ANAHEIM, Calif. — Lamont Jones spent his last spring break staring at his dorm room walls in Tucson, fuming over Arizona's failure to make the NCAA tournament after 25 straight trips.
Kemba Walker had a few similarly sleepless nights in Storrs when Connecticut also missed the tournament last spring.
"It happens to all great programs from time to time, but I just decided I wouldn't go through that again," Walker said.
So did Jones, Walker's friend since junior high. Two dynamic guards from New York have played major roles in getting two perennial powers back to the brink of the Final Four just one year after they fell out of the field.
Arizona (30-7) and UConn (29-9) will meet in the West regional final on Saturday at Honda Center.
"This is the kind of game you expect to play when you go to a school like Arizona or UConn," said Jones, known to everybody as MoMo.
The Wildcats are back in the national title hunt and on top of West Coast hoops after missing the tournament in coach Sean Miller's debut season. With a roster built around California talent with an East Coast pugnacity, Arizona won the regular-season Pac-10 title before taking apart defending national champion Duke in Thursday's regional semifinals.
The Huskies also stayed home last year, but it was just one disappointment in a few years of trouble for veteran coach Jim Calhoun, who dealt with punishment for recruiting violations and what the NCAA labeled "failing to create an atmosphere of compliance."
UConn scuffled through a .500 regular season in Big East play this winter before winning five games in five days to take the conference tourney.
West Regional final
No. 3 UConn (29-9) vs. No. 5 Arizona (30-7)
Saturday, 5:05 p.m.
TV: CBS Radio: 1230 AM