GAME DATA: No. 1 seed Arizona (23-11, 12-6 Pac-12) participates in the National Invitation Tournament for the first time since 1951 beginning Wednesday when the Wildcats host eighth-seeded Bucknell (24-9, 12-2 Patriot League) in McKale Center ... In three previous NIT appearances, Arizona has an 0-3 record ... The last time Arizona hosted a postseason game came on March 13, 1987, when UA dropped a 98-91 (ot) decision to UTEP in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's West Region ... This will be the eighth postseason game for Arizona's senior class.
THE RANKINGS: UA remains unranked in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' polls this week.
ARIZONA HEAD COACH Sean Miller . . . is in his third season at the University of Arizona and his eighth overall as a college head coach with a record of 189-81 (.700) and 69-34 (.670) at Arizona ... He guided UA to 30 wins and the 2011 Pac-10 regular season championship in a run that culminated in the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight ... He was named Pac-10 Conference and NABC District 20 Coach of the Year ... Appointed April 7, 2009, Miller came to Tucson after five successful years at Xavier University, where he amassed four 20-win seasons and four NCAA Tournament appearances ... His clubs won the three Atlantic 10 regular season championships (2007-09) and the 2006 Atlantic 10 postseason tournament title ... During his time at XU, the Musketeers won better than 71 percent of their conference games, including an .813 winning percentage (39-9) in his last three seasons ... Miller has made 15 trips to the postseason in his 18 seasons as a head, assistant or associate head coach (9 NCAA/6 NIT) and has an 9-5 (.643) NCAA Tournament record as a head coach ... He took two Xavier teams to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 (2008, 2009) with his 2008 club advancing to the West Regional final ... His 2007-08 team set a Xavier record for wins in a season with 30, helping him claim Atlantic 10 and NABC District 10 Coach-of-the-Year honors ... Since becoming a head coach, 17 of 18 players to complete eligibility under Miller have earned their degrees ... A standout guard for the University of Pittsburgh (1987-92), Miller was the Big East Freshman of the Year in 1988, won a gold medal on the 1991 U.S. World University Games team ... He is assisted by James Whitford, Emanuel Richardson and Joe Pasternack ... Miller is 0-1 vs. Bucknell as a head coach.
LAST TIME OUT: After finding itself down by 12 points with 9:09 remaining, Arizona rallied but could not convert a game-winning trey at the buzzer in dropping a 53-51 decision to Colorado Saturday in the championship game of the Pacific Life Pac-12 Tournament. UA climbed back in by forcing CU to miss nine consecutive field goal attempts down the stretch, but it was not enough to overcome the Buffs, who outrebounded Arizona, 37-29, and limited the Cats to 36.7 percent shooting. Kyle Fogg led Arizona with 14 points, while Jesse Perry added 11 points and eight boards.
SCOUTING BUCKNELL: The Bison enter tonight's game with a 24-9 record (12-2 Patriot League) following the March 7 Patriot League title game loss, 82-77, to Lehigh. On the year, Bucknell averages 69.0 points, shoots 46.5 percent from the floor (794-of-1,709), 39.3 percent (191-of-486) from three-point range and 77.0 percent (499-of-648) from the line. Opponents average 61.2 points, are outrebounded by 6.7 boards per game and shoot 39.5 percent from the floor (689-of-1,744). Individually, three Bucknell players average in double figures, led by Mike Muscala's 16.7 ppg figure. He also leads the Bison with an 8.9 rebounds per game average.
THE BUCKNELL SERIES: Tonight's game marks the first meeting of the two schools. All-time, Arizona is 1-0 against schools that presently reside in the Patriot League., defeating Holy Cross, 89-41, in the opening round of the Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic in Tucson on Dec. 28, 1988. For more information on Arizona's record against the conferences, please see page 50 in the UA media guide.
RISING QUICKLY: Sean Miller's Wildcats posted a 12-6 record in conference play this season, giving him a 36-18 (.667) Pac-12 record in his first three seasons in the league. Not only does that record tie for the best in the Pac-12, but since the conference expanded to 10 teams back in 1978-79, Miller is one of only two coaches in that span to win 36 conference games in their first three years in the league, joining UCLA's Steve Lavin, who went 39-15 (.722) from 1996-99. Additionally, no Pac-12 team has more road wins in conference play (14) than UA since Miller took over. Currently, Arizona is averaging 23 wins per season under Miller, an improvement over the six seasons (21.7) prior to his arrival.
NIT HISTORY: No stranger to college basketball oldest postseason tournament, Arizona has made three previous appearances in the NIT in 1946, `50 and `51. Here is a look at the tournament results from New York City's Madison Square Garden:
March 16, 1947: Kentucky 77, Arizona 53 (quarterfinals)
March 11, 1950: LaSalle 72, Arizona 66 (quarterfinals)
March 13, 1951: Dayton 74, Arizona 68 (quarterfinals)
It's worth noting that two of Arizona's previous NIT opponents were ranked in the top 15 of the Associated Press poll at the time of the game, as LaSalle was ranked 10th and Dayton listed 13th. The AP poll debuted Jan. 20, 1949.
NO. 1 SEEDS: While this is Arizona's first appearance in the NIT in 61 seasons, the Wildcats certainly are no stranger to the No. 1 seed. Since seeding was introduced to NCAA postseason play in 1979, Arizona has been a No. 1 seed five times (1988, 1989, 1998, 2000, 2003) in that other event.
ALL-TOURNAMENT: In advancing to the Pacific Life Pac-12 Tournament championship game for the second consecutive season, Arizona placed three players on the all-tournament team in Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry. It marks the fourth time in the 15-year history of the event that three Wildcats were voted to the all-tournament squad (1988, 1989, 2002). In Arizona's three games, Fogg, Hill and Perry combined to average 47.3 points and 21.3 rebounds, while shooting 46.5 percent from the field (40-of-86).
TOUGH LOSSES: Dating back to the 2011 conference tournament, the Wildcats have endured a number of razor-thin defeats, as the program's 13 losses in that span have come by a total of 65 points (5.0 ppg). This season, Arizona is 1-4 in games decided by two points or less and nine of its 11 defeats have been decided by fewer than 10 points. Included in last calendar year are a pair of two-point defeats in the Pac-12 Tournament title game and a two-point loss in the NCAA West Regional final. Needless to say, the Cats are in every ball game.
LONG-RANGE THREAT: Arizona finished the regular season as the top long-range shooting team in the Pac-12, connecting on 38.0 percent (252-of-663) of its attempts from behind the arc and leading the league with a per game average of 7.4 made treys per game. Individually, no fewer than three Cats rank in the league's top 15: Brendon Lavender, 1st, .509 (55-of-108); Kyle Fogg, 3rd, .441 (71-of-161); and Solomon Hill, 11th, .382 (34-of-89). Four UA players are averaging 1.0 made treys per game or better this season.
CLAMPING DOWN: In its three-game stay in Los Angeles last week, Arizona managed to do a few things well during its Pac-12 Tournament run. The Cats, who have been a solid defensive club all season, limited UCLA, Oregon State and Colorado to an average of 57.3 points per game, outrebounded the trio 104-101, and held them to a cumulative .382 field goal percentage (65-of-170) and a .316 figure (12-of-38) from behind the arc. Heading into postseason play, Arizona leads the Pac-12 Conference in field goal percentage defense (.406) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.281), a category that UA ranks third nationally.
HOLD `EM DOWN: As mentioned previously, Arizona limited the opposition to an average of 57.3 points per game at the Pac-12 Tournament continuing a season-long trend that has seen the Wildcats hold the opposition to an average of 62.7 points per game. That figure is the lowest scoring defense figure for the program since 1985-86 (62.3 ppg), which was the year before the advent of the three-point field goal. Twelve times this season Arizona has held the opposition to less than 60 points.
BOARD WORK: Led by Jesse Perry, who pulled down an average of 10.3 rebounds per game at the Pac-12 Tournament, Arizona continues to do a nice job on the glass. Through 34 games of the regular season, the Wildcats ourtrebounded 24 opponents and are 19-5 in those games. Furthermore, UA carries a +2.2 rebound margin, a figure than ranks seventh among Pac-12 teams.
GETTING TO THE LINE: The Wildcats continue to do a nice job of getting to the free throw line, as the club averaged 25.3 free throw attempts per game at the Pac-12 Tournament and made nine more free throws than the opposition attempted. On the year, UA is averaging 23.2 free throw attempts per game and is outscoring opponents by an average of 4.3 points per game. Over the last 10 games, Arizona has connected on 73.6 percent (187-of-254) of its charity tosses and seen its overall free throw percentage rise to .703 (554-of-788).
IT'S REALLY JUST THAT SIMPLE: Look no further than field goal percentage and turnovers for a measure of Arizona success, as the team is 18-1 when outshooting the opposition and 4-10 when not; further, UA is 13-2 when committing the same or fewer turnovers and 10-9 when committing more.
DOUBLE-DOUBLES: Senior forward Jesse Perry registered his 12th double-double of the season March 9 vs. Oregon State with 16 points and 11 rebounds, a figure that is one shy of Derrick Williams' total from 2010-11. The 6-foot-7 forward from St. Louis, Mo., averaged 14.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game at the Pac-12 Tournament. He ranks second among Pac-12 players with those 12 double-doubles and is one of the driving reasons why Arizona has more double-doubles (25) than any other school, as Solomon Hill has added 11 and Kyle Fogg 2.
AN OFFENSIVE WEAPON: Entering the postseason with 49 points at the Pac-12 Tournament, Kyle Fogg continues to be Arizona's top scorer with a 13.7 ppg average. The 6-foot-3 senior guard from Brea, Calif., also leads the Cats in three-point field goals (71) and free throws made (120) and steals (36). On the year, he has 25 games in double figures with seven games of 20 or more points, and is riding a streak of 12 consecutive games in double figures, a career best. Additionally, he now holds the UA record for career gamed played with 138.
STEADY: Junior Solomon Hill continues Arizona's steadiest players, as the 6-foot-6 native of Los Angeles, Calif., leads the Wildcats with 26 games of 10 or more points and 28 games with five or more rebounds. He is averaging 12.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game to go with a .505 (146-of-289) field goal percentage. During the Pac-12 Tournament, Hill averaged 16.7 points and a .552 (16-of-29) FG percentage.
DEADEYE: Senior Brendon Lavender's .509 (55-of-108) three-point field goal percentage currently ranks third on UA's single season statistical lists. As it stands, he joins Steve Kerr, Derrick Williams and Salim Stoudamire as the only Cats to shoot 50 percent or better from behind the arc in a single season.
RECRUITING CLASS: The Arizona coaching staff signed four student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent as part of the November early signing period. Brandon Ashley (F, 6-8, 215) from Oakland, Calif., who preps at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.; Grant Jerrett (F, 6-10, 220) from LaVerne, Calif., who preps at LaVerne Lutheran H.S.; Kaleb Tarczewski (C, 7-0, 220) from Southborough, Mass., who preps at St. Mark's School; and Gabe York (G, 6-1, 170) from Orange, Calif., who preps at Orange Lutheran H.S.; make up a class that was ranked No. 1 nationally by espn.com and rivals.com.
UP NEXT: A win puts Arizona into the second round against the winner of the (5) Nevada at (4) Oral Roberts game. Game date and tip time are TBA.