Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Unknown

Not long ago I was asked to write about a possible head coaching vacancy in Tucson. You’re smart and understand the genesis and timing of this request. I didn’t write it. I thought to perhaps corroborate or source but I also haven’t written all year. It was a question, however, worth pondering. I pondered:

It’s a job, like most, that comes with immense pressure. Whether its innate to competition, the salary, publicity or history, the title has expectations. It’s uniquely not the PSI of Rupp, Assembly Hall or Phog. McKale isn’t quite steeped in singularity like some of its contemporaries. Prior to the current administration, the job there was most recently held by a father-son duo. Of course, that strange reality manifested only when a Division-2 coach declined the role. Eventually that team went to the Sweet Sixteen. A studio host once took this school to the NCAA tournament. It’s a job that dances.

It’s a job with a big cactus. A stylized saguaro purveying a brand that the white-haired coach recognized would permeate the fabric of our culture. That cactus is ineffably woven into Campbell Avenue, eeggees, Bag’s, Frog’s and parking at the Hospital; the tones of Brian Jefferies, 1290, 1490 and whatever their FM affiliates are. Some will tell you it’s woven into improbably losses, painful defeat and the permanence of wanting. A badgering pain. It’s literally woven into the jerseys. A grown man would rumble to mid-court, disrobe, and consequently render McKale’s roof ajar. As another tale goes, John “Button” Salmon spoke to his coach, the arena’s namesake, from his deathbed. Salmon reminded the team to “Bear Down.” Legend. It’s a job that is Arizona.

It’s a job that means a lot to many. 230,947 by one measure. That’s how many people attended the McKale Center this season. That’s fifty-thousand more fans than any other Pac-12 school. It’s more than 3x the attendance at USC. And Stanford. They won’t sit down until the opposition scores. Games are played on 94-feet named after the job’s matriarch. I’m quantifying the caring because its generational now. Grandparents are watching with grandchildren. I’ll introduce you. They go to Tempe, Maui, Manhattan, Vegas, Boise. They won’t sit down there either. It’s a job that makes people feel.

It’s a job defended and appreciated by its holders. President Dr. Robert C. Robbins has alluded to his own dead body in defending this job. He also had the presence to ask and the leadership to be patient. Could he be wrong in all of this? Maybe. But there’s nothing more empowering than knowing someone’s got your back. Tucson – above the comments section – has this job’s back. It’s a job that’s supported.

It’s a job that wins. It’s a job that’s lost.

It’s Sean Miller’s job.

And I wouldn’t have anyone else in the seat. Perhaps unsurprisingly and unnecessarily declared, I’m all in. As if I needed to tell you. In that vein, I’m also for his team and what they’ve become. ‘Arizona vs. Everybody’ or any other mantra they want to offer, I’m glad to make grand allusions to the 1997 NCAA Tournament, the last time Arizona was a four-seed in the South Region.

I’m qualifying all of it because this one feels different. I don’t know what’s about to happen and that’s not TruTV or Buffalo. You know what I’m talking about. It’s a belabored point and not worth the exhaustive hypothesizing. There’s a disconcerting cloud over the entire sport – this job in particular. Three weeks ago we knew this team not to have a coach, shooting guard or power forward.

I just don’t know. You and they don’t know.

And more immediately we know even less. I’m clueless as to how far the 70th rated defense can travel or the projected top pick can carry. It’s impossible to know who might go without a touch for 11 minutes or the volume of lead squanderable in four minutes. Lord knows we’ve seen it tested, this tournament is brilliantly cruel.

But contrast to the other unknowns, right now we find great joy in ignorance. With little more than the promise of a chance, we allow ourselves comfort in the uncertainty of future results. The promise of possibility and what a little magic amidst the madness can yield. Hats and tee shirts? Perhaps.

I do know this: It’s a job preoccupied with the Buffalo Bulls. It’s a job I’m pulling for.


PacHoops Power Rankings: Top Ten Teams!

The Pac-12 has three top 10 teams for the first time since 1992. In that year, per Greg Hansen, none of those three went to the Final Four. It’s as if getting to the game’s greatest stage were difficult or something?

1. Oregon

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Our Best Laid Schemes: On Process, Mice, and Ladders

The first draft of this essay(?) was composed the weekend before the season tipped off last Friday. I’d intended to post on Thursday, November 10th with a full slate of games the next day and because Thursdays tend to recognize high viewership.

But last week just wasn’t going to lend itself to my usual auto-editorial process. And so we find ourselves 24 Pac-12 games deep and I’m just now posting about the season’s beginning. As it were, the best laid plans was the exact narrative of this composition. It’s consequently led to this lead and feels about as fitting as ever.

A little more on planning and college basketball:

Robert Burns was a Scottish poet. He passed in 1796 after publishing countless volumes of poetry and wielding great influence beyond the written word. His works were a bedrock to Romanticism, celebrating the emotional aesthetic within art, literature, music and even politics. It paved the way for liberalism and nationalism. American greats such as Dylan, Salinger, and Steinbeck have cited Burns’ poetry as deeply inspirational, even foundational, to their work.

And in 1785 he published a poem entitled “Tae a Moose.” When translated it reads “To a Mouse.” A strange figure to pay homage to but it’s perhaps fitting a romantic. The verses describe a man ploughing his field preparing for winter when he discovers he’s disrupted a nest. Towards the end, Burns addresses the creature he has disrupted:

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

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PacHoops Two-A-Days: The Civil Schools (UO and OSU)

We’re finally previewing the Pac-12. This week, the last before games actually tip, I’ll post two previews of travel mates (i.e. UW and WSU will appear in the same post) and, in the interest of being fully prepared for Friday’s hoop joy, I’ll post two-a-day. Thus the title. Although it’s 4 previews-a-day. Regardless. Enjoy.

Oregon Preview


The Ducks wear a lot of different jerseys and are famous for it. What do you think a bullseyed Duck looks like, then? Well, Nintendo crafted an entire game around such and it looked like this:


Although in this 2016-17 version of Duck Hunt I don’t foresee too many other anthropomorphized creatures chuckling in the reeds. There’s absolutely nothing funny about the Killer B’s (Brooks, Boucher, Benson, Bell, Borsey and BEnnis). Chris Boucher is on the cover of Sports Illustrated and I think he’s their third best player. Arizona’s best player was just listed as “OUT: Reason Unknown.” There is no anthropomorphic giggling here.

Last season on “Roster continuity”

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Podcast of Champions. Annual meeting of the Wildcats & Buffaloes

It’s good to have friends in high places. You’ve surely talked about it at a Karaoke Bar a time or two (I know I have), and in this instance I’ve spoken with these friends, in bars, in high places. Ben Burrows – the sage behind the Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo – and Ryan Koenigsberg – CU and Broncos beat writer at BSN Denver – have been frenemies since this blog’s inception. I’ll focus on the former considering they joined Spencer and I to talk about the things we talk about and discuss tonight’s battle between our respective favorite schools. It’s a podcast that covers a lot in a lot of time, but worth the listen. Also worth your while, Ben’s preview of the game.

To all ye Buffs and Cats tonight: good luck and play nice and use the right restroom at the Dark Horse.

BONUS MATERIAL: My brief thoughts on this Arizona-Colorado game!

This thing boils down to who can take care of the basketball. Elementary? Perhaps. But neither CU nor Arizona has demonstrated a propensity to take care of the basketball. The Buffs, in fact, rank 268th in TO% – a good reason why the Buffs yield the 11th shortest offensive possessions in the country (nearly one-quarter of offense against CU comes in transition; a shot type Arizona has connected on with great efficiency). Neither defense has a propensity for creating turnovers so it would appear this is a self-controlled part of the game.

Another callout here is rebounding. I’m going to quote the afforementioned Ben Burrows on this one:

Whereas Colorado focuses on rebounding out of want, Arizona clutches at boards the same way a suffocating man lurches out for gulps of oxygen; they need them to live (or, as I wrote in this week’s Grab Bag: what defensive line play is to Alabama in football, rebounding the damn basketball is to Arizona in hoops).

He’s right. For the second consecutive year Arizona is the top defensive rebounding team in the nation. Also, take into consideration that four year starter and constant of these rebounding machines, Kaleb Tarczewski, has 59 rebounds in his last 5 games and it would seem Arizona is only getting better at their best feature.

The Key for the Buffs will be making their threes. They’ve been good at it, connecting on nearly 40% of those tries, but it seems they’re starting to live and die by that shot. Inside the arc, CU ranks 325th in FG%. That’s not good and when you consider that Arizona forces the second highest percentage of mid-range jumpers in the nation, well then you must consider that Colorado needs its threes.

One final thought: remember that it’s a Wear Black Game and not a Blackout.

2015-16 UCLA Basketball Preview: Bryce is better than you

A 2015-16 conversation of UCLA basketball has to start with Bryce Alford. I polled everyone I live with and the coach’s son was unanimously voted the most polarizing player in the conference. In the interest of data journalism, I should inform you that I live alone. But you know I’m not wrong. Put aside you daddy issues as I’m going to take the tried and true measure of high-browing your perceptions with arrogant data. Here’s some Bryce:

  • Improved his FG%, eFG%, 2FG%, 3FG%, and FT% from FR to SO year
  • He shot 39% from 3FG% and just 54% of his threes were assisted (Read: pure shooter)
  • He had a better eFG% than: Stanley Johnson, Askia Booker, Tyronne Wallace, and Chasson Randle
  • Had a lower TO% than: Brandon Taylor, TJ McConnell, and Marcus Allen
  • Averaged 19ppg in 3 NCAA tournament games (13ppg in 6 career NCAA tournament games)
  • KenPom comparables include Yogi Ferrell and Matthew Dellavedova

You might not like him but don’t let it could reality. And sure I’ve breezed over some of his flaws (most notably his goatee, shooting at the rim (14% total shots, 46FG% there), defensive efforts). Nevertheless, unless you’re reading in Tucson, Palo Alto or Salt Lake, he’s played in a weekend of the tournament you haven’t.

Why I love them

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NCAA Tournament: Greatest Conference or Best Conference?

With three Pac-12 teams into the Sweet-16 and another taking Wisco to the brink, I think it’s clear that Pac-12 is indeed the #ConferenceOfChampions. Indubitably the best in the country, right? BACK THE PAC. BACK THE PAC. BACK THE PAC.

OK, let’s be serious, that’s a ridiculous assertion. The reality is that three Pac-12 teams have won two games and three Sweet-16 teams lost to Washington (Oklahoma, remember?). Doesn’t make this any less fun, however.

The important thing is that LG has moved on to more important advertising campaigns like no heartlessly showing Derron Williams FTW. The worst. Continue reading

NCAA Tournament Preview: #2 Arizona Wildcats

The Wildcats are appropriately seeded as a #2. You can’t lose to the 100th, 117th, and 70th KenPom rated teams (104, 131, and 102 by RPI) while the rest of the elites are dropping games like “Duke,” “Georgetown,” or “no-losses-whatsoever.” It’s just how it goes. Besides, the West is what was most important to this group. But let’s also not ignor the fact that since getting that crap out of their system, the Wildcats have destroyed teams. Obliterated. They enter this tournament hotter than any summer-in-Tucson analogy I could come up with. Gander this chart summarizing each of the top eight seeds in their last eleven games:

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 9.05.26 PM


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Pac-12 Tournament Day 3: Monster Threes

We knew the games were going to be good. It’s championship time and this was the semifinals. But that? Stanley’s three. Kevon’s three. Both Brandon’s games. Norman’s night.  Delon and then Joseph. Let’s have a championship.

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Pac-12 Tournament Day 2: Chalk

 The second day of Pac-12 hoops was chalk. The day following the near advancement of the 12, 11, and 10 seeds we saw – pretty definitively – the 1, 2, 3, and 4 seeds move to the semis. I suppose that makes sense. The bad teams got beat by the good teams and one of the really good teams brought a whole lotta friends.

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