February 26, 2006
(at UA 68, ASU 47)
Some things never ever get old.
That first half was a bit of fun, wasn't it? We got off to a 32-7 start and held them scoreless for a seven-minute stretch. It took the Devils 18 minutes and 6 seconds to hit double figures. It was like a high school girls game with that Epiphanny from New York.
The updated "rivalry" numbers, because they're so dang pretty:
10 in a row.
22 of 23.
41-6 under Lute.
136-73 all time.
They should change the state motto to The Grand Canyon--Which Is Almost As Wide As The Gap Between The State's Pac-10 Basketball Programs--State.
OK, everyone who predicted Ivan Radenovic would be our go-to guy as the calendar turned to March, raise your hand. Mama Radenovic, you don't count.
Ivan has been our top scorer and rebounder in three of the past four games. Against ASU he lead us in points, rebounds and steals. He's going coast-to-coast for dunks. He's pulling off the playground move where you inbound it to yourself off a defender's rear end. He's even choreographing elaborate handshakes with formerly expelled teammates. Somebody get this guy an And-1 nickname quick! Is "The Serbanator" taken?
It took 25 games, but we finally have an offense. We run the ball through Radenovic in the high post. We move Adams around screens for midrange jumpers. Williams is the only starter who takes threes. Granted, it's still not a very good offense (41% shooting against the Devils) but at least we know where all the missed shots are going to come from.
Hassan Adams now has more steals than any other Wildcat not named Jason Terry. His 228 career thefts put him ahead of Jason Gardner and a mere 17 behind JT. If this team could make any sort of postseason run we could have a new champion of thievery. Hassan also moved into an 8th place tie on the blocked shots list with his 84th career rejection. Don't bring that trash in here.
My man Fendi Cent brought the house down late in the game by stealing the ball, going with a behind-the-back dribble to start the break, passing it up and getting it back for the alley-oop jam. No one scores 68 points with more style than us.
Who was that masked man at the end of the game? Have the Gumbies been replaced by the Phantoms of the Opera?
But the greatest news of the week: Kirk Walters has a beard! He was still on the bench with foul trouble at the end of the first half but, hey, at least he was lookin' good. I'm rooting for him to end up with a '70s-Bill-Walton look. Grow it out, big man!
Looking at the Madness we hope to have in March, there is talk that the Cats have already locked up a tournament spot with our last two wins, but I sure don't want to find out. I still say two more wins erases all doubt so let's put everything into beating Washington State on Thursday. That would leave us two games to get one more win. Beat them Cougars.
With only one game this past week it gives us a chance to begin making our post-basketball plans. When the 2006 hoops team runs out of games (and all signs point to that happening sooner rather than later), what are you going to do with your Wildcat fan-rabies? Why not give that rabidity to Andy Lopez's UA baseball team?
Here's a huge reason to: In college baseball, fan support directly helps you win championships. The College World Series is held in Omaha, Nebraska every year, but the two rounds leading up to the championships are played on participants' home fields. Those sites are determined by the NCAA based on bids submitted by potential host schools, a large part of which is a guarantee of a certain amount of ticket sales.
That's right, you basically buy playoff home games. I know, it's a strange archaic system, but that's life in the world of non-revenue sports. And just last year, a championship-caliber Wildcat team suffered because of it.
Coach Lopez had his third UA team playing in the 2004 College World Series. He returned almost his entire team last year and led them to a 2nd place finish in the Pac-10 and a top-10 national ranking. The Cats were poised for another deep tournament run, but there was only one problem. No one went to the games.
We didn't have the funds to bid for a regional and we got stuck playing at national powerhouse Cal State Fullerton, and a team that could have done some serious damage in Omaha didn't get out of the first weekend of the postseason. To add insult to injury, Arizona State (a team that finished below us in the standings and a team we beat 4 out of 5 times) successfully bid on a regional and they ended up in the College World Series.
So my message to you, Dear Wildcat Fan: Take yourself out to the ballgame. Tickets are only $5 and there's not a bad seat in the house. Both Kindall Field and Sancet Stadium have undergone significant improvements for this year and more are in the works. Here's the remaining 2006 home schedule so you can start making plans:
March 17-19 Cal State Fullerton (we owe them)
March 25-26 UC Irvine
(Bonus game that helps the bottom line: April 2 vs. ASU, at the Diamondbacks' Chase Field in Phoenix)
April 13-15 UCLA
April 21-23 Stanford (always one of the top teams)
April 25-26 Southern Utah
May 5-7 UNLV
May 13-15 Washington State
May 19-21 Arizona State (you know how it works)
You're not going to find the same team as last year as our top 6 hitters and 2/3 of the starting pitchers from 2005 signed pro contracts. But you're going to find a young team loaded with talent, the same type of team that Lopez got into the playoffs in 2003. The plan is to be in the upper division of the Pac-10 and get some postseason experience this year, then next year we're loaded up for another run at Omaha.
The UA probably isn't going to be buying playoff games this year, but a penny earned is a penny saved the next time around. Consider it an investment in our next baseball championship.
Root, root, root for the home team.
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