When was the last time an Arizona team shot a high percentage (49%), posted a +14 rebounding edge, committed only nine turnovers, and still couldnít crack 70 points?
OK, itís a bad trivia question because I donít know the answer. But I like being able to ask the question.
Some people may be confused by this move-the-ball-around, make-the-extra-pass, find-the-open-man half court stuff? What are we trying to do, play like UCLA? Do we want to win Pac-10 championships again and get back to the Final Four?
It looks like we do.
Iím not saying you should book your flight to San Antonio just yet. I like to keep my fan goals modest and attainable. Thatís why my only objective for the 2008 NCAA tournament is to play in a new region. The Cats have been in the Midwest bracket for the last three years and all itís gotten us is a first-round exit, a second-round exit, and the most gut-destroying loss in program history. So, yeah, I donít care if thereís a Djibouti Region this year, Iíd rather play there than the Midwest this March.
Back to the Fresno State game, even though the full-week layoff is a tidy excuse, you still have to file this one in the slow-start category. It took three minutes to score our first points, five minutes to take our first lead, and thirteen and a half minutes to lead by more than one possession. But when you can then hold a team scoreless for the final six minutes of the half you can usually make up for a bit of slowness at the start.
Last yearís team got off to a fast start (a 12-1 record and a top-10 ranking) but then things fell apart. The year ended so badly there was talk of switching the teamís logo to a D-minus.
This yearís BasketCat squad is moving at a slower pace but it appears to be acquiring the necessary knowledge and experience along the way.
Trivia question: Before 2006-2007, when was the last time the Wildcat basketball team had three different players record a 30-point game in the same season?
Itís another bad question because, again, I donít know the answer. But shouldnít it be a good thing to have three guys who can go off for 30 on any given night? It certainly didnít work out that way. Marcus Williams had four games when he scored in single digits. Chase Budinger had five of them. Ivan Radenovicís followed up his 37-point masterpiece with a 6 and a 12 to close out his career. The point is you never knew what to expect from these guys and the teamís play reflected it.
Who was our best player last year? Whose team was it? There wasnít one guy we could give the ball to and know that everything was going to be all right. Most great teams have a go-to guy but last yearís UA team didnít have one, so they didnít go-to anywhere.
Weíre already seeing a hierarchy developing on this yearís team. Jerryd Bayless is option one. Chase Budinger is plan B. Jordan Hill is the third option. Itís clear and itís understood.
Thatís not to say you need your top three guys to score 25, 20 and 15 every single game. We already have a road victory with Plan B putting up a big O in regulation. But when you know Chase is one of your top two guys and heís struggling itís a clear single for your #3 guy to step forward (and Jordan Hill certainly did against Illinois) and for someone else to make a splash as a fourth weapon (hello, Nic Wise). Last year when Marcus Williams threw up one of his patented 6-for-16 shooting nights you knew we were in trouble unless someone else had a career game.
There is something else different about this team but I couldnít put my finger on it. Then I realized it was my eyes, as in I wasnít seeing a lot of ink in front of them. Our best player doesnít have any tattoos. Our second best player doesnít either. In fact, we can play an entire lineup (Wise, Bayless, Budinger, Brielmaier and Walters) without a single visible tattoo. I donít know what that says, but doesnít it automatically disqualify us from SportsCenter?
We wonít know anything definitive about this team until we get into conference play but we have already seen significant changes from last year and thatís a good thing in many different ways.
Leaving good things for a while, is there a nicotine patch for UA football? I just canít kick the habit.
I was looking through a recent copy of the UA Alumnus magazine and a depressing fact jumped out and slapped me in the face: ď[I]n the first 100 years of Wildcat football, only twice was it possible for a student to attend the UA for four years and not experience a winning football season [1956-59 and 1969-72].Ē Those hundred years ended in Ė you guessed it Ė 1998. Now weíve got UA doctors running around who have no idea what a winning football team looks like.
Hereís a banner you wonít see at Arizona Stadium any time soon: 2007 Whacked-5 Champions. But itís true. Thanks to Cal losing to Stanford, our 4-5 conference mark was good enough for sole possession of sixth place in the league standings. That means the loss to Stanford wasnít even enough to keep us out of the postseason.
Trivia question: Which Arizona football game was a very, very, very, very, very bad loss?
Unfortunately we all know the answer to that one.
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