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Arizona aims to keep NCAA Tournament hopes alive

Mar 13, 2008 - 2:15 PM Arizona (19-13) at No. 11 Stanford (24-6) 11:30 pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) - Many changes have taken place in the NCAA Tournament over 23 seasons but one thing has remained constant - Arizona.

With the longest active Tournament streak at stake, the Wildcats begin their quest for a 24th straight appearance in the "Big Dance" on Thursday when they meet 11th-ranked Stanford at the Staples Center on Saturday.

Arizona is the only team in college basketball to make a NCAA Tournament appearance in each season since the field expanded to 64 in 1985, even winning the title in 1997.

However, the Wildcats have struggled, by their standards, through one of their most difficult seasons - record-wise and emotionally - and could use a strong showing this weekend to receive another Tournament invitation. A loss in the conference tournament would match the most losses an at-large Tournament team has sustained during the regular season.

After learning coach Lute Olsen would miss the entire season for personal reasons, Arizona is threatening to become the first Wildcats team since 1986-87 to fail to win 20 games. They did get one step closer to that mark on Wednesday with a 87-56 rout of Oregon State in the first round of the conference tournament.

To collect their 20th win, the Wildcats need to avoid a third straight loss to Stanford after the Cardinal pulled a pair of close victories this season.

Stanford closed out their regular losses to UCLA and USC last week. Junior guard Kenny Brown scored 19 points while sophomore center added 16 in the 77-64 setback to the Trojans on Saturday.