January 1, 2006
(UA 70, at WSU 52)
(UA 96, at UW 95, 2OT)
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
You just can't say enough about Lute Olson. Even saying you can't say enough isn't saying enough. He's got a mötley crüe of guys who can't shoot straight and he waltzes into Seattle and knocks off an undefeated top ten team with a 32-game home winning streak to complete a sweep in the opening weekend of league play. We shouldn't be amazed at this point, but we are.
There was a lot of talk going into this week about whether or not the Cats could recover if they started Pac-10 play 0-2. Most everyone, myself included, knew a split was the best we could hope for. I guess we're all just too young to keep up with our 71-year-old wizard.
I was feeling pretty good about the Washington State game. Yeah, the Cougars gave us fits with their slow-down style last year, but it's a lot easier to handle a team that frustrates you when you're already used to being frustrated.
Sure enough, we bothered them more than they bothered us and we pulled away for a nice 18-point victory. I know it doesn't make sense. How can you be riding a six-game winning streak when you only topped 50% shooting once in that span? Hey, sometimes down is up, cold is hot, and Ivory Clark is black.
Against WSU it was defense (giving up 52 points on 33% shooting) and rebounding (47-27 advantage). That's usually all it takes.
Kirk Walters handled his first game off the bench very well. He does show flashes of greatness from time to time like that hard dunk through the Cougar defender. I hope he works his way back into the starting lineup. But at the same time I certainly don't want Marcus Williams to lose minutes. It'll be very interesting to see how The Guy We Should Never Doubt finds time for his best players.
That brings us to the Washington happy heart-stopper. And speaking of long home winning steaks disappearing, first we had Utah and now the Huskies. Since Gonzaga now has the longest active home winning streak, Mark Few would probably be wise to not take Lute's phone calls for the next couple years.
You knew things were going well for Mustafa Shakur when his attempted lob to Hassan Adams fell through the hoop for two points. Would that be an alley-"oops"?
Chris Rodgers succeeded in producing another game without even attempting a two-point shot. All nine of his heaves were from deep. Other teams shouldn't even bother guarding him when he cuts to the basket.
Explain something to me. If the good shooting team is satisfied with attempting ten three-point shots in the first half, why on earth does the bad shooting team feel the need to launch fifteen shots from deep?
So we shoot one of fifteen on threes in the first half, yet three of our first four attempts in the second half are three-pointers, by three different players. But the most mind-numbing fact is…we make all three of them!
If Coach O recorded whatever he said at halftime he could bankrupt the rest of the self-help market in three months. We shot six of ten from beyond the arc in the second half. Hassan "19%" Adams himself shot five of seven from three, making two in the second half and two more in overtime. It was like he was channeling Steve Kerr out there.
The Pac-10's leader for Player of the Year also passed Russell Brown and Khalid Reeves over the weekend to move into fifth place on the UA's career steals list.
So next up is UCLA on Thursday. What follows is an open letter to those who will be in attendance:
Dearest Pursuers of Academic Excellence, Beloved Band, Citizens of Tucson,
I have a request. If we are blessed with a victory against the Bruins of Los Angeles, especially one without drama at the conclusion of the contest, please make this soul proud by filling the arena with chants of "Just like football!" 'Twill do your heart good, you have my word.
I guess now that we're on a winning streak and coming off a big win over a highly ranked opponent, it'll be safe for the bandwagon fans to start wearing red again.
I've never understood the "basketball only" Wildcat fans. It's fine to prefer one sport over another, but I'm sure you'll find plenty of these people with New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs memorabilia. They say they don't follow UA football, but what they mean is they just don't follow UA football right now.
How can you completely give up on a team just because it's not winning? This isn't the stock market. You won't lose your life's savings if you cheer for a 3-8 football team.
Being a college sports fan is supposed to be about school spirit and loyalty. If you only follow perennial championship contenders, are you also a fan of USC football, North Carolina women's soccer, and Arizona State…uh, let me get back to you on that one.
If the only U of A sports you follow are softball and men's basketball, just be honest with yourself and the rest of us. Stand up and say, "I am a front-runner or I don't run at all. If you're successful and popular I'm your best friend, but the minute to begin to even slightly resemble mediocre, I'll abandon you faster than I can say, 'Sit down and quit cheering so loud.' I am a bandwagon fan."
Even with the present "resurgence" of Arizona Basketball, I'm not ready to proclaim this team cured. It is still too offensively flawed and humilitarily-challenged to steamroll the league.
Also, double overtime wins are great and all, but it'd probably be a good idea to stop blowing leads at the end of games.
We're going to be in the conference race until the end, but there will be plenty of bumps along the way. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this group got complacent and immediately gave a game back to the pack this week against the L.A. schools. I may as well go ahead and predict it. Since it would be much more Arizona-like to beat ranked UCLA and then lose to the confusing Trojans, I'll go with that option.
But for this week anyway, all is right in Wildcatland. We'll be back in the polls, and in the Pac-10 we're the new team to beat.
Same as the old team to beat.
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