Love Thy Enemy


January 8, 2006

(UCLA 85, at UA 79)
(UA 74, USC 63)


I hate it when I'm right.

OK, so I was only half right. I thought we were going to lose the USC game, but I did correctly predict a split this weekend. There is also no need to point out that if "split" is an acceptable answer then we all have a 1 in 3 chance of being right each week since "sweep" and "get swept" are the only other options.

Back to me being right.

We couldn't carry over the momentum from the Washington trip. The Bruins lit us up for 85 points and 61% shooting from the field. How bad is that? We didn't even shooting 60% from the free throw line in Saturday's game against USC.

The white towels for the fans were a very nice touch. Unfortunately we could not replicate the magic from the last time UCLA saw them. I suppose we could use the "Just like football" chant when Oregon State comes to town but I don't think it would have the same effect.

Does Mustafa Shakur have an evil twin we don't know about? There is no other logical explanation. How else do you go from 23 points to zero points to 17 points in consecutive games? There just have to be two Shakurs. Maybe one of them is Tupac. That would explain how he's able to continue putting out new music.

The flip side the backcourt equation is that Chris Rodgers had the exact type of offensive game we need from him. He shot better than 50% from the floor (4-7), and only 3 of his attempts were from behind the arc. That's right, he actually cut to the hoop and scored! Add the typical 5 steals and it was a good game for The Best Defender On The Team.

On Saturday we scored 74 against USC and won comfortably. That's what's frustrating about the UCLA loss. You know we're going to lose a couple games when we just can't get the shots to fall. But we put 79 on the Bruins, and that should be more than enough to win.

The good news is, the offense is showing signs of life. We're shooting 48% as a team in our last three games, and if you start from Coach Olson's hypnotic halftime speech at Washington we're putting it in the hole at a 53% clip. That's like a real basketball team!

I can't stop talking about Marcus Williams. The kid has the entire arsenal. The high-post jumper, a step-back midrange fade-away, the drive and dish, free throw shooting (82% on the mainland), and even the occasional three. The best part is, he looks smooth out there. Actually, let me try that again with a few more vowels: smoooooth. It's nice to have a player who doesn't inflict viewers with emotional pain when he attempts to deposit the ball in the basket.

All in all, I guess we can't complain. I for one definitely would've taken a 3-1 start before the conference season. Winning of 3 of 4 every time gets you to 12-4, then you beat ASU twice and you're 14-4 and in great shape to win the league.

It's pretty clear at this point the contenders in the Pac-10 are Cal, UCLA, Arizona and Washington. Stanford's the dark horse, but we're not going to worry about them until they get out of the stable.

Who's leading the way at this point? Well, Cal won at UCLA, UCLA won at Arizona, and Arizona won at Washington. That would make Cal the frontrunner…until they lost at home to Oregon State. Decisively! The Beavers won both halves! Then Washington decided to go winless on the week by losing to Washington State. At home! And the Huskies gave up 47 points in the second half to the walk-it-up Cougars! Wowie!

The Wildcats and Bruins shouldn't do too much taunting however because I expect both teams to drop a couple games to the lower division teams in the near future. Because of that, I think the conference title will be determined by the games amongst the four leaders, so current standings look like this:

Cal 1-0
UCLA 1-1
Arizona 1-1
Washington 0-1

Don't be surprised if we drop out of the Top 25 again, even though we lost to a higher ranked team. With three of the conference's four best teams losing this week and the other needing a buzzer-beater to hold off the last place team, the "Pac-10 is the weak" talk will start up again. Washington will plummet in the polls which devalues our best win and probably drops us to 27 or 28. Just more motivational material I suppose.

Now we head to the Oregons and Jawann McClellan seeing his first action of the year. Lute has proven to be pretty good at adding players midseason. Miles Simon, Ivan Radenovic, and now Jawann. Do the other Pac-10 coaches know about the league's trading deadline?

--

So the USC Trojan football team will not be the three-time defending national champions when they come to Tucson on September 23rd. Too bad. They will however still have a 23-game Pac-10 winning streak that we can take down. Let's kick some John David Booty.

Next year will be the first season of the fifth BCS Bowl (a second game to be played in the BCS stadium hosting that year's championship). The best part is it should finally bring a Pac-10/Big Ten match-up back to the Rose Bowl. Did you know those traditional conference rivals haven't met in the Granddaddy since the 2000 season? Whoa Nelly.

I have a new football dream: To one day root for the Sun Devils. Now hold on. Before you send me an email bomb, read me out. Right after our hoops game with USC ended, the ASU/UCLA game started on the same channel. I watched the first half as I did some work around the house and which team do you think I was rooting against? The title contender that beat us two days earlier, or the team that just happens to play in the same state as us?

There wasn't any question. I was cheering for the Arizona State Sun Devils. Yeah, you may have heard a lot of things like, "You would've made that shot if your uniforms weren't so hideous!" or, "Quit playing that ridiculous excuse for a fight song, you're making the players stink!" but I was hoping ASU would win.

Why? Because they're really bad and we're really good. The Devil hoopsters are so poor it doesn't matter if they win a game here or there. The Wildcat ballers are once again competing for a conference championship so it behooves the UA for the bad teams to upset the good teams.

That's when you know you're truly dominating a rival: When you (and everyone else) are beating them so often that the indirect result of them winning outweighs the pleasure you experience from gloating over another loss.

It can happen in football too. I believe. Go Devils.



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