Shopping For Victory


December 22, 2005

(UA 73, at Utah 43)
(at UA 87, Sam Houston 51)
(at UA 86, Western Kentucky 81, OT)


This is the last column of 2005. Can you feel the excitement?

We've had three basketball games since our last visit and things started very well with the trip to Utah. If you can only score 73 points and still beat somebody by 30, you're playing some serious D. It's certainly not the level of scoring we're used to, but it can still be a winning style.

But then we dropped out of the Associated Press poll. What? Lute Olson's team? That's right, this week we were watching…the unranked Arizona Wildcats.

It just doesn't look right, does it? But it's true. Even with a 30-point win, we slipped a mere two points behind #25 Iowa.

This is the first time the Hoop Cats haven't been ranked in the middle of a season since 1987. I moved to Tucson in 1989. That means the Cats have been in the regular season top 25 every week of my fan-life.

I don't know what to do with myself. Something I've come to take for granted isn't there any more. It's like the sun suddenly rising in the north. It's like your parents getting divorced at age 63. It's like your Ginsu knives going dull.

So Arizona went into the Fiesta Bowl Classic with something to prove. First up was Sam Houston State, but the only things we learned from that game were that "cat" is spelled with a K in Texas, and they wear really bright orange uniforms.

Then Western Kentucky took the court and Hilltopper Orlando Mendez-Valdez took the early-season lead for Opponent Name of the Year.

I think Chris Rodgers is on a crusade to prove he should only shoot from the outside. After the massive rejection on his dunk attempt against Utah he was probably thinking, "See? The Best Shooter On The Team shouldn't be mixing it up inside. The Best Shooter On The Team says The Best Shooter On The Team should be shooting more threes!"

Then against WKU Rodgers blew not one, but two breakaway opportunities. One was a lay-up where he used unnecessary crooked spin and the other was a butchered dunk. Merry Chris Miss everybody.

The Cats blew a ten-point lead with four minutes to play and a seven-point lead with about two minutes left. Where have we seen that before? Add the fact that we couldn't get a shot up at the end of regulation and that's the wrong kind of déjà vu.

After the game Coach O announced Marcus Williams would be moving into the starting lineup and Kirk Walters would be moving out. Lute's philosophy must be: You can rattle home one ugly alley-oop dunk, but if you draw iron on a second slam attempt, that's just more than anyone can handle.

Next up is the start of the Pac-10 season with a trip to the Dollar Bill State. If we're going to have any chance of winning the league this year we're really going to have to take care of business at home because I see a lot of potholes away from McKale this year. Any team that can pull off a road sweep anywhere is going to have a huge advantage in the standings.

So my goal for this weekend is a split. Obviously a win at Washington would be more impressive, but they've got a ton of practice playing at home since that's the only place they seem to play. Focus and do everything it takes to get a win at Washington State (playing in Spokane helps us out) and then see what happens on Saturday.

In football news, yes, I'll be watching the Insight Bowl. It's my last chance to root for my second favorite team. You know, Whoever's Playing ASU. Go Scarlet Knights!

--

A couple weeks back I did some early Christmas shopping at the UA bookstore. No, not for anyone else, for me. Scouting out your own presents is very important. The easier you make your loved ones' shopping experience, the more likely you are to have some happy holidays.

With the bold new Wildcat football uniforms and the exciting new players we put on the field this year I have decided it is time for me to jump on the fashion bandwagon. I'm still not sold on the fanny-pack stripe on the back, but I'm sold enough on this team to get me some fresh gear.

So I took the family to the UA campus to see what my options were. I had visions of Mike Thomas' number 10 dancing through my head, but a Willie Tuitama #7 sugarplum would be just as sweet. To my dismay however the football section already appeared to be on a new year's diet. Blue jerseys and the new red jerseys were available but only with the same number 1 as last year.

How can this be? The athletic department has done an outstanding job promoting the Arizona game day experience and the increased ticket sales the last couple years reflect it. Why wouldn't you do the same with your merchandise? I realize you can't predict who the true freshman stars will be before the season starts, but as soon as Willie took the field against Oregon there should have been an order put in for jerseys with his number. By that time it was also clear Mike Thomas is a rising star. I'm sure there are a bunch of Tucson tots wanting to run around looking like Money Mike this Christmas.

I'm assuming any new jersey shipments won't arrive until after basketball season and well into the summer. Factor in my spring birthday and it looks like if I want to want to show up at the first tailgate of 2006 in a hot red Arizona Wildcat football jersey I'm going to have to pay for it myself.

Bah humbug.



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