Kevin O'Neill once said he felt like the streak was plastered on his forehead. Russ Pennell said last season it was likely Arizona would have a "drop-off" in the near future.
Both of those two former UA interim coaches barely managed to extend the nation's longest streak of NCAA tournament appearances, to 24 and 25, but the bill is on pace to come due this season under Sean Miller.
At 4-5, the Wildcats have only three more nonconference games before beginning play in the downtrodden Pac-10, which does not appear likely to send more than two or three teams to the 2010 tournament.
Considering UA has won only two of its past 10 conference road games, the Wildcats might not finish better than 10-8 in the Pac-10. Doing that would put them at 17-13 entering the Pac-10 tournament even if they sweep their final nonconference games this month, against Lipscomb, North Carolina State and BYU.
Since arriving as Lute Olson's permanent successor in April, Miller has diplomatically suggested he's looking at the long run, mostly avoiding talk of damage he inherited from years of instability.
"It's a tradition that takes a back seat to no other, when you consider Pac-10 championships, the streak of 25 tournaments, the tremendous players who have played here," Miller said this week, when asked about the burden of the streak. "Where we're at is not there, though. It's (now about) really looking at the program as a whole and trying to improve it.
"There are some reasons it is what it is. Clearly, it's my job to bring back that great tradition here as we move forward. That streak is very much in jeopardy."
Here's a look at key numbers, various sports streaks and UA's run at No. 26:
91 Arizona's RPI as of Wednesday, according to RealTime RPI.com. The worst RPI rating for an at-large NCAA tournament team was the 74 New Mexico had when it made the 1999 NCAA tournament field.
28 Straight bowls played in by Florida State, including this year's Gator Bowl, the nation's longest active bowl streak.
27 The longest NCAA tournament streak ever, by North Carolina, broken in 2001-02 when the Tar Heels went 8-20 under second-year coach Matt Doherty.
2 Lowest number of Pac-10 teams in NCAA tournament since UA's streak began. Washington joined UA in the 1986 NCAA tournament field, UCLA did in 1987 and it was Oregon State in 1988.
26 Years since UA had a losing record at this point in the season. The Wildcats were 1-6 in Olson's first season of 1983-84 en route to a final mark of 11-17.
18 Straight seasons the Detroit Red Wings have made the NHL playoffs, the longest active postseason appearance streak in professional sports. The Boston Bruins (1968-96) put together the longest overall streak at 29.
6Games before UA evened up a previously losing record in its slowest start of the streak, going 2-3 early in 2005-06. The Wildcats entered Selection Sunday at 19-12, received a No. 8 seed, then beat Wisconsin in the first round before losing to Villanova in the second.
4 Players who abandoned plans to play for UA within a month of Olson's retirement, including then-freshmen Jeff Withey (transferred to Kansas) and then-high schoolers Abdul Gaddy (signed instead with Washington), Mike Moser (signed with UCLA) and Solomon Hill (committed to USC but wound up signing with UA after Miller was hired).
3 Number of NCAA tournament appearances UA had before beginning the streak in 1985.
2 Number of Pac-10 teams projected in NCAA tournament field as of Tuesday (Washington and California), according to ESPN.com's Bracketology.
1.84 Average number of McDonald's high school All-Americans on UA rosters during its 25-year streak. UA has no McDonald's All-Americans on this season's roster.
1 Team that earned an NCAA tournament berth it probably wouldn't otherwise have received by winning the Pac-10 tournament, since it was restarted in 2002: USC was 18-12 at the end of the 2008-09 regular season. Oregon was also bubbly in 2002-03, at 20-9 entering the conference tournament but probably needed only one win at the most.
0 Pac-10 teams that have earned NCAA tournament berths with sub-.500 nonconference records. Arizona was 5-5 in 1986-87.
On StarNet: Follow Arizona Wildcat basketball on reporter Bruce Pascoe's blog at go.azstarnet.com/pascoe