Utah’s preseason three-point contest was won by 6-foot-11 Michael Doleac and the slam dunk contest by . . . Coach Rick Majerus can’t remember.
“Whoever won it, it wasn’t a memorable dunk,” Majerus said after practice Wednesday. “All I remember is that of the last two guys standing, the second one couldn’t dunk.”
The Utes obviously aren’t the most athletic team in the NCAA tournament. They are, however, still in it.
They assured that Thursday night at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim with a 65-62 West Regional semifinal victory over West Virginia that, like most other Utah games this season, had the opposing team wondering how the Utes won.
If you said Majerus is rapidly climbing a ladder that has coaches such as Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Lute Olson at the top, you wouldn’t get an argument from anyone who follows college basketball.
Utah is one of only three teams, along with Kentucky and North Carolina, to reach the Sweet 16 three consecutive seasons and now has advanced to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season.
It’s not as difficult to explain the success of his last two teams. They had Keith Van Horn.
But this one?
As Majerus said Wednesday, “If I had my druthers, I’d rather have last year’s team back. It’s a lot easier to coach with Keith than without him.”
His comment will not come as a shock to his players. Five are on the Dean’s List and two, Doleac and Drew Hansen, are Academic All-Americans.
“Losing Keith, I don’t think you can say we’re better,” Doleac said.
They are, however, just as successful.
They have done it all season just as they did it Thursday night, with defense, rebounding and free-throw shooting that enabled them to win despite going the first six minutes and the final nine without a field goal.
“It was an ugly win, no question about it,” Majerus said.
His West Virginia counterpart, Gale Catlett, said basically the same thing but in a way that was more reflective of Majerus’ contribution.
“They did what they had to do,” Catlett said.
Can they do it again Saturday against Arizona?
“The specter of Dunk-a-Rama looms over us big time,” he said.
He’ll think of something.
The highlight of the first half in the West Virginia-Utah game came when the Utes’ pep band played the theme from “Police Squad.” . . .
That probably was in honor of Leslie Nielsen lookalike Del Harris. . . .
Harris sat behind the Utah bench, cheering for his close friend, Majerus. . . .
Reportedly, Jerry West also was at the Pond, probably pacing nervously in one of the tunnels while cheering for his alma mater. . . .
Catlett on West: “We still think he’s the best player to ever play, all of us in the state. We’ll debate that with you.” . . .
One job Majerus might have taken was UCLA’s, if Steve Lavin hadn’t survived his interim status last season. . . .
The Golden State Warriors offered Majerus so much money that he would have been able to eat in a San Francisco restaurant almost every night. . . .
The course of history would have been changed. . . .
No way Latrell Sprewell could have gotten his hands around Majerus’ neck. . . .
Majerus says the Western Athletic Conference sent him an anti-gambling film to show his players during the conference tournament. . . .
The tournament was held in Las Vegas. . . .
“I asked where they wanted me to show it,” he says. “In the crap pit? At the blackjack table? Or where they boys are checking out their keno numbers?” . . .
Making three-point baskets the way he did in the second half against Maryland Thursday night, Miles Simon will never escape his celebrity in Tucson. . . .
“When he goes to sleep, I’m sure he’s sees people coming at him with Sports Illustrateds and Sharpie pens,” Olson said. . . .
Simon said other students have approached him with basketballs to sign in classrooms before final exams. . . .
“It’s too much,” he said. . . .
After hiring Clyde Drexler, Houston now has the only Division I coach who can beat all of his players one-on-one. . . .
Arthur Haber, a pretty good welterweight in the ‘40s who used the first name Sid in the ring, is suffering from a heart condition in Tarzana Hospital. . . .
His nickname was “The Brownsville Hebrew Welterweight.” . . .
I’m not surprised Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf voted against Rupert Murdoch. . . .
Now Reinsdorf is going to have to give even more players to the Giants to keep them competitive. . . .
Referring to Murdoch, San Diego owner John Moores recently used the term “monster.” . . .
ABC’s Dick Schaap calls him “the devil.” . . .
Ted Turner calls him “The Prince of Darkness” and worse. . . .
I wish they’d make up their minds so we’ll know how to dress on Halloween.
While wondering if Catlett could have beaten Majerus one-on-one, I was thinking: The game would have been no less artistic than the one played by their teams, Arizona looks cocky, Arizona should be cocky.