INDIANAPOLIS - The last time Kentucky and Arizona met there was a sellout crowd with scalpers offering tickets at outrageous prices. Anyone who spent the money had to think it was worth it after a game dominated by quick guards came down to a final-second tip-in.
That was in the 1993 Maui Invitational championship game at the 2,000-seat Lahaina Civic Center. For what may have been the first time in the history of one of the world's most beautiful islands the words "Who needs 'em; I got 'em" were yelled.
Kentucky won the game played two days before Christmas 93-92 on Jeff Brassow's tip-in off a missed shot by Rodrick Rhodes.
The schools met for the third time ever Monday night for the national championship.
The scalpers outside the RCA Dome certainly weren't as out of place as their tropical counterparts and the crowd of better than 47,000 could only hope to see what happened that December night on Maui.
"The only time we have coached against each other was that game over in Maui," Kentucky coach Rick Pitino said, referring to Arizona coach Lute Olson. "It was like 110 degrees in the gym. ... They had Stoudamire and Reeves and they were tough to play against. We were lucky enough to have the last tip."
Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves, now both in the NBA, were Arizona's backcourt that season, the one that led the Wildcats to the Final Four. The current guards - Miles Simon and Mike Bibby - are a younger version of that tandem with the same quickness and love of 3-pointers.
Kentucky's guards that season were Travis Ford and Tony Delk, with the latter one of the cogs of last season's national championship team. They were quick and bombed way, not unlike the current duo of Wayne Turner and Anthony Epps.
The only other time the teams played each other was in 1946, when Kentucky won 77-53 in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. One of the Arizona players that year was Stewart Udall, whose brother, Morris, was later a U.S. representative and presidential candidate.
As for Pitino and Olson, they look the same as they did 3« years ago and their teams look familiar. Plenty of talent and wins.
Regardless of the outcome of the 1997 national championship game, the coaches' comments could be similar to the ones they made after that 1993 pre-Christmas tournament.
"That is the best backcourt I have seen in a long time," Pitino said of Arizona's guards. "They are very quick, especially on defense."
Olson called it a "fabulous" game.
"There was so much intensity and tremendous guard play both ways," he said.
It may not have the buzzer-beating tip-in, but the title game was likely to feature the pressure defense, 3-point barrages and championship-caliber intensity.
The next meeting? Oh yeah, Kentucky and Arizona are both in the field for the 1997 Maui Invitational.