Invited

March 17, 2008

(UA 86, OSU 57)
(Stan 75, UA 64)


The Cats finally hit a buzzer-beater.

That wasnít very fun, was it? Three regions had been announced. Seven-eighths of the field was made public and it was still Arizonaless. But then, in the second-to-last four-team pod, right below West Virginia and above Duke, there it was. The most glorious 10-seed youíre ever going to see.

24 yearsÖ.24 yearsÖLuteís Arizona kids got you for 24 yearsÖ. (This poor attempt at a culturally relevant joke is brought to you buy ASUA. Get your Kanye West tickets now!)

We were in this predicament because the Pac-10 tournament didnít last nearly as long as we hoped. With a nod to Kevin Loveís uncle: I wish they all could be Oregon State games.

I know weíve been really bad on defense the last few years and we still have a long way to go, but I miss fast-break basketball. I miss watching superior athletes at full speed making perfectly-timed passes and throwing down crowd-inspiring dunks. Is it too much to ask to play that style of ball and still lock people down on defense? Maybe thatís how weíll know weíre all the way back. Until then Iíll enjoy the occasional Oregon State game.

By the way, be sure to take a moment to thank Washington State for winning their double overtime game against Washington to end the regular season. Had the Huskies completed the upset they would've been the 7-seed and we would have slid all the way to 8th which wouldíve meant missing OSU. Would you have wanted to open the Pac-10 tournament against Cal with our tournament life on the line? Me neither. Now that we got where we want to be, let us not forget the game we didnít play that saved the season.

Then you had the third Stanford game which reminded us why we arenít currently able to play high-octane basketball. If you donít have a bench (or you donít trust your bench) you canít constantly push the ball without pushing your five-man team too far. After two down-to-the-wire games with the Cardinal we just hit a wall with ten minutes left and the better, deeper team ran away with it.

That left us in no-manís-land. In hindsight we shouldnít have been worried since we were seeded well above the last couple at-large spots, but can you blame Cat hoops fans for panicking? The entire undergrad student population hasnít lived a single day without Arizona in the NCAA tournament. Weíre not exactly pros at this bubble stuff.

The funny part is, after you get past the heart attacks we ended up right where we hoped to be. As soon as it was announced a couple years back that Phoenix would be hosting the 2008 West Regional Finals I dreamed of being good enough to get placed in that bracket. And here we are. Of course, I hoped there wouldnít be the zero at the end of our seed, and I didnít expect the first two rounds of the West Region to be played in Washington D.C., but at least we have a chance at the pseudo-home games we always seem to run into in the tournament.

So itís 2004 all over again where the Cats are lined up to face Duke in the second round. Remember how great that game was? Of course you donít, because it didnít happen. Letís keep all the talk on West Virginia. I only hope we get a chance to lose to Duke this time around.

We proved last year it only takes one good player to beat you (did anyone notice Purdueís Carl Landry playing solid minutes and putting up decent numbers during the Houston Rocketsí now-22-game winning streak?). So we should probably be a little worried about this Joe Alexander character.

But the coaches and players can worry, because Iím done. After a season of coaching chaos and health hell, after lowering my fan-goal from second place to 10-8 to 9-9 to please-oh-please-just-keep-the-tournament-streak-going, Iím washing my hands of sports stress when it comes to this team.

Therefore, 2008 Wildcat Basketball Team, I release you from all expectations. Iím not going to map out a trail of upsets. Iím not going to dream about what-ifs and if-onlys. Iím going to relax and be grateful I have another big UA game to watch.

You play, weíll cheer, and letís just see what happens.

--

I took in the Friday baseball game against Cal State Fullerton and it was another good time, another great crowd, and another win for the home team.

The intro video on the scoreboard is very impressive. Thatís worth the five bucks right there.

Also impressive is the fact that we now have two groups of rowdy young fans at the games. The Hot Corner is doing its thang on the third base side and Dillon Bairdís friends, aka team DEBO, are on the other side. Anybody who wears eye black and brings signs to a college baseball game is all right with me.

Speaking of Debo, you know youíre pushing the right buttons as a manager when you send your .400-hitting cleanup hitter up there to bunt, he looks awful on two attempts, you keep the bunt on, he shoots one down the third base line that hits foul then bounces back fair and ends up hitting the bag for a single.

So the Cats led most of the way, gave up the lead in the top of the 8th and roared back with six runs in the bottom half of the frame. Itís always a good sign when your pinch runner gets an at bat in the same inning.

Next up is a non-conference game with Arizona State on Tuesday night. The Devils are 17-0 as they prepare for their 18th straight game in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area. The later three-game series in Tucson to close out the Pac-10 season is obviously more important but because weíre only playing once in Tempe this year, if you want to win the regular season series you have to win this game. I don't expect there to be a sweep either way in May so a season split is probably the best you can do without a win this week.

Oh, and itís a battle between the near-consensus #1 and #2 teams in the country. And itís going to be televised by Fox Sports Net Arizona. Go ahead and tune in.

Everyone in the state is invited for once.



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