February 5, 2006

(at USC 77, UA 70)
(at UCLA 84, UA 73)

You are now free to move about the cabin screaming in terror.

You know, I'm getting tired of hearing phrases like "for the first time in 18 years" and "not since 1984" and "I think that shot injured a ball boy!"

The USC game was close, then we fell apart, then we made it close again, then Mustafa Shakur did his best Chris Webber and called a timeout he didn't have. That's the kind of move that'll get your flunked out of Point Guard U.

As the game wound to a close the only question was whether USC had a enough fans at the Sports Arena to storm the court. Oh wait, you only storm the court against good teams.

Then, just like Oregon State, USC went out and lost to Arizona State after beating us. Does Rob Evans pay Lute royalties when he wins against a team that only cared about beating Arizona? And can we get an official memo out to Stanford and Cal that we're not good any more so they don't have to play their best game against us? That'd be great, thanks.

This team just finds new ways to stink. First there was the poor shooting, then there was the poor defense that lead to the opponent's great shooting, and now we have the disgusting amount of turnovers. Ah, the creativity of youth.

The Pac-10 may have a second-rate TV contract and horrible bowl tie-ins but, hey, at least we have an official chili.

The next loss came at the hands of UCLA. It's hard to believe we had won the last three road games against the Bruins. It was like we had been playing at Pauly Shore Pavilion. But with the fine work former NAU coach Ben Howland is doing in Westwood, those days appear to be long gone, buuuudy.

This just in: It doesn't matter what color uniforms you wear if you give up 50 first-half points.

If you're going to make your first 7 shots, why do you wait until 5 minutes left in the first half to start shooting? That's the mystery with Hassan Adams. He has the ability to be our go-to guy, but you have to want to go-to it.

Our two supposed leaders play better when they're ticked off. Note Adams almost pulling that guy's arms off on the held ball, and Shakur's fist pumps during his best games. So why does it take so long for these two to get fired up? Daniel Dillon is our designated fouler late in the game. He should also be our designated insulter before the game. Something like, "G'day, Hassan. Marques Johnson said you're more like Ketchup than Hot Sauce," or, "Hey Mustafa, the Lion King called and he wants his name back."

If you're looking for one thing that encapsulates all of our problems this season, count how many times our players pick up their dribble with nowhere to go. Someone will be 25 feet from the basket, they'll stop dribbling and then there will be a two or three second delay while they have to pivot all over the place to find someone to pass to. Sometimes it leads directly to a bad pass and turnover but more importantly it's a symptom of being a step slow in the mental aspects of the game. Most of the guys on this team don't just instinctively react to things on the court. They have to pause, think about what's going on, then make a decision, and it's often a bad one.

Because of that I'm going to be blunt: Lute needs to pull a Mike Stoops. The UA football team played a lot better when a true freshman took over at quarterback. Coach O needs to do the same thing and let a true freshman start at basketball quarterback.

The entire big run in the second half took place with J.P. Prince on the floor. He's not going to give you much scoring, but he's got a feel for the game that lets him get the ball to players like Williams and Adams in the right place at the right time. Maybe the attempted comeback against UCLA will be like Willie Tuitama's Oregon game. One thing's for sure, we don't have anything left to lose.

Now here's the good news. As bad as this past week was, we're still only one game off our pace. We needed to win one game in L.A. and that's just one more than zero.

We are 8-1 in Tucson and 5-8 everywhere else. We've now completed three of our four Pac-10 road trips and got swept in two of them. We're now 1-5 on the road since New Year's Day. It's a good thing we played in Washington back when we thought we were good. But the point is, as bad as we've been on the road, we're still pretty good at home.

The other positive is that, thanks to some excellent research done here at, we learn that in the past 12 seasons, every Pac-10 team that won at least 11 league games made the NCAA's field of 64. We have 6 Pac-10 wins. We have 5 home games left, and they just happen to be against the worst 5 teams in the conference (also known as the only 5 teams worse than us).

So if we don't completely go into the tank, and we beat Oregon, Washington and the three States at home, we have our 11-7. Will that be enough in a down year for the Pac-10? We'll worry about that later. Right now it means as dark as the pit is, there's still a ladder in the corner. Sure, the path to it is covered with snakes, scorpions and terrible shooting, but at least there's a way out.

Here's the other good news: It's UA Baseball season! Andy Lopez's young BatCats won their opening series against Loyola Marymount. There are a lot of new faces at the ballpark, including the ballpark itself. Make plans now to take in your first game at the newly improved Sancet Stadium.

Back to that other sport. Each of us has two options as Wildcat basketball fans the rest of year. You can either keep suffering through each game and hope we turn it around enough to earn an at-large tournament bid, or you can treat the next 7 games as practice for a 3-game do-or-die season at Staples Center. I guess option three is completely give up and go watch the softball team, but if you're going to do that you're probably not the type to read stuff like this.

Personally, I'm going with option one. Call me a glutton for punishment, but if we've got a game on, I'm going to watch it no matter how ugly it's supposed to be. Plus, I'm still holding out hope that our home crowd can inspire one last run of positivity from this sinking ship. You paddle and I'll bail.

Save Our Season.

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