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Heart Home

February 3, 2009

(at UA 106, UW 97)
(at UA 66, WSU 56)

OK, fine, weíll let the season go a little longer.

We definitely donít want to miss out on any of these last home games. The fans are back, the elevated play is back, and the McKale magic is definitely back.

Just think, if we had ASUís 2007 football schedule weíd be in the top ten.

How do you top 96 points in 45 minutes? 106 points in regulation, of course. Even in the WSU game we scored 18 points in a seven-minute span. The game is so much easier when the ball goes through the hoop.

Five different guys hit three-point shot against Washington. It was only four weeks ago when the Cats didnít make a single shot from beyond the arc against Stanford. Kyle Fogg didnít make his first college three-pointer until after Christmas and now heís six for his last 11. Viva la long range!

Iím also a big fan of this new post-footprint Chase Budinger. Heís driving the lane and actually looking for contact. During the three-game losing streak he earned a whopping 12 free throws. He had 11 in the Washington game alone, and seven more against WSU.

And heís hitting the glass. Twelve boards in L.A., 36 since. Itís like he suddenly realized, ďWhat a second, Iím 6-7 and I jump higher than everyone else. Maybe I should spend some time closer to the basket.Ē

And heís downright ornery! We had three straight games with an in-your-face shouting match, and all three involved Budinger! If you were going to pick the person in the program most likely to end up in a fight I think Chase would be somewhere after Bagga and Pennellís dad.

Nic Wise apparently subscribes to the ďIf I keep scoring they canít catch upĒ theory of running out the clock. Itís all well and good if youíre getting fouled and making 14 free throws, but itís not so great when you blow break-away layups.

One other individual note: Fendi Onobun hasnít done much in his four years but the man sure can set a screen.

An added bonus with the Washington game was we didnít have to worry about helping ASU. The Devils and Huskies have a lot to learn about setting up first place showdowns on a Saturday.

Letís take a look at the Grand Canyon State standings from the weekend just for fun:

UA 2-0
UW 1-1
WSU 1-1
ASU 0-2

What a beautiful sight. And the rest of the nation is beginning to take notice. The Cats picked up a couple votes in this weekís AP poll. Thatís #42 if youíre keeping score at home. Ainít no stoppiní us now!

The other good news from the top 25 is Kansas is back in it at #21. Add in Gonzaga (#18) and Washington (#22) and the UA has three wins against ranked teams. With St. Maryís suffering a big injury the Zags should cruise through the rest of their league games so continue to root hard for the Jayhawks, especially when they get to the Oklahoma/Texas portion of their schedule.

Thatís right, hope is refusing to leave. The last time we looked at our tournament chances I thought we needed nine more wins. Three victories later weíve got a half dozen to go. The most likely scenario would probably be: sweep the Oregons on the road, split the L.A.s at home, win one at ASU/WSU/UW, and sweep the Bays at home. That doesnít seem as crazy as it did two weeks ago, but you still have to be really uneasy about relying on road wins.

If youíre going to beat someone away from home a great place to start is with the worst team in the league. Unfortunately we donít play them until Saturday. Last yearís worst team is riding a four-game win streak and the Beavers suddenly have the same league record as us.

So even though Iím keeping an eye on the rankings and the RPI numbers, Iím keeping the other eye focused on the realistic.

Continue to dream of a drive to 25, but donít let reaching it become necessary to appreciate what this team is doing. Please donít burden these guys with expectations. They are playing their hearts out and we should praise them for it. When the next stumble comes, continue to praise them as long as the effort remains.

#42 is hitting the road.

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