Olson, party of one.
Arizona Basketball continues its run as one of the most newsworthy programs in the nation, as long as you don’t include anything involving an actual basketball. This week’s attention-grabber was Lute Olson saying goodbye to his star pupil, Mr. Miles-stone Victory/Simon Says Championship himself. Add to that the rumors of Josh Pastner entertaining employment offers elsewhere and we could be looking at one old coach with one brand new staff.
Last year you might have felt we had everything in place but Lute. This year it already feels like we’re going to have Lute and nothing but questions marks after that.
Let’s just assume for moment that Chase Budinger is staying in the NBA draft (I still see him projected as a first round lock and on the edge of the lottery). That would mean we return 24 points per game from last year, and I had to include David Bagga’s bucket to get that. We’re going to have a team with a lot to learn and no idea who’s going to teach them.
Well, that’s not entirely true. In one of the worst kept secrets around, one of our new assistant coaches is going to be Russ Pennell, who used to coach with Rob Evans and was last working as the color commentator on Arizona State’s radio broadcasts. You read that right: ASU's radio guy, who coached the Sun Devils not under Herb Sendek when they rocketed up to the NIT, but back when they really, really stunk.
Wouldn't that be like Dennis Erickson hiring Lamont Lovett, only if Lamont had worked for John Mackovic?
If you’re going to try and be positive you say that Lute realized the assistant coaching has been lacking the last few years so he needed to make an upgrade. However, isn’t that the exact same reason we were fired up about the Kevin O’Neill hire a year ago? Parting ways with Simon may be a good move but there’s nothing about the recent track record that guarantees it.
Back to KO, it's fitting Lute got him re-assigned to a fundraising role, since somebody's going to have to raise the funds needed to pay for all the assistant coaches we keep firing.
And yet, even with all that we still don’t have the most awkward situation in the conference. Stanford lost their good current coach to another team, their great old coach to their rival, and their two best players to the pros in what seemed like 15 minutes. It's like a woman watching her two sons drop out and leave home, her father move in with the annoying family across the street, and her husband going to Mardi Gras and not coming back. Tough time to be Stanfordina.
As I write on this Cinco de Cuatro, the UA baseball team lost two of three at Cal to close out an 0-for-the-road Pac-10 campaign. Four league series away from home, four series losses. File that under “Things no one would have ever predicted.”
The 16 Sunday runs are great and all but, man, why use them all up on one game? For the second straight weekend we outscored the opponent over three games yet twice. 12-7 at Oregon State and 26-22 against Cal. In case you needed something else to be frustrated about.
Here’s something that could end up frustrating a lot of other people: We still have a great RPI. Heading into this week the Cats were #11 according to the NCAA. That’ll come down a bit after the losses in Berkeley, but we’re still going to be in the top 25, especially when you consider Cal was #21.
What that means is we’re setting up the same situation in baseball that we had in basketball. The UA BatCats are the UA BasketCats, and Washington is playing the role of ASU. After sweeping USC, the Huskies sit alone in third place in the Pac-10 and UW owns the head-to-head series win against Arizona. But the Huskies had a weak out-of-conference schedule (21 games against UC Riverside, Pacific, Holy Cross, Portland, Hawii-Hilo, and BYU who have a combined record of 66 games under .500) and as a result they have a horrid RPI (116 going into this week).
The Wildcats on the other hand looked very good in non-league action before getting beat up in Pac-10 play to the tune of an 8-10 conference record. So what do you do if you're the selection committee? If you look at conference play as sorting teams out, you have to like the Huskies over the Wildcats. But if you reward teams for scheduling tough games, and you look at the entire "body of work," you have to take Arizona…just like in hoops.
Another interesting link between the two teams – and one that may further the argument one way or the other – is that while we finish the season playing Stanford and ASU, the Huskies finish the year against ASU then Stanford. Will one team play significantly better against the top two teams in the conference?
May the computers be with us.
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