Monthly Archives: December 2011

What to Watch for in the Pac-12 Conference Season

Conference play is here and while there are many legitimate basketball related things to watch for – like games and such – here are some under-the-radar stories to keep an eye on. Enjoy.

Is Utah going to be biblically bad?
Sure, the eyeball test tells us that the Utes are bad. As do the RPI rankings, scoreboards, statistics, and probably Krystkowiak himself. But isn’t that the fun of it? While we all root of eternal greatness, why can’t we eagerly anticipate a defeated season – in fact the second since 2008 (Oregon State). The Utes could be biblically bad but unfortunately so too is the conference, lessening the odds of an oh-for-eighteener. But hey, like that little kid in Angels in the Outfield kept saying, “It could happen!”

Will Kevin O’Neill try to fight another booster?
With all eyes on Matt Barkley, Lane Kiffin, and the now uninhibited Trojan football program, will KO go buck wild and fight anyone he wants? Odds are against it but again, we’re talking about this guy. A good quote and a coach who can get a lot out of his players, he does tend to leave a trail of destruction in his path. I recommend not getting in his way but then again, he probably stands to lose a lot more than you.

Joe Burton – Josh Smith: The Big-off
Read the following in your best Michael Buffer voice: in the Los Angeles corner, standing six-feet, ten-inches tall, and a soft three hundred and ten pounds…JOSH SMITH. From the Corvalis corner, a six-feet, seven-inch two-hundred and eighty pound baby face, Joeeeeeeee Burton! These two, hefty as they may be, manage to toss around the weight for good. Smith is still looking to find some semblance of conditioning and when he does he’s capable of big things. Burton has been a serviceable center, capable of putting up formidable numbers while also playing a facilitators role in Craig Robinson’s Princeton offense (3.8 apg). These two will rumble off just once this season, January 19 in Corvalis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Sean Miller clear whatever is in his throat?
If you’ve ever watched Miller patrol the sidelines, you know he’s a pretty fiery dude. That said, he also is constantly hacking and coughing away, an assumed attempt to clear his throat. With another edge-of-your-seat-this-ain’t-gonna-be-easy type season in Tucson, Miller no doubt needs all of his voice to convey his message to the youthful Wildcats. Perhaps try some lozenges, Coach?

 

 

 

 

Will Ken Bone finally be caught by the headless horseman?
Ichabod. Ken. Ken. Ichabod. Discuss.

 

 

 

 

 

Who will be the first to posterize someone?
The hoppy Nick Johnson?

The powerful Jared Cunningham?

The stretchy Andre Roberson?

The acrobatic Terrence Ross?

Or someone else?

New Year and Everyone Has A Chance

They’ve lost to Jackrabbits, Vandals, Lumberjacks, Crimson, Mustangs, and Highlanders. Ad nauseam, it’s been discussed just how bad this Pac-12 is. There’s been suspensions, dismissals, departures, and ineligibility.

It’s bad.

But on December 29, conference play begins. A clean slate, a new year, an opportunity to win the conference crown. Alas, here is an argument for each respective team to win the inaugural Pac-12 title.

How Colorado wins it:
The key here is Andre Roberson. The sophomore will collect every rebound available. He’ll also throw down so hard that they award him a six-pointer, eight if he posterizes. The distinct advantage of possessions and six-for-one baskets will have the Buffs throwing lobs (lob city?) all day to the lengthy Roberson. Toss in the fact that Tad Boyle and his Buffs are still bitter from last season’s snub from the NCAA tournament, the team thrives by the mantra “we see you, VCU” and rubbing the bald head of a Shaka Smart bronze bust erected in the locker room.

How Utah wins it:
Fact of the matter is, the Utes have been using their OOC schedule to set everyone up for what’s to come. The old rope-a-dope is being applied by Larry Krystkowiak and his band of Utes. Speaking of Krystkowiak, he’s also been using the consonants of his last name to form a super player, fiercely resembling Captain America or The Jimmer. Said super player will lead the Utes to an improbable conference title and at least the second weekend in the tournament.

How Arizona wins it:
Sean Miller becomes so frustrated with having to suspend suspend Josiah Turner and the team’s propensity for turnovers, in a final effort to get through to his squad, Miller starts himself. And evidently the former Pitt Panther and little guy who did this, has still got it. He begins dishing out assists like it was going out of style and providing the on court leadership this team so desperately needs. He has so much fun he keeps Turner on the bench, names Book Richardson head coach, and leads the Wildcats to not only their second straight conference title, but also the national championship.

How Arizona State wins it:
Jahii Carson is so inspired to be a Sun Devil despite his ineligibility that he practices so hard that he makes Ruslan Pateev not only an All-American center but also the next great Russian boxing champ. Trent Lockett and Keala King come through on their coach’s promise to them to be the next James Harden and the Herbivores play such a seamless zone defense that they make time stop. And then Sendek keeps his job, too.

How UCLA wins it:
Ben Howland finally gets a clue and kicks the cancerous Reeves Nelson off the tea…oh, he did that already. In that case, Josh Smith jogs home to Washington for Christmas break, whipping himself into long overdue shape just but just in time for Pac-12 play. He also, amidst the zen of running, learns how to teach Jerime Anderson and Norman Powell how to shoot and the two start raining threes. Lazerick Jones no longer needs to be the scorer and distributor of this team and Howland gets the Wear family to play and guard the three. Oh, and Anthony Stover starts getting actual PT.

How USC wins it:
Not only does 40-minutes-per-game Maurice Jones play and dominate all of every game, he begins playing every position for the fighting Bozos. Suddenly the 5’7″ guard is putting Josh Smith shots into the Galen Center rafters, running circles around lock-down Jorge Gutierrez, and scoring a Pistol Pete-like 62 ppg. The massive point total makes head Bozo, Kevin O’Neil, slightly uncomfortable coaching a team scoring more than 60 ppg, but he accepts it because all the minutes go to one player.

How Cal wins it:
Jorge Gutierrez locks down so hard on defense that he doesn’t allow a single point all season. Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs realize that for them to truly be a great Mike Montgomery team, they need to be twin brother centers. They settle on just wearing matching Mark Madsen masks as they go on to average identical numbers: 17.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.8 apg. Meanwhile, Harper Kamp goes to Occupy Oakland, realizes basketball is his only way into the 1% and has an All-Conference season. Bak Bak.

How Stanford wins it:
I mean, by pure cerebral force of the student body, Tiger Woods’ libido, and alumni endowment Stanford should win every national title. Instead, the Cardinal must battle their way to the Pac-12 crown which is OK because Johnny Dawkins smiled once. With that smile, three children were cured of incurable diseases and Chasson Randle committed to play in Palo Alto. He hasn’t smiled since but Aaron Bright is playing like the best point guard in the conference and have you seen Josh Owens? There’s a reason Silicon Valley has been recession proof.

How Oregon State wins it:
Jared Cunningham leaps buildings in a single bound and President Obama pardons all losses. Simple as that. While winning the conference title, Michelle makes Joe Burton the face of her Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity and suddenly it’s cool to be a Beaver. Cunningham wins national POY and Robinson national COY, leveraging their success to convince Jerry Buss to hire Robinson and trade all assets to draft Cunningham while moving the Lakers to Corvalis .

How Oregon wins it:
The Ducks make a reunion tour out of the season just to rub it in the face of all their transfers. Dana Altman calls up his old buddy Kyle Korver, EJ Singler hollers at big brother Kyle, and the Luke show (Ridnour and Jackson) all don the Nike gear to win the Pac-12 title atop the Tall Firs. So determined are the Ducks to make this a true reunion tour, anyone not on board gets LaGarrette’d.

How Washington wins it:
How about if their best players just play like they should? That said, Terrence Ross channels the inner-upset of NBA-less Seattleites and plays at a Durantula level. He winds up being the best player on the west coast; better than Kobe, Monta, CP3, Blake, you name it. The supporting cast obliges and Wilcox, Gant, Gaddy, etc. play disciplined basketball around the uber-talented Ross. His play is in fact so great that it doesn’t matter that Tony Wroten Jr. can’t make a free throw.

How Washington State wins it:
Realizing that his best team at WSU was chock full of pot heads, Ken Bone institutes a rule that everyone must light up pregame. Brock Motum is fully on board and the Aussie becomes the most dominate center in the Pacific Northwest. Reggie Moore is so ecstatic about this new rule that he’s literally floating during games and is therefore an unstoppable force. Faisal Aden overcomes his shooting deficiencies and starts hitting at a 67% clip, leading the nation in scoring.

 

The Pac-12, DPRK, & the Great Unknown

The dangerous and unpredictable leader of a poor and isolated state was recently laid to rest.

We’re talking about the UCLA Bruins of course. The preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 died of a sudden heart attack; that is to say they’ve played their way to a 6-5 record with no heart, no urgency, and like a group incapable of handling large weapons (Nelson, Smith, two Wears, Stover), dismissing (not launching) one.

There appears to be an obvious parallel here as just last weekend North Korea, a poor and isolated state, lost their dangerous and unpredictable leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). A man incapable of handling large weapons (nuclear warheads), Kim Jong-il, died of a sudden heart attack.

With the respective passings, both North Korea and the Pac-12 are left to unknown, unpredictable new leadership.

Kim Jong-un, the son of the late dictator, is the presumed heir to the DPRK “throne” (what does a dictator sit on? Everyone?). Cal, Arizona, and Stanford are the presumed heirs of the Pac-12 “throne” (what does the winner of the worst major conference sit on? Pumpkin carriage?). Little is known about any of the aforementioned heirs and their prospective leadership qualities.

Arizona has point guard and front court depth questions; Stanford isn’t particularly battle tested; Cal demonstrated an inability to hang with the big boys; and Kim Jong-un is a late-twenties recluse of which almost nothing is known – a frightening thought considering what is at this fingertips.

Internationally – that is to comment on North Korea’s predicament – there is great fear in the unknown. The late dictator scared many, impoverishing and isolating his country, while creating international strife with his access to nuclear weaponry. But at least there was a level of predictability with Kim Jong-il. Discussions were had; diplomacy was at least within the realm of possibility. His passing leaves the world on the edge of its collective seat: what is to come of this repressive and volatile state?

This is where our analogy begins to diverge (that is if you agree it was ever convergent).

While the world fears what will come of North Korea and how Kim Jong-un will lead or if he’ll even be able to maintain his position, the beauty of sports – and perhaps democracy – is parity. Sure parity is an ideal but a moderate reality to be sure. While UCLA may have been the preseason favorite, they were by no means the conference dictator. On December 29, all twelve teams have an equal, eighteen game shot at winning the conference championship (yes, it is a twelve-way equal shot, the staggered league schedule is semantics).

The young and unknown will have their opportunity to sit atop the conference – just like Kim Jong-un – but the question is: who will and how?

One has to like Cal’s chances; they have arguably the two best players in the conference in Allen Crabbe and Jorge Gutierrez. But Arizona, while they haven’t quite pieced it all together, has the most talented lineup, top-to-bottom. Of course Stanford has been the most consistent amongst the twelve teams and is playing some good ball.

Or could the aforementioned deceased rise? Could UCLA pull off the proverbial addition-by-subtraction, gel as a unit, and return to power?

Or is Washington the sleeping giant? With talent abound in the back court, could the Huskies right their ship and win this thing?

Oregon State with Jared Cunningham and the president’s brother-in-law? Oregon?

That’s a lot of question marks but let’s get serious for a second: at least none of them are regarding red buttons, extreme censorship, or bad international policy.

Ah perspective.

The Pac-12 is (Generously) a Three Bid League

Last week Joe Lunardi released his first edition of Bracketology.

As much heat as we like to pile on to guys like Lunardi who make NCAA projections and put themselves in the less than favorable position of getting nothing but hate from fan bases, Lunardi is pretty good at his job. He picks the field accurately and bases it on all the same NCAA selection committee criteria.

Examining his initial bracket, you’ll notice three Pac-12 teams: sixth seeded Stanford, eighth seeded Cal, and eleventh seeded Arizona. Only Cal was projected to actually play in the West region, Stanford was listed as “new to the bracket,” and Arizona’s stock was dropping.

With the important games of the OOC schedule over, this version of Bracketology is indicative of the Pac-12′s cap. The reality is that the Pac is a three team conference and is just a Stan/Cal/AZ home or bad road loss from being a two bid league.

None of the projected NCAA teams have done themselves any particular help since the season started: Cal was blown out on ESPN, Stanford hasn’t beaten anyone of particular relevance, and Arizona has had suspensions and dismissals galore. The rest of the conference hasn’t helped the overall RPI and eye test either: Utah is historically bad, ASU is brawling with mid-majors, UCLA is imploding, USC doesn’t score.

Oregon State is making an appeal to contend with Jared Cunningham flying high, a win over 9-2 Texas, and playing consistently good basketball. Alas, it’s still Oregon State who hasn’t had a winning season since 2005, lost to Idaho at home by 14, and I couldn’t even find stats going far enough back to discover their last winning conference season.

Needless to say, beyond a few teams, there hasn’t been a rich history or recent success out here.

[Deep inhale, deliberate exhale] It isn’t getting any better the rest of this year.

Back to the three projected dancers, Lunardi’s poor seeds for Pac-12 teams is about right and likely not going to change. Take last year’s Arizona team for example. They were 14-4 in a less-than-stellar Pac-10 with no marquee wins and a blowout loss to BYU (granted it was a pretty good BYU team but a spanking nonetheless). Those ‘Cats entered Selection Sunday with a 27-7 record and garnered just a five seed.

My point? The 2011-12 Pac-12 fate has been sealed.

Three teams is a gift and if you’re looking for silver lining the best you’ll find is that those three teams control their destiny into the tournament. Their remaining schedule is favorable for any team looking to make it into the dance and they each earn a little extra on their leash by playing in a major/BCS conference.

Beyond that it’s indeed a very short leash for the (generous) five teams vying for (generous) three tickets to dance.

 

BB: Fandom Hits the Road

I’ve made no bones about it: I am a University of Arizona Wildcats fan.

Have been since the day I was born and will be until the day I die. The McKale Center is Mecca; Lute Olson, god; Elliot, Kerr, Reeves, Stoudamire, Simon, Bibby, Dickerson, Terry, Gardner, Stoudamire, Budinger, disciples.

I love nothing more than attending a game at McKale, cheering on the ‘Cats amongst 14,000 fellow fans, rising to our feet as the game ebbs, screaming as the moment begs.

That said, some of my fondest Arizona memories are on the road. Traveling with a finite but dedicated group of Wildcat aficionados, proudly donning the Cardinal and Navy into hostile territory.

 

I’ve done this in arenas from New York to Los Angeles, seen blow out wins and blow out losses, made new friends and enemies. I even once got to watch UA hoops at noon and football at six, both live in Vegas, for my brother’s 22nd birthday.

One of the best times I ever had was in Tempe, January 2010. Arizona was in the midst of their worst season in 25 years and ASU was in the midst of their best run in those same 25 years. James Harden was a season removed from the Herbivores and Arizona finally had a non-interim head coach. A head coach who I would later ask:

Coach Miller, you’ve coached with and for Herb Sendek. Now, I was in Tempe two-years ago when you beat that school by 19 and I just want to know: was that as much fun for you as it was for me?

Miller of course had a very PC answer. Divulging very little of his fiery, competitive demeanor at an Arizona Athletics fundraiser hosted by the Bay Cats at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. I wrote about that great night in Tempe, read it here.

But the best game, the greatest moment on the road, was 2006 in San Diego.

I’d bought the tickets via SDSU the day they became open to the public – that is to say months in advance. Had I any foresight I would have swooped up the max allotment and made myself a pretty penny for a collegian. Alas, hindsight is always 20-20.

Attending the Chase Budinger homecoming would be my Dad, his best friend, and me, all coincidentally sitting next to the entire Budinger family along with a stadium full of Arizona fans (Zonies love San Diego and any excuse to get over there).

If you’ve never been to Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl (formerly Cox Arena), it’s a scene. They have a raucous and famously crude student section (who like all San Diego sports fans really only show up when it’s a big game, if at all) and is designed in a deep, pit fashion. There are no seating rings to the arena, just vertical seating bearing down on the court. To summarize: loud.

At the time, Arizona was a team that rolled teams like the Aztecs and did just that – often heading to the bench to deafening “U-OF-A” chants, the game culminating with an Arizona victory, 69-48.

My mild mannered father and I were enjoying the game, commenting on Marcus Williams’ need to play consistently hard, Budinger’s upside, Jewann McClellan’s sneaky athleticism, and what Mustafa Shakur was supposed to become. On the road, with your team rolling an inferior opponent is convenient and nice and not a time for you to start chirping.

Unless of course a bandwagon SDSU “fan” conveniently at the game to see Lute Olson’s Wildcats decides he needs to start the chirping.

Such became the case for us. Amidst a big Arizona run, one that essentially put the game away in the first half, with my Dad and me and three-quarters of the stadium on their feet cheering Steve Fisher’s forced time out, a San Diego weather fan turned to us and with a hideous scowl and the conviction of a person at his first basketball game turned to us and scathed, “GO HOME!”

Now let me go back to what I’d said earlier, about how my Dad is mild mannered. That’s an understatement. The dude is constantly cool, calm, and collected, a brilliant lawyer, with an answer to any and every problem. But amongst all of my grossly intelligent father’s talents, quick wit and humor are not his strong suits. Hence, neither is significant trash talk. He’s often left that to his two boys, the younger of which (not me) can be hellacious in an opposing arena.

But on this night, with my old man visiting one of his favorite cities, watching his favorite team with his childhood best friend who had gone to blows at my Dad’s defense on more than one occasion as grade schoolers and with his favorite son (yeah, I said that), well, my Dad overcame all of his innately trash talk prohibitive characteristics to provide the single greatest moment in trash talk history.

With the aforementioned San Diego State Bandwagoneer standing a row below us, scowling up and reveling in his mediocre Aztec glory at his witless “GO HOME,” and before I could get anything out regarding SDSU’s lack of relevant athletic anything or welcoming him to his first game, my father promptly and matter of factly, in a perfect tone of equal parts arrogance, certitude and go-fuck-yourself, told said Aztec: “Your lesson’s not over yet.”

My jaw hit the floor as the trash offender meekly turned around to take in the rest of the one-sided game, unsure how to handle the lesson he’d just received. It’s actually taken a few years for me to absorb the magnitude of that moment and just how perfect it was. If hyperbole will allow me, I’ve never been more proud of my Pops.

My immediate and distant futures undoubtedly contain road trips to many more Arizona games, hopefully being highlighted by attending a game on a Monday night in April. This weekend I’ll be in Seattle, once again attending an Arizona road game as part of a bigger celebration of my brother’s birthday. No doubt we’ll have a phenomenal time, remind a few Zags that Cinderella’s slipper can’t be that comfortable for that long, and hopefully not forget our winter coats.

But while I always have a great time watching the ‘Cats, that evening in San Diego will always be tough to top.

 

Larry Scott’s Pac-12 Network Will Change Your Life

Larry Scott spent his summer making sure your future Falls, Winters, and Springs were chock full of Pac-12 sports.

Now, this isn’t news but it’s undoubtedly worthy of a reminder, especially as we roll out of the OOC schedule and into Pac-12 play. You see, I live in San Francisco and have not had television access to three of Cal’s ten games and two of Stanford’s nine. Additionally I couldn’t watch an Arizona football game while home for Thanksgiving. These anecdotes also don’t account for games that are aired on obscure networks like MountainWest Sports and Root Sports.

When the Pac-12 Network debuts – August 2012 – fans of the Conference of Champions will have unprecedented access to their favorite teams. By unprecedented, I mean every football and men’s basketball game will be aired. Nationally.

Pause. Let that sink in for a second. Get excited.

Guaranteed 330 games broadcast across four providers (Time Warner Cable, Cox, Bright House, and Comcast). The math puts that at 45 million households or roughly the population of Ukraine. There are continued negotiations with the satellite providers and subsequently more households.

There will be six regional networks – Pac-12 Wash, Ore, NoCal, SoCal, AZ, and Mtn – meant to deliver content specific to those teams. Example: Pac-12 classics. Arizona is heading to Seattle this weekend to battle Gonzaga. What’s that I see on P12-AZ? Oh, it’s a replay of the 2003 Second Round, NCAA double-OT thriller featuring Arizona and Gonzaga. Can you say Friday nights on the couch?

No matter whether you’re in Gainesville, Columbus or Austin you’re going to see every single game that you want to. If you want to watch Utah-Idaho State (this Friday’s match-up), you can! If you want to watch Cal-Presbyterian (a non-broadcast football game), you can! You’ll also get to watch 40 women’s hoops games and select Olympic sports. Pac-on.

Then there’s the monetary aspect. The contract is a $3 billion deal spanning twelve years. Some elementary division shows us that’s at a little more than $20M per school, per year. In layman’s terms: lots.

(Everything you want to know about the deal can be found here. Jon Wilner at Mercury News owns it)

And if you don’t think that’s significant, already without a single television dollar collected, Washington State shelled out 214% more money to new head football coach Mike Leach than newly ousted head coach, Paul Wulf ($11M vs. $3.5M). For a little more perspective, the new deal will pay each school about 285% more annually ($20.8M vs. $5.4M).

Of course these figures are big picture. Finitely, there will be buildup to the large sums with the bulk of the payout on the back end of the 12 year deal. Semantics.

What I’m getting at is, unlike a Ben Howland suspension, the Larry Scott deals will be impactful. From the way your school spends to the games you’ll get to watch, your Pac-12 life is about to drastically change.

The intangible benefit of the increased revenues and national exposure is what this will do to the talent levels secured by Pac-12 schools. Is it any coincidence that the SEC has the best football programs (or at least reputations) while simultaneously holding the richest television contracts? The ACC and hoops? Expect the Pac-12 to shake the low talent stigma and reality, a slight erosion of East Coast Bias (especially if Scott can secure web-based broadcasting like espn3), and a few more trophies on the West Coast.

Increased money, increased eyeballs, increased everything.

And if that’s not enough for you, after recently being let go by CBS, Gus Johnson has joined Fox and subsequently will call Pac-12 football and basketball games. You’ll recall that he did a helluva job with last year’s Pac-10 Championship basketball game (COLD BLOODED) and if you watched this year’s Pac-12 Championship football game, you know he can make anything exciting.

Now, if you can’t get behind the dollars, the air time, and Gus, well then, you’re not a fan, have no business watching even the Olympic sports, should probably find a new hobby, and not call me up.

I’ll be busy watching the game.

The Week of the Fan

The Week of the Fan is upon us.

There are no games worth watching this week if you have perspective and realize that streaming a radio broadcast of Thursday’s un-televised Oregon State-Howard game is too much.

Wait a tick: I just linked you to that broadcast and I’ve listened to a game alone in my living room on radio only and one time even sat in a Starbucks, earbuds plugged in, table slapping and fist pumping my way through the Idaho State radiocast of Arizona’s 2010-11 season opener.

Being a fan, as I elaborated yesterday, is far from rational and lacks perspective. It’s like our brief window of irresponsibility, it’s great.

Hence, with finals on campus and subsequently few games (just seven mid-week games) I thought we could spend the week profiling ourselves. Talking about fans, what it means to be one, why it’s great, why it’s painful, the memories and tragedies.

We also find ourselves at the end of the year and self-reflection never hurt anyone.

In the meantime, here are some phenomenal fan perspectives:

  • No one’s ever going to question a hockey fan’s dedication. Proof you shouldn’t.
  • We’re all fans, whether we’re playing or not. Stanford’s Dan Grunfield writes well on “The Shot.” More to (possibly) come on this game.
  • This one is self-promotional but if you’re an Arizona fan, we did this one right.
  • And nothing discussing fans would be complete without this (link me to other team videos):

It Makes No Sense, but Being a Fan is Great

You’re a college basketball fan and no doubt a good one. You have a favorite team and know their strengths, weaknesses, and 2015 recruiting class. You have a “source” at the school, a great “remember when” moment, and your all-time favorite player never made the NBA.

You’re a great fan.

Therefore you’re irrational, dependent and manic. You know the program minutiae, read obscure blogs (gracias), have a go-to text recipient for every rumor, and hate a national expert and a local broadcaster. Team success – as finite as makes and misses in March – dictate your emotional state and you’ve undoubtedly participated in some variation of an unspeakable superstition ritual.

You, of course, have never had anything to do with a win or loss; have never scored a point or grabbed a rebound; have never drawn on the dry erase board.

Sports fandom, for better or for worse, is manic. It makes no sense and that is why it’s perfect.

The theatrics of sport – the purest of tragedies – provide a rare forum by which we can irrationally lose ourselves, become consumed by something bigger than us, and commiserate and co-exuberate the lows and highs.

Fandom provides a sense of community not always found at work, amongst your significant others’ friends, or at happy hour. It provides us the rare opportunity to raise our voices, yell and scream, jump and shout.

Fandom provides us this:

IU Upsets KY – Celebration at Nick’s English Hut from Tarun Gangwani on Vimeo.

Brandon Roy’s Retiring and That’s a Hoops Tragedy

Brandon Roy’s knees are tragically unable to to hold the immense talent that he is and therefore, at the ripe age of 27, he’s retiring from the game he excels at.

He was the 2005-06 Pac-10 Player of the Year, an All-American, the sixth pick in the NBA draft, an NBA All-Star, and one my all-time favorite basketball players. He was smooth and effortless, played with guts and to win.

I’ll always remember Roy’s New Year’s eve, 2005. I was on my family’s annual trip to Mexico, watching the Wildcats take on Roy’s Huskies in Seattle.

The marquee match-up was Hasaan Adams vs. Roy, two dynamic seniors leading teams that would likely finish 1-2 in this year’s Pac. Roy’s Huskies were 11-0 and sitting at #7 in the country. Adams’ Wildcats were 8-2 and had just fallen out of the rankings.

As one might expect, the Huskies jumped out to a big lead and headed to the lockers up 13. Below the border, we were worried: the Cats were getting blown out, the Huskies were clicking on all cylinders, and they’d served us blended Pina Coladas so our immediate bowel health was in a jeopardy.

But when the second half began and the Wildcats got to playing better basketball and we got to table slapping and screaming at a tube television broadcasting a pirated satellite feed 1865 miles from the game, things really got going.

You see, Hasaan Adams wasn’t a great basketball player. He was a great role player on a very good Salim Stoudamire/Channing Frey team in 2004-05 but did not have the skill set to be the lead.

But Adams would set career high with 32 points that night. Roy would set a career high with 35 points and like heavy weights, the two exchanged blows down the stretch – Roy forcing both overtimes well beyond the one minute mark, Adams scoring eight of his career high in bonus ball.

Brandon Roy elevated everyone’s game.

Graceful and powerful, level and easy, it was Roy that elevated Adams that night. A 96-95 overtime thriller can often be a spring board – regardless of what side of the score you fall on. Leadership recognizes opportunity. From that game on, the Wildcats would meekly go 12-10. From that game on, the Huskies would go 16-6, losing in the Sweet Sixteen to UConn in overtime, 96-92, and ending Roy’s college career.

Brandon Roy was a leader.

It was his excellent play, his class and charisma, his leadership that turned the Jailblazers into a respectable, feared, and winning NBA franchise once again. There are few players that can turn around an entire franchise, let alone a beleaguered and beaten one. BRoy did just that.

Down south we knew we’d just seen something special. The Wildcats had won and we were happy, content to set off into a great New Year’s celebration, but we were acutely aware of the fact that Brandon Roys don’t come around too often. We were fortunate to get to see him at his best.

Great anythings performing at their highest level is a beautiful thing to witness. It is to be cherished and celebrated. For that, Brandon Roy’s early retirement is a basketball tragedy. A loss for all basketball fans, from Huskies to Blazers, Wildcats to Lakers.

We’ll miss a phenomenal talent.

Utah Utes: The Best thing to Happen to SDCC

Utah could be the worst major conference team in basketball this season.

This is a disturbing conundrum befitting the worst conference amongst the majors. With heinous conference losses being racked up on a weekly basis, someone had to take flag as “The Worst.”

But the Utes are bad.

They have yet to beat a Division-1 opponent, per Ken Pomeroy’s stat monster they’re not expected to win a game other than Friday’s Idaho state game, and they’ve twice failed to score more than their football team’s scoring high (54).

The tribulations of Larry Krystkowiak’s crew are the best thing to happen to San Diego Christian College. The small Christian school in the eastern hills of San Diego is 365-387 all-time, their winningest coach is Art Wilmore, and – I repeat – they’re in San Diego. If you’re not getting my San Diego references then you’ve never been there before. Do yourself a favor: go. Here’s the link to book it.

Should the Utes prove to be as abysmal as statistically expected, SDCC will get some run off pub as the only team Utah beat in their miserable season.

The question: do you want this to happen?

The answer? Hell yes.

Like I wanted the the 2007 Patriots to go 19-0, the Miami Heat to go 73-9 (CBA fail), Michael Phelps to do what he did, and the 2008 Lions to go defeated, this is another “I remember when” moment. One of those things you’ll get to talk about in bars for years to come.

OK, so an 0-fer season in a medial Pac-12 maybe isn’t bar talk of epic proportions, but you can’t tell me you never get into unwarranted one-up battles that could use some ammo like these Utes.

And while there’s no chance I watch the game, wouldn’t it be amazing if Utah and the fighting Bozos (USC) battled to a sub-eighty cumulative score? That’d be an amazing box score to read:

                 1        2     OT      tot
USC       14       21     3         38
Utah       9       26      2         37

Which would then have you appreciating Tom Hansen’s television legacy in which nothing is aired and all basketball and football, good or bad, is lost on the non-broadcast albeit wealthy airwaves of Fox Sports Pacific Northeast Central Coastal Net.

Fact of the matter is, with Utah being this bad, no one will have to watch so it begs  another question: if a Utah has a win-less season and no games are broadcast, does it really happen?

If you’re a San Diego Christian College Hawk it sure as hell does.

2011-12 SDCC Hawks