I’ve previewed all of the teams except ASU (11th best team so…pass and really just no time). It’s been a distracting week. College basketball is here. This is the preview of my team. Here’s where I previewed the others!
At initial writing, Chance Comanche was still suspended, indefinitely, from playing for Arizona (it’s since been announced that he will play today vs. Michgan State). His suspension allowed us a gloriously tragic photo narrative. Because Allonzo Trier is officially not in Hawaii; Ray Smith sustained his third ACL tear (terrible) and has retired from basketball; Graduate transfer and native Tucsonan, Talbot Denny, also tore his ACL in the pre-season and is out for the year; recall that former Arizona commit Terrence Ferguson headed down under to pursue a paycheck in lieu of college. That’s five scholarship players disappearing in three months time, with one reappearing just this week (Comanche). Consider that another of the allotted 13 schollies is held by Dylan Smith, an ineligible transfer, and Arizona was briefly left with seven scholarship players right:
Of course Comanche is back now but eight isn’t miles better than seven. Consider a practice. Consider a full season grind, an injury here or a tweaked body part there. While depth is overrated in college basketball as quantified by the % of bench minutes used by Final Four teams, it’s not overrated when it comes to protecting against the trials of a season (i.e. Dylan Ennis (foot) <> Casey Benson, Allonzo Trier (hand) <> no Elliott Pitts (last year), Xavier Johnson <> George King)
Last season on Anywhere but Anaheim
Gabe York once dunked over a kid in a high school game. As York was an Arizona commit, I probably watched that moment on loop 1000 times. The poor kid had no idea it was coming. York elevated over the unsuspecting high schooler and made him poster material (although I think it’s time that we update the insult from posterized to Vined or Tubed or something more to the digital effect). Here it is but know that it’s a featured search result for “Gabe York dunk” Continue reading
There’s a story floating around about Kaleb Tarczewski’s AAU days. I can’t recall where I heard it or even if I’d heard or read the tale. I’m not entirely sure I’m not making it up. But the story goes something like this: Tarc takes a shot to the mouth, dislodging his tooth. He finds the tooth – whether in his mouth or on the floor – and proceeds to the bench…where he hands it to a teammate and carries about the AAU contest.
Consequently, Sean Miller called him the toughest dude he’s ever coached. Continue reading
“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
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
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
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?
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
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
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