Monthly Archives: February 2013

Guest Blog: A Visitor’s Guide to the Coors Event Center

In case you missed it, I’m heading to Boulder and the only thing I know about the game is that I’ll be in red and cheering for the red and blue team and wearing every jacket I own. So I reached out to Ben Burrows (@Rumblinbuffalo), a great Buffs fan and hoops ambassador and the mastermind behind The Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo, for a little guidance. Mind you, Ben’s blog is a daily read and dives deep into the depths of beers to drink during CU football games, fandom, and the state of his beloved HoopBuffs. Enjoy.

A Visitor’s Guide to the Coors Event Center.

The Coors Events Center may not be on anyone’s list of great college basketball venues, but, as I’ve discovered over the years, it can be a great place to watch a game.  Called everything from the Keg to the Foam Dome, what I simply label as the CEC has recently become one of the toughest arenas in the West to steal a road win from.  To whet your appetite for Thursday’s CU/Arizona grudge match, let me introduce you to the “Home where the Buffalo Roam.

Coors_Events_Center

Built in 1979 to replace the antiquated Balch Fieldhouse, the CEC stayed mostly the same for its first 35 years of existence.  A bleak concrete exterior lead many to believe it was the campus fallout shelter.  Quite the contrary, as the CEC has been the exclusive home to CU’s indoor teams, the site of countless tests and finals for entry-level classes, and host for big events like two rallies for the President last year.  The CEC was where I received my BA in the winter of 2006, and I even saw a Cake concert there a few years back.

Recently, the athletic department has decided to put some real money into the old girl, sprucing up both the interior and exterior.  Since the mid 2000s CU has added dedicated coaching facilities (basketball offices used to be located across campus at the football stadium), a new winter sports weight room, new locker rooms, new video and ribbon boards, a brand new media center, new ticketing areas, and, most importantly, an $11 million practice facility completed in 2011.  It’s no coincidence that CU’s fortunes on the court started to perk up as each step of the facelift was completed.  As a result, we got to further spruce up the interior this fall:

CUChamps

Of the 11,064 seats in the building, there isn’t a single one that I would call a bad seat.  There’s no obstructed views, no wasted space around the court, and, much like the Pit in Albuquerque, the seats drop from the entrance level, creating a sweaty cauldron of sound.

The elephant in the room is altitude.  The arena famously sits at 5,345ft of Rocky Mountain high altitude. For the purposes of competitive psychology, any Colorado sports fan is quick to tell you that, at over a mile above sea level, you’re taking in about 17% less oxygen with each breath.  We’ll eagerly spin tales about headaches and lethargy, warning that your favorite team could possibly drop dead simply by running out of the tunnel.

I hate to ruin the surprise, but it’s mostly bunk.

Unless we suddenly decide to start playing in Vail, there’s little risk of altitude sickness effecting play.  In all honesty, you’re probably better off breathing our rarified air than the smog-filled stuff in Los Angeles.  Just drink a little bit more water (my first lesson in the CU Marching Band: water is your friend), and you’ll avoid most of the side-effects.

Then again, maybe there is something to it.  In the #RollTad era alone, the Buffs are 41-5 against all opponents, and all CU sports win at a 70% clip in the CEC.  Call it altitude, basic home court advantage, whatever… the Buffs are just damn good at home.

So, feel free to come up to Boulder.  We’re (mostly) friendly, and, other than your favorite team losing, you’ll have a great time

If you do decide to pop out to Boulder for a game, here’s a quick guide for out-of-towners.

Parking

Just like in monopoly, it’s free.  Yep, free.  CU reserves a few lots for donors, but otherwise it’s fair game.  This fact alone makes CU basketball one of the best sporting entertainment values in the region.  Traffic control on the exit is a little rough, however.  Be prepared to sit for 10-15 min.

Food

I had always been a fan of the hot dogs at the CEC, but I think they changed the supplier.  They’re simply  substandard this season.  In their stead, overall concourse offerings have improved with the inclusion of a carvery station (east side), an asian-esque noodle option (SE corner), and a BBQ stand (west side).  Nothing too special, to be honest.

Alcohol

Not available, unless you can sneak into the club room located in the bowels of the stadium.  For season ticket holders only, the club room serves beer and wine in addition to a rotating menu of pre-game meals.

Bathrooms

Troughs.  I apologize.

In game cheer/band things to look for

The Buff Basketball Band has become semi-famous in recent years for being obnoxiously large and loud.  At a maximum of 125 pieces, they may be the biggest group in the country.  Their “Tuba Cheer” at the 8-min second half timeout has been a staple for years.

The C-Unit.  I may have talked down to them a few weeks back, but they’re legit.  Of their many shenanigans, the “roller coaster” right before the start of the second half may be the best.  Make sure you’re back in your seats for that.  Also, their big heads are getting better every week.  The Spencer Dinwiddie with the spinning mustache is probably the best.

 

Outside Food/Drinking options

The closest and best is the World Famous Dark Horse.  A 15-minute walk away from the stadium, it’s your typical dive, only with “character.”  The dark, wooden, junk-filled interior has seen plenty of craziness over the years, and that place is my #1 recommendation for visiting fans.  Need a few whiskeys to prepare you for the madness?  They’ve got you more than covered.

They also happen to make some of the best burgers in town.  My favorite is the Jiffy Burger.  Topped with provelone, bacon, and peanut butter (yes, peanut butter), it’s much better than it sounds.  For those of you with more traditional palates, try the fried egg and ham burger (what it sounds like) or the royale burger (ham, BBQ sauce, and an onion ring).

Outside of the Horse, there are plenty of options over on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder.  For drinks, check out the Sundown Saloon (cheap beer, pool hall, dive), the Attic (try the “Fat Albert”), and the basement bar at Salt (expensive, but fantastic cocktails).  Johnny’s Cigar Bar is a great place for a cocktail and a victory smoke.  Food?  The best combination of price, quality, and options is at the West End TavernThe Kitchen, and it’s accompanying bistros Upstairs and Next Door, is also great, if a little pricy.

Still haven’t found anything you like, try The Sink up on the Hill.  It’s good enough for the PresidentHalf Fast Subs has an extensive sub list, and great pitchers.  Try the “Strong Island.”

GO BUFFS!

With that, I know exactly what to do at The Keg: wear my red shirt, Bear Down, and eat a buffalo burger. And now I know where and how to do all of that in style.

Big thanks to Ben! Give him a follow and a read.

Week 7 Pac-12 Hoops Preview

On Tuesday, President Obama addressed the Nation in his annual State of the Union. He touched on the pertinent subjects surrounding the goings on of our country and how he, as our elected leader, intends on solving or improving them.

But at it’s crux, at the core of what our President implored congress and this nation to do, was to grow a “rising and thriving middle class.” And then he looked right into the camera and subsequently the souls of Bob Cantu, Herb Sendek, Tad Boyle, Johnny Dawkins, Lorenzo Romar, and Mike Montgomery. After all, these are the heads of the middle-class as we know it. For therein lies five teams log jammed between three 8-3 squads and three 2-9 squads.

Yes, here is the middle class with four weeks remaining that will indeed have its opportunity to rise and thrive, grow and taste success beyond a brief weekend in Vegas. Anyone can afford that. Because no one wants to leave Vegas a complete loser.

The weekend that will be and some additional worthy reads:

**Please note: The above is the first ever reference of Barack Obama and the Pac-12 without mention of Craig Robinson. I’ll take your applauds at the conclusion of the performance.

GotW: Absolutely it’s the game I’m attending. I wouldn’t catch a flight to the haunted DIA or think really hard but not do anything about shelling out $25 more for additional leg room because I’m 6’5″ or troll message boards if I was traveling to OSU-WSU, would I? Never. So yeah, the GotW is Arizona’s visit to Colorado and my attendance. And while my attendance is generally a recipe for GotW, this game has all the ingredients to be great. First of all, Arizona is pissed. Or at least should be. They got beat soundly by Cal and allowed them to shoot 60%. That’s bad and the Cats would appear to have something to prove (see below). On the other bench is Tad Boyle and his replay beliefs. This man thinks replay should be gone and if he’d had his way in 2012 – or even these convictions back then – his team would have one additional win. Sorry I’m not sorry. Ask any Buffalo about it, they’re just now moving past as they’ve won five of six and looking for that revenge. Will they get it? Time will tell. Going to get loud in the Keg.

Game to Avoid: Last week it was a pair of 2-7 teams and this week it’s a pair of 2-9 teams. Oregon State’s visit to Pullman comes with about as much hoopla as my second beer on a Friday night: It has to happen to get on to better things. I have a built in excuse to miss this one (flying to Denver), what’s yours?

Something to Prove: The Arizona Wildcats dip into hostile waters as the highest ranked team in the conference and as (per KenPom) the favorites. But something doesn’t feel right. They dropped the ball against Cal (already mentioned) and, amongst all Top-10 teams, have taken the most heat as an underserving team. The questioning of Arizona has some merits but at the end of the day, they’re 20-3 against the 10th toughest schedule in the nation. But such a record against such competition suggests there might be another level. Something bigger than losses to Cal and squeaking through much of their Pac-12 season. But here they are now. This trip to Colorado can be a message sending game in which Arizona reasserts itself in the face of adversity as the conference’s top team. Time to prove.

Something to Lose: Arizona State faces a tough roady as Utah is very capable of holding holding court (these two went to OT in Tempe) and Colorado is a very good team, particularly on their home floor. The Herbivores pieced together a phenomenal first half but a handful of road hiccups this week could really set them onto the wrong foot heading down the four week stretch to Vegas. The logjam of teams nipping at ASU’s heels (CU, Stan, Cal, USC) is playing some formidable ball and could quickly make moves up the standings, especially if ASU stumbles this weekend.

The YouTuber: I’m just noting here that Stanford has the lowest field goal percentage in the conference…

BB: Saint Valentine’s in Boulder & Your New Facebook Cover

I’m heading to enemy territory.

From day one I’ve made it clear that I am an Arizona Wildcat fan. I’ve been such since day one and I lament the two years of my life in which the Cats didn’t dance. Those were rough and I recognize that such an existence is rare. Believe me, I do not take this for granted.

And as a fan of both this team and this conference, it’s about as fun of a road trip as there is. From Seattle to Eugene to San Francisco, LA, Phoenix and now Boulder and SLC, there are few if any conferences that offer that sort of  road power. I mean, Lubbock, Manhattan, Stillwater, Morgantown? Good grief no thanks!

And so I’m heading to Boulder. I’m going for a game coined the #ValentinesDayMassacre by a fan base conducting a “wear black” game. Not a blackout. They can’t be trusted with such verbiage. And to be honest, neither can I but that’s irrelevant. Your next Facebook cover photo is relevant:

AZCUBackground

Your new Facebook cover photo.

Right click, Save Image As, Edit Cover Photo, Upload Photo, add that one because that will be me and Sarah and Spencer and Matt and Peter and relatively countable others amongst the black. Shining through in the colors of Bear Down on Saint Valentine’s day of love.

And let me tell you I cannot wait. I’m going to see some of the best Cats I know and since starting this here house of narcissism I’ve grown to know a good group of Buffs. This is going to be one helluva weekend in the greater Denver area.

I’ve addressed the Buffaloes on this matter which lead to some fun message board banter (jump in here). Evidently their 2012 Conference Tournament Title (sincere kudos) affords them a thirty year eraser. That’s cool (sarcasm font). The spark:

Dear Buffalo Nation,

I’m on my way.

I’m flying to Denver International Airport in my red shirt and when I land I’ll look deep into that crazy blue horse’s red eyes and it will know exactly what’s up. Because this is the week you host a Top-10 team. And I expect a Top-10 treatment: That Keg had better be black as night so that everyone knows exactly where the Wildcats are. Because I know exactly where they’ll be.

They will be so locked into the chests of Ski and The Mayor that those two will think they wore the wrong jersey. You think Nick Johnson is about to let someone go Crabbe on him again? No and I just called Kenny Boynton about it and he vomited. Puked. Probably has something to do with his 2-10, 3 turnover night in Tucson.

They’ll be coming at Josh Scott with so many big bodies he’ll forget he’s ambidextrous and defer to the three-named kid who will also get chewed up and spit out just in time for Roberson to rebound it. He does that well.

And they’ll go right at Sabatino. He is not scary. We could watch video of him banking his fifth career three-pointer that no one wanted to let count but all we’d really focus on is that pristine hair. Unflappable, glorious locks.

This is the program you asked for and this is the game that you wanted. And now you’ve got it. But do you really know what you got? This is a program that doesn’t play for invitations or eleven seeds or first weekends. Wildcats play for one game on a Monday night in a football stadium to hang some cloth in a gym that we call McKale. This is Arizona.

So we’ve indeed got our Saint Valentine’s treat: A trip to Boulder and a whole lot of fun and the Buffs chance to make a mark on this conference and this budding rivalry. A Top-10 moment (and believe you me, I too wished this was a Top-3 team you were facing). I’ll see you there because it sure beats dealing with the fallout of the girl you’re doing nothing for who you mistakenly took on date two on 2/7 (rookie move). Get your popcorn ready…

I’m on my way.

Adam

PS. Seriously, I will see you guys there and I’m really looking forward to meeting you. Not entirely sure where I’ll be pre-game but post-game, let’s do Boulder.

 

So I’ve grabbed every sweater, jacket, scarf, beanie, hoodie, wool sock, and glove I could muster (not much for a kid from Tucson) and I’m set. Let’s do this. If you’re going and I don’t know yet, let me know: @pachoopsab. Let’s get undergrad on Boulder.

Week 6 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I watched the Cal-Arizona game Sunday afternoon. Had the full braintrust there, Wildcats galore for the first viewing at my buddy’s new apartment. I left unsatisfied with Arizona’s effort and upset the Cats wouldn’t be a top-3 team heading to Boulder for their big rematch there. And in the time it took to walk the street and hail a cab home, Allen Crabbe hit four more shots. The dude couldn’t miss and it got me to thinking that maybe that was the best performance of the season. He missed four shots all night in dropping 31/7/5 in the road upset. Performance of the year.

And then Spencer Dinwiddie went ahead and missed zero shots all night en rout to a road win and 24/3/4 making it remarkably difficult to choose the performer of the night. It certainly wasn’t last night’s GIRLS and I missed the Grammy’s.

My roommate and I instead hammered out the original Jurassic Park and so my final answer for top performance Sunday goes to Goldblum.

The weekend:

Leader in the Clubhouse: Can I pass on this one? There are eight teams within two games of the conference lead. Parity? Competition? Mediocrity? All of the above? I don’t have this answer because it appears everyone is doing there best not to lead here; what with Oregon’s three game skid and the Wildcats’ hiccup against Cal and UCLA’s whatevering and Stanford’s roller coaster, etc. But this is sport and so there must be a top team and I choose Oregon. They’re a good team with a broken PG who should be returning soon. Like getting that extra arm at the trading deadline, the Ducks will get the extra bump they need as we near season’s end. Sure they have their issues, but their three game skid has been negated and they maintain, A) The simplest schedule B) Tiebreakers against both Arizona and UCLA. But there’s still a whole lotta season left…

Biggest Loser: The Huskies entered conference play with little expectations and then quickly jumped out into first place with a nice little 4-0 start. I was excited and impressed. Well they’ve since lost six of seven and this weekend pretty much sealed their fate. Nail. Coffin. They managed to be competitive in Pauley and then things just fell apart in the Galen Center. I wanted to watch the latter of these games but FSN is maybe the most unaccessible network out there. I managed to get a few updates via gchat from someone in Israel who was getting the game fed to him via Skype call. Woof.

What We Learned: This college basketball season is going to shock us. It’s going to wow us and surprise us and challenge us and have us shaking our heads to the point our necks hurt. But that’s why we love it. That semblance of hope that indeed anything can happen and that no matter how accurate Ken Pomeroy or Nate Silver or your gut is, this game will no doubt shock you. Kansas at TCU? Arkansas over Florida? Cal toppling Arizona? USC flirting with contention? If there was anything we learned this week – from the greater landscape to our Pac-12 backyard – competition reigns supreme. There may not be an elite power, a blow away team that tramples through the season like I just took down my $17 Chinese food delivery. No, we learned this week that perhaps no one is quite great. But the season is.

The YouTuber: I’m heading to Colorado this week to see my Cats in the Keg and I ask you, Colorado…

I Love Thursdays

I love Thursdays….

photo(20)

Thanks, Larry.

I do. And I don’t care what you think. I love them for the games they want to be and I love them for the games that they almost are. I love them. I love them.

BB: More Moments, This One the Choltender’s

As we celebrated McKale’s fortieth amidst tales of moments that filled Arizona’s home stadium, Angelo Chol had one of his own.

With Grant Jerrett out and the dynamic front court of the Stanford Cardinal imposing much of their will onto Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley, it was the intermittently used Chol who captured the opportunity to win. He doubled his previous biggest minutes output of the season in producing 6 points and 8 rebounds and disrupting the active Dwight Powell just enough to allow the Wildcats to pull away. Because without Chol there was no stopping that man.

It was his moment and he seized it.

Sean Miller would go on to rave of his back-up forward’s, back-up’s performance, going so far as to say had he not risen to the occasion it was “game over.” The Wildcats grew dependent on the ninth player off their bench and he delivered. That’s impressive and that’s special.

And so too is the season Solomon Hill is compiling. Which at this point has moderately gone without saying. Twenty second half points while also drawing defensive duties on the overpowering tandem of Huestis and Powell is damn impressive. That Lyons kid was special, too. Miller called it his best game as a Wildcat and you’ll hear no argument from me. He’s “turning the corner” as a point guard, Miller raved. A fact that is both special and frightening regarding the ever elevating ceiling of this team twenty-two games deep.

[This is the point in the post where I must say that Dwight Powell is unstoppable]

Indeed last night was a celebration of the moments we’ve enjoyed and the Wildcats have delivered for the past 40 years inside that stadium. And Chol and his teammates treated us to a few more, painting a clearer picture of what this team is capable of with its depth, fortitude, and leadership. A team unafraid of the moment.

And perhaps capable of a shining one.

Week 6 Pac-12 Hoops Preview

Am I alone in feeling like that first half just blew past? Like I don’t really feel as if Selection Sunday is just thirty-nine days away or that the Pac-12 Tournament is just thirty-five days away. However, judging by my return airfare purchased yesterday, the Pac-12 Tournament is right around the goddamn corner.

What definitely is right around the corner – just one week away – is my trip to Colorado’s Blackout of the Arizona game on Valentine’s Day. Damn I’m going to look good in red.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves because this is a very interesting weekend. I think Stanford has a chance to play off of some of their momentum garnered last week and Oregon-Colorado could be one of the most physical games of the year. The Wednesday/Thursday slate of games is as good as it’s been all season. And things are just getting started.

Because this is the point where you can see the horses coming around the distant but final turn. It’s the approach to the home-stretch where we begin to see some daylight between contestants as fatigue and attrition kick-in. Which horse can handle a bump in the track? Who’s capable of digging a little deeper and finding another level? Who will the strongest horse be?

Let the second half begin!

Also, if you’re interested, here are some of my other hoops thoughts posted today:

Game of the Week: This is pending Wed/Thursday’s results – particularly the outcome of the ASU game – but I’m really interested to see Stanford’s visit to Tempe. Stanford is the more talented group but ASU has been the better team to date. I could see an assortment of things transpiring but I ultimately think these two teams match up very interestingly. Bachynski offers an obvious mismatch for any team while Powell does the same at just a different position providing a very game-turning battle. Josh Huestis and Carrick Felix somewhat cancel one another out and so I think this one could really boil down to which of the guards play best. Randle and Bright versus Carson and Gordon. So it matches up interestingly and as of publishing, ASU was tied for third in the conference at 6-3 while the Cardinal sat at 5-4, tied for fifth. Even if Stanford drops to 5-5, I still find this a spicy one for tournament – of the Pac-12 variety – seeding. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first reference to any place but first on PacHoops this season. Leave it to ASU.

Game to Avoid: I really, really like what Larry K is doing at Utah. I told y’all about it earlier this week. And I really want to like Craig Robinson and the teams he’s compiled in Corvallis. The scoring potential of his group – between Starks, Moreland, Collier, and Nelson – is terrific. The defense has just never caught up. Meanwhile, Larry K just doesn’t have a good roster and you’ve got a lot of important things to be doing on your Wednesday night. 2-7 versus 2-7 just isn’t must watch anything. Particularly in poker.

Something to Prove: Every time I look at this section – or others like it such as “The Biggest Loser” in our reviews – Colorado comes to mind. And this time came as no difference. Is there anything left for them to prove? Alas, that shining, shimmering, beautiful RPI ranking of 24 continues to keep me believing. They pop up in every bracketology because they have proven to us that they are a good team. But time is starting to run out and they’re going to have to start resting on the laurels of some big wins of their own and not on computer calculations. That said, why not start this Thursday at Oregon? This should be one damn good ball game as it should feature two teams that are wildly hungry for a win after disappointing weekends in Salt Lake and the Bay.

Something to Lose: The Stanford Cardinal really began to conjure up some good mojo this past weekend, particularly after utterly destroying Oregon. So it would appear they grabbed onto momentum and could ride it into the second half of conference play and maybe right on into the Dance. Of course they managed to turn things around – or at least we optimistically think so – just as they head to Arizona for the conference’s most difficult road trip. The Arizona schools have the opportunity to completely deflate the sails on this Stanford season. Getting swept would drop them to 5-6 with a trip to Oregon and a hosting of UCLA and Colorado still remaining.

The YouTuber: I think I’m late to the Kid President train but I too hope you do awesome:

Guest Blog: BH on his Favorite McKale Memories

Arizona will be celebrating McKale’s anniversary tonight, so I asked a great Wildcat, my buddy BH, to answer Sean Miller’s question:

February 1st marked the official 40th anniversary of the 1973 opening of McKale Memorial Center. For those of you that don’t know, McKale Memorial Center (or just “McKale”) is located at 1 National Championship Dr. Tucson, AZ 85721, and houses the home court of the University of Arizona Wildcat basketball team. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, McKale is also the venue for some of my greatest college basketball memories (RIP RCA Dome [1]).

Fittingly, Sean Miller took to the Twitterverse to ask Arizona fans what their favorite memory at McKale was. As a coach who knows that many a Wildcat fan has an encyclopedic knowledge of every great game at McKale since 1973, this is a great PR move by Miller—who consistently has a deft touch when it comes to fan engagement. However, for this lifelong fan picking one memory is impossible, let alone fitting it into 140 characters. As such, @UACoachMiller: a list of my 3 favorite McKale Memores #guestblog:

Salim from the Cactus

Salim Stoudamire is one of my all time favorite ‘Cats. If most people are like me, they can’t remember the kid ever missing a shot—especially a three. Say what you will about J.J. Redick‘s 2005, Salim shot a ludicrous .504 from behind the arc. But it’s the afternoon of Saturday, January 15, 2005 that stands alone.

UCLA was in town with second year coach Ben Howland and 14,558 fans were there to watch with me. McKale was rocking: National TV, Steve Lavin on the call, and the red sweater crowd was standing. Arizona trailed by four at the half, but mounted a comeback fueled by Salim’s 24 point, 9-for-11-shooting second half. With the clock running under thirty seconds UCLA’s freshman prodigy, Aaron Aflalo, had just tied the game with a three. But now it was Arizona’s ball. Salim casually received it near mid court and cleared things out to break down Afflalo. Then, without warning, he pulled up from 27 feet and launched an arcing three pointer. The ball hung in the air for what seemed hours, and then like a movie, splashed straight into the net like a stone into a pond. McKale erupted.

The Other Rivals

At the end of the 1990’s and early 2000s Stanford and Arizona battled back and forth for Pac-10 supremacy. They forged a rivalry that featured heart wrenching defeats, heart stopping wins, top 10 matchups, and twins, always twins. I still get annoyed thinking about Mike Montgomery in his glasses, sitting on the bench clutching his clipboard, chewing gum and orchestrating plays for his limitless stable of three-point-assassins. Needless to say, beating Stanford was great. Beating Stanford when they were ranked second in the land entering McKale and favored by Vegas to win? Even better.

If I’d known or cared about spreads and betting as an 8th grader I would have told Vegas to go fly a kite. In 2000 Arizona just didn’t lose at McKale. In fact, leading into this Stanford game Arizona had only lost 15 times at home since 1990, and since the 1996-1997 season, had lost only twice at home by a combined total of 4 points. Vegas needed a better bookie. In 2000, when you marched through the tunnel under Speedway en route to McKale, you weren’t marching to a game. You were marching to a prelude to victory party. And March 9, 2000 would be no different.

Richard Jefferson was returning from a foot he had broken earlier that year in a win at Maples. He came off the bench for 19 points that day and as Stanford shot meaningless free throws at the end of the game he smiled and gestured to the crowd to quiet down as they chanted, “overrated, overrated.” And when the clock struck zeros, it was Jefferson himself celebrating atop the scorer’s table with fans streaming onto the floor.

The Block

At 4 pm McKale Center time on February 19, 2011 Washington and Arizona tipped off in McKale with first place in the Pac-12 on the line. Some two hours later the game finished as Derrick Williams blocked Darnell Gant’s potential game winner into the stands. The Block.

Many Wildcat fans will tell you that The Block is their favorite McKale memory. And you’d be hard pressed to find a single Wildcat fan in McKale that day that would say anything different. I was watching the game by myself in my friend’s basement in Portland, Oregon and it’s still one of my favorite memories. I can’t tell you what happened after I leaped up in jubilation and smashed my hands into the ceiling immediately following Williams’ blocked shot, but I’d imagine I immediately called or texted the author of this blog.

This game makes the list because it is probably the greatest McKale memory in the Sean Miller era (due respect to the Florida game this year). This game had all the ingredients: Miller had asked all the fans to wear white and all of them did, the game was nationally broadcast on ESPN, and the Pac-12 title was on the line. What made this game special is this was the first game in several years at McKale that really meant something. Arizona fans knew they had a special player in Derrick Williams and knew they had found a coach in Sean Miller that was going to do special things.

It was a coming out party for Miller, the program, fans at McKale, and fans in Tucson and across the country. When Derrick swatted that shot into the sea of white every one of those fans from McKale to Portland let out a cathartic jubilant scream years in the making.

Honorable Mention:

The 1993-1994 ‘Cats welcomed the Michigan Wolverines into McKale. These were the same Wolverines of Fab Five fame that had run out of timeouts just one year earlier in the National Championship game. Although Chris Webber had split for the NBA, they came to town in their oversized shorts and with plenty of swagger. Khalid Reeves welcomed them to town by torching them for 40 points in a 119-95 route.

 


[1] The RCA Dome in Indianapolis hosted the 1997 Final Four, where Arizona won its first (and only) NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship.

Yes. 600 Words on Why Utah Might be Good

Saturday afternoon I was wrapping up my piece for AllBuffs and going in on Colorado a bit. They’d just lost to Utah and assuming that the Buffs were really going to turn the corner as a program this year, I figured that was a game they’d have won. I said:

But to dance, the ultimate goal of any collegiate team, is to beat the Utah’s of your conference. Those teams you pass by when you glance over the schedule because you’ve already chalked it up in the win column. You don’t necessarily talk about this but let’s be serious, if you’re a fan of an upper tier Pac-12 squad, you dismiss the Utah game.

Look, let’s call a spade a spade here: Utah just isn’t that good. But they’re improving and in sport we’re going to find our way into forced rankings. Someone is going to finish last. That’s just the way competition shakes out. If you’re hoping to find your way to the top half, you don’t lose to the lower half. Hence, I really thought Colorado shoulda won that ball game.

But they didn’t.

Because Larry K is building a competitor in Utah. Like I said, they’re not that good and prone to drubbings like those delivered by Stanford (56-87) and USC (59-76). But beyond that? Average scoring differential in conference play for the Utes is -1.57. To the lay eye or casual observer that suggests that Utah is in ball games with a shot – literally one shot short by that previous number – to win on any given night.

Lucky for us, Ken Pomeroy isn’t all that casual of an observer. I dunno actually. Maybe he’s just an obscene Excel guy, I’m really not sure. But I am sure of the concept that someone with a statistical mind far greater than my could provide some explanation as to what we could make of Utah’s tiny scoring differential. As luck would have it, there’s Luck.

Here is a statistic that takes into account a team’s game efficiencies and scoring differentials along with a whole lot of other things. You can read all about it. As it were, guess who is the 326th luckiest team in America? That’s right: Coppin State. Utah is the 328th which is to say they’re the 20th unluckiest team in the country.

Damn.

I don’t always love moral victories, but this luck quotient is foreboding of future success for the Utes. Try this tale of two Broncos for example. In 2012, Boise State and Santa Clara finished 331 and 328 respectively in luck. Related to some extent but certainly not exclusively, these two sets of Broncos finished with unenviable records of 13-17 (BSU) and 8-22 (SC). Both rosters were littered with underclassmen, too; seventeen between the both of them.

Now let’s quick check back in with Utah and where they stand again: 328th in luck, 10-11 record, five underclassmen.

Today, one year removed from meddling around as unlucky losers, the Boise State Broncos are 15-6 and the Santa Clara Broncos are 17-7.

But please don’t quote me on any of this! Next season is an eternity away and Utah has incurred significant roster turnover year-over-year since Larry K took charge. To be expected in a brand new program but not really supportive of predictive analysis. Basically I’m saying I’d be flabbergasted if Utah were 17-7 but we’d at least have some intelligent thought behind understanding such a turnaround.

So while Utah may once again be that team in 2013 that gets looked over on the schedule, they really shouldn’t be. Cause they’ll take you for a helluva ride and you’d be lucky to beat ’em. Ask Colorado.

Week 5 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I may not have had much of a dog in that Super Bowl fight but I do live in San Francisco and some of my closest friends are die hards. So when that ball dropped just outside the fingertips of Michael Crabtree I was struck with a very surprising sorrow. I wanted him to secure that touchdown and for the San Francisco to erupt. I wanted to see my friends celebrate with unbridled joy amongst the other strangers in the bars and the streets and the interwebs. But that was not to be the case and I was overwhelmed with the understanding of just how complex a season is. How it begins – when exactly is dependent upon your competitive ball of choice – with promise and excitement. The hours upon hours of work and preparation, sacrifice and all of the other words that we toss around to indicate the lengths a person or collection thereof will go to achieve their goal. And in this world of sport that goal is to win your last game, a championship for a ring or a banner or a cup that will forever let the masses know that you, for one season or tournament were the best. And when it comes to that moment, the final match to seal yourself that champion, to lose is nothing short of devastation. Gone. All out the window. So incredibly close yet painfully, sorrowfully, far.

We’re marching ever closer to those moments and while they hurt and conjure inexplicable feelings in us because we literally had no effect on that game’s outcome, it’s the beauty of fandom. Because when the ball does bounce in your favor, if Crabtree does make that catch or when Isaiah hits that stepback or Derrick makes that block, it’s all so suddenly validated and right.

It was good weekend.

Leader in the Clubhouse: The Arizona Wildcats jump back into the top spot and while they don’t necessarily hold a tiebreaker against fellow first placers Oregon, they didn’t get swept by the Bay schools. They did, however, grind out a couple of wins in Washington which is never an easy place to sweep. It was in fact Sean Miller’s first ever sweep up there and as we head towards the midway point, the Wildcats are positioning themselves for a successful home stretch.

GotW: I usually reserve this spot for the best game, competitively speaking, of the week. To that effect I give a shout out to USC-UCLA, Washington-Arizona, Washington-ASU, and Cal-Oregon. But I’m going to award this to Stanford and their performance Wednesday night. Sure I’m biased as I was there, but what they did offensively and defensively to Oregon was very impressive. Truly one of the best collective efforts I’ve seen this year and while I get that it was unsustainably good, they showed their ceiling and it’s a high one. Josh Huestis is a beast and a defensive nightmare and holy smokes is Aaron Bright quick.

Biggest Loser: Quarter by quarter, who are the Colorado Buffaloes? Through discussions with trusted Buffs they’re capable of everything from a Sweet 16 run (agree) to a swift NIT exit (still agreeing). This weekend they proved themselves the latter and that’s tremendously perplexing after the performance they put on in Utah. Or should I say the lack of performance and a further alarming fact considering Tad Boyles’ teams’ history on the road now. As Pac-12ers they’ve performed to the tune of 6-13 on the road (conference and non-conference). This isn’t very good and for a program that seemed poised to turn the corner, they really cannot afford to be doing things like lose to the Utah’s of the conference. There’s still time left and this is really the only major blemish on their resume (only non-top-100 loss). Interested to see if this game pisses them off or defeats them.

What We Learned: Oregon needs Dominic Artis. He’s not the sole proprietor of their success prior to his injury but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Ducks need their freshman point guard. In his absence they’ve turned the ball over 65 times. That’s an entire game’s worth of possessions they’ve handed away across the last three contests sans the little guy from Oakland. It’s been unclear just how long he’ll miss but I do imagine they’d love to get him back for this week’s hosting of Colorado. I asked the same about Colorado – whether they’re pissed or defeated following their tough loss – and I’m curious the same of these Ducks. My guess is that even without Artis this veteran group is reeling over getting swept and not all too pleased about it. My hope is that we have two teams that are really upset with their most recent performances and we’re treated to delight of a Thursday nighter.

The YouTuber: Loved it.