The CBS broadcast had a 10.2 rating and a 22 share. That was up 13 percent from the 9.0 rating for the opener last year.

Ratings for the second game between Kentucky and Minnesota were down from last year's semifinal between Kentucky and Massachusetts, but higher than the first-game rating. The game had a 11.7 rating and a 21 share. That was down 11 percent from last year's 13.1 rating in the second game.

Each ratings point represents 972,000 homes. The share is the percentage of televisions in actual use at the time.