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Scratchin' and Clawin'
Alexander Wolff
April 07, 1997
In a Cat fight that went into overtime, youthful Arizona upset Kentucky to win the NCAA title
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April 07, 1997

Scratchin' And Clawin'

In a Cat fight that went into overtime, youthful Arizona upset Kentucky to win the NCAA title

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"I've never seen anybody shut down Ron like that," said Kentucky forward Scott Padgett. "They smothered him. It's hard to score if you can't catch the ball."

"We've never had a height or weight advantage over anybody," said Bramlett. "But when you have speed and quickness, you can use it to offset other things. And most of our big guys are as quick as other people's guards."

The all-feline final—no lumbering canines allowed—only reinforced the overriding impression of this season. The success of such teams as South Carolina and Colorado, and the struggles of such others as Indiana and Villanova, suggest that speed now trumps size. The Final Four confirmed that notion, as did another result from last weekend: At the McDonald's High School All-America Game in Colorado Springs, the East beat the West 94-81, even though the West suited up six players 6'9" or larger. "They were much taller," said Elton Brand, a 6'9", Duke-bound recruit from Peekskill (N.Y.) High, who led the East squad with 16 points. "But we were faster."

Just as Miami's spate of national titles in college football caused a rush to recruit speed at places like Nebraska and Washington, so are the light feet of the two basketball finalists and other teams built for speed touching off a new wave of thinking—and, surely, recruiting. "The days of the 6'11" or 7-foot slow guys are numbered," says Olson. "Right now the toughest people to contend with are the 6'7", 6'8", 6'9" athletes because they don't restrict what you do defensively or offensively."

Well, some restrictions still applied. After Davison finished the mussing, Olson reflexively patted his hair back into place. Other players took their turns—and just as resolutely Olson donned a national champs cap before matters could get out of hand. But there has been progress. "When I was a freshman, in practice nobody could bounce the ball when coach was talking," says Dickerson, who's now a junior. "Now he doesn't say anything when Mike Bibby is bouncing the ball all over the place."

The possibilities are intriguing: Kevin Costner, making his usual Final Four appearance, showed particular interest in Arizona because lately he has been in Tucson working on a futuristic western that recently put out a casting call for bald cowboys.

Hey, Lute: Interested in being, an extra?

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