Zero

February 11, 2008

(ASU 59, at UA 54)


Hello there, Bad Basketball Team. Back so soon?

Thursday is usually the best day of the week this time of year. You've got a UA game on TV to look forward to that night, you're only a day away from Friday, and there's another Wildcat game waiting on the weekend.

But this week there was only one game, and by the time Thor's Day rolled around we had lost our only true point guard to injury, a rotation player was getting kicked out of practice, and 50% of our available coaches were MIA. So much for the extra days of rest being used for, you know, rest.

The injury situation is getting out of hand. The Cats are starting to look like that rec league team Aron Baynes used to play on:

"Hey guys, you ready for the game? These Bobby's Hardware Ballaz always play us tough. Where's Tom?" "He couldn't get off work."
"I see. And Johnny?"
"One of his kids has croup."
"Yikes. Well, uh...I guess we'll play zone."

The problem is this Wildcat team hasn't played a second of zone all season. Although against ASU it did appear as if we were attempting the rarely used line-and-zero zone every time the Devils set a back-screen.

See, we told you having a healthy Jerryd Bayless would make a difference. This time we lost by 5 in regulation instead of overtime.

It was fun monitoring Baylessí domination of our point total: 11 of our first 12 points, 16 of 20, 22 of 28. But it was right about here when you started to realize things were a bit too lopsided. When the first half ended and we were told that only one Wildcat other than Jerryd had made a field goal Ė and only one field goal at that Ė you knew it wasnít a good sign. Sure enough, we got a whopping two made baskets out of our non-Bayless players in the second half.

All told it was 12 out of 15 field goals, 6 out of 7 3-pointers, and 39 out of 54 points. Can you think of a more imbalanced scoring performance? ASU with Eddie House maybe? Kobe Bryantís 81-point game? The time that high school girl scored 113? The sad part is the other three all won.

But the biggest problem was Jordan Hill picking up his first foul 19 seconds into the game (on offense) and his second with almost 15 minutes remaining in the half (about 30 feet from the hoop). After that Jeff Pendergraph scored 14 points and ASU trimmed an 11-point deficit down to one. With both Bret Brielmaier and Jamelle Horne injured we didnít exactly have a lot of post options. But I think itís safe to say that Pendy > Fendi.

Speaking of sad times in post, Kirk Walters played three minutes against ASU and did nothing statistically except block one shot. But that happened to be the 80th block of his career which puts him in a three-way tie for 10th place all time at Arizona. Bet you didnít see that one coming.

There was one bit of good news this week. With Bobby Knight suddenly quitting it means he remains tied with Lute at the top of the list of career NCAA tournament appearances. So if Knight stays retired and Coach O comes back, heíll have a chance to become the first coach to participate in the Big Dance 29 times.

Since my pep talk last week seemed to help Jerryd, itís time to give Budinger a talkiní to. Chase Bud, bud, you have missed half of your last ten free throw attempts. That is unacceptable for a player of your talents. Bring back the focus, be aggressive, sink the foul shots, and all will be well. Now go get Ďem! [virtual butt-slap]

Thus continue the dark days of Arizona athletics. Unless we can meet and beat the Sun Devils in the Pac-10 tournament, this will be our first academic year without a victory over ASU in one of the two high-profile sports in 26 years. Their new basketball coach is 2-0 against our new basketball coach. Throw in Erickson and you have both main Devil coaches with undefeated records against the Cats. Go ahead and toss me into the Grand Canyon right now.

In-state rivalry aside, this was a bad loss in that we lost at home to a team below us in the conference standings. We have to play three of the remaining four games with lower-division teams on the road, and three of the last four home games are against someone better than Arizona State. In other words, Thursdayís game against Cal is really, really, really important.

If weíre going to hold onto the goal of a 10-8 league record (and thatís probably the ceiling now instead of the minimum) that means we only have three losses left. If you budget two for UCLA and at WSU, youíve got a single defeat with which to play. You can either use it against Stanford this week, or at Oregon the final week.

But if we burn two losses this upcoming week? Yeah. Really, really, really bad news.

You may think itís a good sign that this past weekend Cal barely beat OSU and got smoked by Oregon, but itís just par for the Berkeley course. These backwards Bears are now 2-5 in Pac-10 home games yet 3-1 on the road. Plus donít forget Ryan Anderson lit us up for 30 points last time, and heís just a tad better than Pendergraph.

If our guys thought they had bought some breathing room by beating Washington State and USC itís long gone now. The oxygen level is dropping fast and the margin for error is back to zero. We need number zero to be our hero but he needs a little more than zero help.

Hopefully this Thursday goes back to being the best day of the week.



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