The Great Unknown

January 15, 2006

(at OSU 75, UA 65)
(at Oregon 73, UA 68)

They say sometimes you hit the road and sometimes the road hits back. Well, this time the road was heavily armed.

The Oregon State game was a disaster, followed by a rapid recovery, followed by a crushing aftershock. We scored no points in the first five minutes and two points in last three minutes. Yikes.

Signs this was going to be a bad night:

-Fox Sports spelled Lute's last name wrong in the pre-game. What does he have to do, win another 750 games?

-Randomly different uniforms. Why break out the blue now? Maybe it was to say, "Hey! We're a new team…one that's really generous in the first half."

-Isaiah Fox played early. He's like a human white flag.

-When two garbage shots off the glass from crazy angles go in for the other team in the opening couple minutes, the student section may as well just rush the court and get it over with.

Lute waited all of 2 minutes and 12 seconds to test drive his new McClellan SG and he ended up playing 32 minutes. So much for breaking him in slowly.

Then in the Oregon game Jawann gets the start and quickly blows two tires and sits almost the entire game with foul trouble.

So after looking like Gary Payton was back in uniform against us, Oregon State loses at home to ASU. Figures. Go ahead, Beavers, pour some salt in that wound. Oh, you've got lemon juice too? Dump that in there too. Got any sulfuric acid?

Mustafa Shakur has taken over the lead scorer role. At least that's what it looks like he's trying to do. After getting shut out in the UCLA game he's scored just as many points (53) as team leader Hassan Adams in the past three games, and he's been the high man in two of them.

But is that a good thing? Shakur had zero assists against Oregon. Not one. How can you call yourself a point guard and not set up one teammate for a score? Allen Iverson doesn't even maintain that charade any more.

We need everybody to focus on what they do best even if it isn't very glamorous. With everyone trying to be the bling we just end up looking blah.

Scraping for positives, it was very nice seeing Marcus Williams literally rebound from the cut in playing time on Thrusday to turn in a team-high 7 boards against Oregon.

The only other good thing was Hassan passing Kenny Lofton for 4th the UA career steals list, and jumping past Joe Turner and Brian Williams to become the 9th most prolific shot-blocker in Wildcat history. For a 6-4 guard, that's really impressive.

The negative for Hassan however is that he has fallen off the pace for hitting the rebounding chart. He currently sits 111 boards behind Albert Johnson for tenth place and he's only averaging 5.8 a game. He's either going to have to attack the glass more often (which would make his coach very happy) or we'll have to get him some extra games by winning (which would also make his coach very happy).

I had a sweet new-fangled standings system to unveil this week but I think it's time to take a break from worrying about winning the league. We just have to worry about playing good basketball.

Let's be real here, we've entered bubble status for the NCAA tournament. Naturally that could change with a string of victories, but you have to play well to win in this conference. At this point in time, we're unranked. We have six losses. We only have ten wins. There are only thirteen regular season games left. The math is starting to get really tight.

Our seven remaining home games are huge. The North Carolina game suddenly becomes as important as any of the Pac-10 games. Our strength of schedule will certainly help, as will our RPI (although that's going to take a big hit after this weekend).

The Pac-10 tournament will also be very big for us this year. 1) We'll probably need an extra two or three wins to pad our resume. 2) We'll probably need an extra win or two against the top teams in the conference to impress the committee. 3) We'll probably all feel a whole lot better if we own the league's automatic bid.

It's still not time to panic. But we have to start making significant improvement right now. Now. Now right now. Players have to accept their roles and make sure the team as a unit is getting better.


It's very strange that we have to turn to football for good news, but here we are, and here we go.

Now that both of USC's star running backs have declared for the NFL draft, if the Cardinals select White do they rename their new home gLenDale?

What would you do if you had an extra $165 million lying around? If you're a Texas oil tycoon named Boone Pickens you give it to Oklahoma State University athletics. We gotta get more boosters with that kind of cash. Heck, we gotta get more fans with cool names like Boone Pickens.

More good news: UA baseball practice has started! There will be a lot more on baseball in the near future in this space.

Back to football. It's recruiting season and things are going well for Mike Stoops and company. At least that's what they say. But who are "they" and what are we to make of what they say?

A few years ago I didn't know a thing about recruiting. I had a better chance of successfully splitting an atom than telling you how good our incoming freshmen were going to be.

Now, I'm not an expert by any means, but who really is? In fact, that's rule #1 in Recruiting For Dummies:

There are no experts.

Since we're dealing with the future here, that's the bottom line. A great number of people make their living providing rankings but I haven't yet seen a crystal ball on eBay so they're just taking more educated guesses than the rest of us.

Because of that, rule #2 is:

Don't get too wrapped up in the results.

Winning in recruiting is like winning the first quarter. Yeah, it puts you in the lead, but there's a long way to go in the game. In fact, if recruiting is the beginning of the game, the game doesn't end for about 27 quarters.

But if they didn't keep score it wouldn't be any fun. So what you looking for? Rule #3:

A school is judged by the company it keeps.

Who else is the kid considering? If teams that are always in the Top 25 are all over a player, chances are he's pretty good. You're not always in the Top 25 by finding diamonds in the rough. The best teams go straight to the diamond mine.

Rule #4:

Don't count your chickens before they're scoring touchdowns.

Yeah, it sounds a lot like Rule #2, but it bears repeating. You won't know how good a class truly is for a full five years. Recruiting (combined with player development) is a five-step process:

-Get them to publicly commit to your school
-Get them to sign a letter of intent to attend your school
-Get them admitted into school and onto campus
-Get them on the playing field
-Get them to reach their potential

And you wonder why most coaches look old and bald.

So if it's all just a big crapshoot, why bother following recruiting anyway? Rule #5:

Hard work may sometimes beat talent, but hard-working talent beats everybody.

Happy guessing!

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