Category Archives: Arizona


Sean Miller has your attention: Of Monsters and Media

“FEED ME!!!!” screamed the emaciated college basketball news cycle. The monster, who hadn’t eaten a satisfactory meal since Andre McGee was paying hookers and Rick Pitino didn’t go to ACC media day was starving. The tip-off marathon wasn’t going to cut it. His belly growled as he had nothing for bleary-eyed college basketball nerds watching 24-hours of their favorite sport.

Because, of course, the contests themselves are never enough. There must be narrative beyond ball-in-hoop. The monster must eat.   Continue reading


Michael Wright: 1980-2015

It’s a funny relationship that Arizona Basketball has with Illinois. On the one hand, we can’t shake the 2005 meltdown, a haunting game played in Chicago against the best University of Illinois team ever. Arizona lost that Elite Eight game, in over time, and hasn’t been to a Final Four since.

The state itself, however, has also provided Arizona such talents as Kenny Lofton, Andre Iguodala, and Michael Wright.

Michael Wright passed away yesterday. Continue reading

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2015-16 Arizona Basketball Preview: Not what you’re used to

I could note that Steve Kerr first mentioned Lute Olson on the NBA Champion’s podium or that Adam Silver handed Andre Iguodala the Finals MVP Trophy. Could note that Luke Walton is tracking to be the greatest coach in NBA history or that TJ McConnell is the only player in League history to –  it’s pretty ridiculous stat and godbless the kid who researched it – record 12 or more assists in 2 or more of his first 4 games. As Nike would have you know, Arizona basketball doesn’t stop (except for Adidas schools from the 30th State). And it doesn’t project to be taking this year off. Sure they’re out of the AP Top-10 for the first time since before Cuonzo Martin knew who Ivan Rabb was (and now they’re teammates!). But this is a notably new team. For starters, there isn’t a projectable lottery pick on the roster. There isn’t a 6’8″ freak that’s soon to be bullying in a West Coast arena near you. This team isn’t going to be the defensive stalwart you watched for the past two seasons. For Tucsonans, it’s going to be a season of change and they’re going to be uncomfortable with that. Embrace it. This is a year in which we’ll see Sean Miller flexing his coaching acumen. I’ll get into his roster options later, but this Arizona team, while not as sexy as years past, just might be the most fun.

Why I love them

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arizona mile run

The Journey of Unfinished Business

This year it was section 106 of the Staples Center. My brother and I swapped seats in that section’s sixteenth row and Arizona outscored Xavier en route to their second consecutive Elite Eight. It was our second annual (but really billionth) seat swap instigating a Sweet Sixteen comeback. Previously I’d called it sorcery. We even tried it again on Saturday but the only sorcery inside the Staples Center that night was exacted by Sam Dekker. The Sheboygan Sorcerer.

And isn’t it all silly?

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Miller Tunnel

Unfinished Business

“Unfinished business.”

Four times Kaleb Tarczewski sad these words as he declared his return to Arizona. He doesn’t’ say much so the repeated phrase presumably meant a lot. I know it resonated with me. After all, we were just weeks removed from a devastating outcome in cursed Anaheim. Kaleb, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would join TJ McConnell in finishing the 2014 deed. And that’s how this season began: with the expectations of 2014. Continue reading


TJ McConnell As The Consummate Point Guard

On November 9, 2011, the sixteenth ranked Arizona Wildcats committed 21 turnovers. They would win that basketball game, 67-59, despite their starting backcourt combining for 2 assists and 8 turnovers. Including guard efforts off the bench, the backcourt numbers balloon to 5 and 11. That was the last game TJ McConnell would lose in the McKale Center. He was a sophomore guard for the Duquesne Dukes and six months later he would transfer to the University of Arizona. Continue reading


T.J. McConnell: Unassisted Jump Shots & Steady Improvement

My high school baseball coach used to tell us that each day we either got better or worse. We never stayed the same. If that were the case, then we were expected to steadily improve. The goal to get better each day.

So maybe it’s OK that TJ McConnell struggled out of the gate. He was playing at a historically low offensive rate and Arizona didn’t look its presumed dominant self. His shooting percentages through the season’s first five games was flirting with devastation (31%). Everyone who proclaimed Arizona to be shooting inept was validated in their concern.

Steady improvement. Continue reading

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Q&A with Connor Pelton: Oregon State is paying a return visit

Connor Pelton is a long time friend of the program. I use the term colloquially because I don’t really know how long he’s befriended PacHoops. What I do know, however, is that Connor is a helluva Rush the Court contributor, a House of Sparky staple, and a lifelong Beaver. So with the latter (lattermost?) of Connor’s areas of expertise headed to the McKale Center, I thought we’d let CP scratch the curiosity itch.

My questions. Connor’s answers:

What is Oregon State missing in Victor Robbins?

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010310_SPT_U-M vs. OSU_MRM

Q&A with Dylan Burkhardt: Michigan comes to Tucson

When these teams squared off a season ago, Michigan was unranked and playing with a broken Mitch McGary. Four months later they had no Mitch McGary and were outfight B1G champs albeit the unfortunate carnage of the Harrison family in the Elite Eight (doesn’t losing in the Elite Eight suck?). The Michigan Wolverines are a real deal basketball program and losing to the New Jersey Institute of Technology is not indicative of really anything. So strike that from your memories.

Of course these two schools are now forever-ish linked by the career of Rich Rodriguez. Arizona still hasn’t been to a Rose Bowl and Michigan doesn’t have a football coach. This is basketball season.

And so, for the final edition of this home-and-home series, I’m asking the hard question of UM Hoops blogger, Dylan Burkhardt, The game is Saturday. The lesson starts now.

(here are the Q’s he asked me if you’re interested)

My questions. His answers. Continue reading

AZ Cartoons

Arizona Wildcats Basketball Preview: The World According to You

I couldn’t do it. I’ve previewed eleven of the twelve teams in this conference but I knew that I couldn’t preview the Arizona Wildcats without egregious, alienating amounts of bias. I mean, I could do it, I’m just not sure you’d want me to. In a season like this I had to step back for fear of alienating you, my friends. So I asked – well – my friends to preview the Wildcats for us! Section by section, fellow interneters and real-life friends preview the 2014-15 Arizona Wildcats. The World According to You:

Wildcat Intro (Ben Burrows, Rumblin’ Buff)

What exactly is a Giant Death Robot?  Well, it’s the apex predator of the Civilization word of Sid Meier, a hulking killing machine noted for being ‘a towering mass of guns, rockets and futuristic death-rays.’  It’s also my pet name for the 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats.  Considering how badly they thrashed my Buffs in three meetings, I’m possibly biased by circumstance, but that bunch certainly was a writhing machine of death for many of their opponents.  The whole melange of destruction was based on a ferocious defense that stood as one of the best I’ve ever witnessed in person.  They would expel all their energy by the Elite Eight, falling in overtime to Wisconsin, but I don’t necessarily hold that against them.  Last season’s Tournament was especially bonkers, and Frank Kaminsky was born to give them fits. C’est la vie.

The trick then becomes, how does Sean Miller and crew reform the GDR after losing probably their two best players in consensus All-American Nick Johnson and athletic wunderkind Aaron Gordon? *laughs* Just kidding, there’s no trick, it’s just the typical tango of some elite returners and a top-5 recruiting class.  I guess that’s life at the top…

Why Brad Loves Them (friend of the program):

I’ll leave that to Stanley Johnson:

“I love to win; that’s why I came to school here. I thought we have the tools to win and the people that are here love to win as well. I think winning is an attribute. It’s a mentality and it comes with competitiveness.”

He’s right. For his part, Johnson is the reigning California Mr. Basketball (succeeding Aaron Gordon) and has won 70 straight high school games. As for “the people that are here,” they won 33 games last year and lost just 5 – by a combined 12 points. Maybe a coincidence, but they didn’t lose a game until they they lost Brandon Ashley to injury – he was averaging 12 points a game. Arizona is starting three McDonald’s All-Americans. The other two have seven years of experience and 13 feet between them. Of those one was a Cousy Award finalist (best collegiate PG) as a junior, and the other is a 7-foot center who averaged 9 and 6 last year (in just 28 minutes). For depth, Arizona will sprinkle in a bench with another seven footer, a 39% 3-point shooter (and another one that might be better), a five-star PG, and the top JuCo player in the country.  So, why do I love them? Because they’re climbin’ a ladder in Lucas Oil. Besides, I’m not the only one:

Why Connor Hates Them (House of Sparky):

So, obviously there is a lot to like about this team. But my job isn’t to tell you why the Wildcats are so good. Adam can do that, or any number of the preseason publications can. I have been called upon to nitpick this team, and so I will direct you to their backcourt. Sure, it is a talented one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is one of the top groups of guards in the country towards the end of the year. But there are also a lot of fresh faces, and I’m not sure if the group will gel enough in time to perform at peak potential early on in the season when Arizona has to play against teams like Gonzaga, Michigan, or any number of the quality opponents out at the Maui Invitational. To be honest, I would rather have a duo of Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson to navigate my team through that challenging non-conference slate. That combo is the elite, experienced mix of players I want running my offense.

Of course, with that being said, games in November and December are needed for newcomers to get their feet wet. I’m sure Sean Miller wouldn’t trade guys like Stanley Johnson and Kadeem Allen, because you know that come tournament time, they will be drawing oohhs and aahhs from fans around the country as Arizona marches from Portland to Los Angeles to Indianapolis. I just don’t think they are “elite” enough to garner a preseason top five ranking. And if that’s the biggest problem I can find with this team, they’ll surely be fine.
 Jason’s Stat You Must Know (All Buffs):
This is Stanley Johnson’s retired number at Mater Dei High School. At MDHS we won four consecutive state titles and the 2014 National Championship. He lost just 7 games as a Monarch. Other notable Monarchs to have their numbers retired include: [field, blank]. A school that has produced Miles Simon, Reggie Geary, The Wear Family, Jamal Sampson, DJ Strawberry, and Mike Hopkins has retired just one jersey. #41. Stanley.
Top-5 Stanley’s According to Luc (The Stoop Kids)
  1. Yelnats
  2. Flat
  3. Johnson
  4. Kubrick
  5. “Tookie” Williams

Here is where I make my triumphant return to preview. I wanted to keep it brief and poignant. It’s me again.

Mountain High (best possible season):

Win their last six games and finish ninth in the Western Conference, 1.5 games out of the eight seed.

Rock Bottom (worst possible season):

Los Angeles.