Odd Ends

April 9, 2006

(at OSU 10, UA 5)
(at OSU 10, UA 2)
(UA 8, at OSU 1)

The calmness of April allows us to catch up on important things, like work, home life, and basketball statistics.

Last weekend Florida became the 35th different school to win a hoops National Championship. The Gators' third Final Four tied them for 24th on the all-time list. LSU joined Arizona in an 8-way tie for 16th on the list with 4 Final Fours, but the Tigers always take the easy way out as they're the only school in that group never to have played in a Championship Game. Weenies.

UCLA has now tied North Carolina for the most Final Four appearances with their 16th trip this year, if you count their stripped runner-up finish in 1980. That cheatin' Larry Brown.

I'm in a big not-just-for-fun March Madness pool every year (70 entries this time around) and it's the only sports-related event my wife gets into. Her feelings toward sports are somewhere between forced tolerance and downright disgust. Because of this, as you might imagine, she's good at picking brackets. Really good. She's made it to the championship game the last two years and three of the last four. But there is a but.

In 2003 she had Kansas. In 2005 she had Illinois. This year? That's right, UCLA (over Florida no less. I'm telling you, she's good). So that's second place three times and first place zero times. And did I mention this is a winner-take-all pool? Let's just say these experiences aren't doing much for her love of sports. I try to tell her about not giving up like Elway, Boeheim, and Mickelson, but to her that may as well be a law firm.

More family talk. It only took me one year and five months to get my daughter to positively identify the UA fight song. It's gotten to the point where if I'm watching any sporting event and I show even a hit of excitement she toddles over and says, "Go! Go!" to which I immediately respond with, "Wildcats Go! Arizona…Bear Down!" as she happily bounces along. I can't believe the IRS gives you money back for having one of these things.

Need another reason to feel good about next year's basketball team? Wildcat-to-be Chase Budinger was named co-MVP of the McDonald's High School All-American game a couple weeks ago. Budinger showed a little bit of everything: a pull-up jumper from the free throw line, a three from the corner, and-the best part-the ability and willingness to find open teammates for easy baskets. Oh, and he finished second in the slam-dunk contest. The Chase for the championship is on.

[See how that worked? I like when athletes have verbs for names. It creates all sorts of delicious pun opportunities. Rob is another good one, as in, "Rob you of dignity," which is quite appropriate, right Sun Devil fans?]

The McD's game also introduced us to the next monster of college basketball. His name is Greg Oden and he's a seven-foot shot-blocking giant who just won his second straight Gatorade National High School Player of the Year award. So along with LeBron James, the state of Ohio has now laid claim to the #1 high school baller four of the last five years. What the Buckeye are they feeding kids over there?

My point in mentioning Oden is the commentators said he would've been the top pick in the NBA draft as a high school junior and I believe them. This is why the new pro minimum age is a step in the right direction. Do you think Ohio State cares that they may only get him for one season? Of course not. Heck, I'd take him for six games if he could suit up at just the right time in March. And who's to say he won't really enjoy college life and want to stick around an extra year or two? It's a lot easier to sell somebody something they already enjoy.

Continuing with the basketballity, the Arizona State Sun Devils finally hired their new coach. His name is Herb Sendek. Yeah, I hadn't heard of him either. He was the head man at North Carolina State the past decade and, since I live to inform, here's how he did:

Year: Overall Record / ACC Record, ACC Finish, Postseason
1997: 17-15 / 4-12, 8th, NIT
1998: 17-15 / 5-11, 8th, NIT
1999: 19-14 / 6-10, 5th, NIT
2000: 20-14 / 6-10, 6th, NIT
2001: 13-16 / 5-11, 7th, none
2002: 23-11 / 9-7, 4th, NCAA 1-1
2003: 18-13 / 9-7, 4th, NCAA 0-1
2004: 21-10 / 11-5, 2nd, NCAA 1-1
2005: 21-14 / 7-9, 6th, NCAA 2-1
2006: 22-10 / 10-6, 4th, NCAA 1-1

The good news for the Devils is his last 5 years were better than his first 5 years, which shows the ability to improve a program. He also had his best season just three years ago so he's had recent success. Sendek has proven he can be competitive in a power conference, he's proven he can get into the NCAA Tournament, and he can win you a post-season game or two. That sounds like a good hire for Arizona State. But so did Bill Frieder. And so did Rob Evans. And so we'll wait and see.

It was another tough weekend for the Arizona baseball team. The momentum from the ASU game must have missed the flight to Oregon State as the Cats got knocked around in the first two games against the Beavers. But the Sunday game went Arizona's way behind a strong outing from sophomore pitcher David Coulon and an actual home run, this off the bat of freshman Jon Gaston. That leaves the Wildcats tied with Stanford for last place in the league standings. No es bueno.

The good news is we finally get some Pac-10 home games. This weekend's series runs Thursday through Saturday (due to Easter) against UCLA who is only a game ahead of us in the standings at 3-3. This happens to tie the Bruins for 3rd place in the Pac-10, which shows how bunched the league is right now, which is also good news the Cats. Now's as good a time as ever to turn things around.

Let's Mike Stoops the Bruins.

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