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Arizona wants to exorcise losing ghosts

Maybe it's time to quit nagging Arizona about those three first-round tournament losses in five seasons.

Let's not forget those Final Four trips in 1988 and '94. Or the six appearances in the round of 16 in the past decade.

"Yeah, I get frustrated," coach Lute Olson said Saturday, the day before his team meets Providence in the Southeast Regional final. "The first question isn't "What's it like to be in the Final Four?' The first question is always "What about (losing to) Santa Clara?' or somebody else.

"There will always be people to keep it alive. Like death and taxes, that's going to be something we'll have to deal with."

Olson's prognosis simply may be an us-against-the-world tactic that has worked well in the tournament. Arizona believes it doesn't get enough respect and seems to payparticular attention to headlines such as the one in the local newspaper that declared the regional to be "Kansas and Everybody Else."

Arizona took care of the top-seeded Jayhawks 85-82 Friday. That moved the Wildcats into the final against a team that also craves respect _ now that its players have stopped bickering with each other.

Providence, which defeated Tennessee-Chattanooga in the semis, struggled to bring together a mix of players that tended to form cliques.

"We've had a lot high points and a lot of low points this season," forward Austin Croshere said.

The Friars struggled to bring together a mix of players that tended to branch off into their own cliques. When coach Pete Gillen arrived three years ago, he inherited a group of holdovers, such as forwards Croshere and Derrick Brown, who found it difficult to mesh with the players Gillen recruited from his native New York, like guards God Shammgod and Jamel Thomas.

"Obviously, guys from New York are different than guys from L.A," said Croshere, a California native who considered transferring after Gillen was hired.

"We have a lot of confident people on this team who believe they should get the ball at the end of the game. When the coach would call a play for a particular person and he didn't make the shot, the other guys would be mad that they didn't get the ball."