When a Pac-12 school schedules a game against the Kansas Jayhawks, I’m going to pay attention. But, because I’m the preeminent Pac-12 blogger, I need some help. I can’t know this conference and, say, the Valley. So I brought the questions to Brian Goodman, the lead writer for Rush The Court’s Big 12 microsite. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.
Questions and answers:
Kentucky made Kansas look really, really small and lots of other things. But Kansas isn’t actually that team. They’re quite good, right? What does this team do that makes them elite?
I’m not even going to tell say I told you so. I won’t remind you that I’ve sung the importance of his testicular fortitude for a year-and-a-half now because as Askia Booker euro-stepped past that Sherron Collins-lookin’ bulldog of a KU #0, there wasn’t another player on the floor prepared to make that play. Not NBA bound stars Spencer Dinwiddie or Andrew Wiggins. Not Josh Scott or Xavier Johnson or Tad Boyle. You don’t euro-step past a defender with two-seconds remaining in a tense and climactic ball game unless ONIONS.
While a lot of the Sabatino Chen three-pointer in Tucson narrative has resurfaced, I see few similarities beyond the timing. Chen wound up with the ball by utter mistake. He heaved a basketball he wasn’t supposed to be holding at a rim he wasn’t sure was there from behind a line he’d shot behind less than twenty times. Sabatino Chen was not supposed to take that shot.
Askia Booker was born to make that shot.
Or at least he believes he was and that’s all that matters. “It felt really good,” he’d say crammed next to ESPN anchors and coeds. Damn right it felt good and he’d go on to talk about the confidence instilled in him by his coaches and teammates. Because when you fire up shots the way Askia does, you’d better have the support of those guys. They love him because he’s not afraid to take those shots. Sans conscience, Askia Booker gives Colorado swagger. Dinwiddie and Scott provide credibility and Xavier Johnson and Wesley Gordon bring muscle. Jaron Hopkins, Tre’shaun Fletcher, and Dustin Thomas offer depth. Ben Mills has a scholarship.
But Booker provides that intangible characteristic of not giving a f***.
And who doesn’t need that every once in a while? Who doesn’t need that as your team is exhaustively holding off the sixth best team in the country who calls your arena the western version of their own? The Keg has been a Kansas house for years and it had every reason to remain Phog-West as Perry Ellis bullied his way into the lane for the tie. Xavier Johnson was so ill prepared for the immediacy and magnitude of those two points that he nearly inbounded the ball to the Jayhawks; giving them possession 30-feet from their rim. But Johnson didn’t quite give it up. Tad collected his team and ensured the ball would be in the hands of the one man he knew feared nothing of this moment.
Askia Booker was born to make that shot.
Or at least he believes he was and that’s all that matters. Tad Boyle knows this so he let his scrappy off-guard do his thing and he did it and then everyone else came to join him.
This isn’t a resolution. Booker still has his flaws and may shoot Colorado out of – or dangerously close to – a few games. But as I said a few weeks ago: Askia Booker is the hero Colorado needs and deserves.
Askia Booker knew he was going to make that shot. It’s all that matters.
Yesterday I told you about the games I ain’t gonna miss. Things are lined up for me to attend and yell and shout. But you can’t always get what you want. And while I really want to get to these games below – they’re either in great places or feature great teams, the adventure of travel meet the drama of sport – it’s just not in the cards. I want to, but can’t swing it.
Oregon vs. Georgetown, Friday 11/8, 5pm PST, ESPN, Camp Humphreys, South Korea – OPPAGANGNAM STYLE! Yes I want to go to South Korea and crush noraebang and barbecue. Take in a dynasty and some temples and perhaps rekindle a brief flame that moved out there with her ex-boyfriend to teach English. A boy can dream. I could also get a look at Dana Altman’s revamped squad of graduate students. In this, his fourth Duck season, we’re presented yet again with a brand newish squad – the perfect excuse to get over to Asia. I’d naturally leverage this into a trip to Tokyo and maybe Southeast Asia, too. Worth noting is that this game will be held on a military base which we cannot assume is for marketing or morale purposes so much as a security measure considering Georgetown’s history in Asia.
Arizona vs. Duke, TBD, ESPN #, Madison Square Garden, NYC – I just can’t swing this thing over Thanksgiving. Too many traditions would be broken along with Grandma’s heart. Can’t do it. My conciliation prize? High school 10-year! Alas, this game isn’t guaranteed to happen. Standing in Arizona’s way is likely a triumvirate of Farleigh Dickinson (this game is definitively scheduled), Rhode Island (I see you ghost of Jim Harrick), and then probably Rutgers in MSG. The Dookies are looking at – as the two-seed mind you – UNC-Asheville, East Carolina, and Anthony Grant’s Rolling Tide. The bracket. Everything goes to form and it’s Arizona-Duke. Goodness I want to be there. The Blue Devils want a shot at revenge and I want to watch Jabari Parker vs. Aaron Gordon amongst so many other match ups (Nick Johnson vs. Rasheed Sulaimon; TJ McConnell vs. Quinn Cook; K vs. Miller). But what’s more is this would play out like Cameron-North. A flame to the flickering light of bandwagondom in a city bereft of college basketball success, NYC hasn’t seen college success since the Red Storm featured World Peace. Duke has been adopted inside that arena and I want it Red. No, I can’t travel there, but I sure as hell wanna.
The pride of Krzyzewskiville
Kansas @ Colorado, Saturday 12/7, 1:15pm MT, ESPN2, The Keg, Boulder – It wouldn’t really be fair to call Colorado’s role in this matchup “kid brother” as the Buffs didn’t even sniff that familial level as a member of the Big-12. Boulder was a Jayhawk respite, a welcomed escape from roadies to Norman, Stillwater, Lubbock, Aimes, Waco, and Manhattan. A fact confirmed to me by a former UT hoop star (because Austin is awesome by all accounts). But what I’m getting at is B12 Colorado sucked. P12 Colorado is pretty darned tough but when they went to Lawrence last season they asserted nothing of the sort. The Jayhawks maintained the modus operandi and rolled Ralphie by 36. Well now I want in on this action. It’s a new generation of pissed off Ralphie inside The Keg that used to fill up with Hawks. I’d imagine this thing to be rock chalk full of Buffaloes and I want to see Andrew Wiggins with my own face. Don’t you? Besides, last I went to Boulder for a game with some vitriol behind it, Tad’s team came to play. I imagine they’ll do the same for Bill’s boys.
USC @ Battle for Atlantis, 11/28-30, ATLANTIS RESORT, Paradise Island, Bahamas – USC projects to be a not so great team but it’s the Bahamas in November. With the means and time I’d go. There’s the Dolphin Cay where I’d swim with sea creatures and a water park to destroy slides. It’s all inclusive so…well so everything would be included. There’s a teaser on the resort’s WHAT TO DO PAGE that says, “When the waters of Atlantis grow dark, the fun is just beginning.” There’s going to be two Andy’s – Wiggins and Enfield – and one of their wives. I challenge you to give me a reason not to go. Oh, it’s over thanksgiving and my grandparents don’t travel well and I’m due in Coolidge, Arizona for the umpteenth consecutive Turkey Day where we pretend that the ham is “pink turkey” so as not to upset my overbearing Jewish mother? I guess I’ve gotta handle that.
UCLA vs. Duke, Thursday, 12/19, 4:30pm PT, ESPN, Madison Square Garden, NYC – I’m going to see Duke inside of MSG before I die. And before K retires. Have to. I would’ve liked to see Duke-St.John’s there when that match up provided some heat but one can’t really complain about taking in Duke vs. the most successful program in the history of the sport. Granted, UCLA is amidst a transition period that is hard to contextualize or grasp or understand on really any level, but it’s still UCLA and there’s still rhyme and reason to see them. Particularly against the most successful program of the past handful of decades. As previously mentioned, MSG is a second home of sorts for Duke and I just find that fascinating and exciting for a west coast opponent to take on. You wanna talk tournament tune up? Additionally there’s the appeal of being in NYC around Christmas time (said the Jewish guy). I get it. There’s a romanticism to the snow and the giant tree at the Rockefeller Center. Who didn’t become enthralled by that in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York? There’s no guarantee that the Alford version of Bruins – particularly this crew – will be good or even exciting. But they’re going to be interesting because it’s UCLA and a new regime. And it’s Duke, too.
Others receiving votes:
Arizona @ ASU, 2/14 – Valentine’s in Tempe just sounds awesome
Oklahoma St vs Colorado, 12/21 – Dinwiddie vs. Smart? Yes, please. In Vegas [devil grin emoji]
UConn @ UW, 12/22or Indiana vs UW (in NYC), 11/21 – Dying to get up to HecEd and those Eastern Huskies project to be solid while I think this is a FASCINATING year in the developing history of Tom Crean.
I should just have wordpress auto-populate the following lede for any and every weekend review I post:
Predictably unpredictable, the Pac-12 Conference season trudged on like the Man and the Boy in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: navigating an apocalyptic world while clinging to the slightest shred of belief that they, themselves are “good.”
But despite the current onslaught of one-bid league talk and point-and-giggles, it is what it is and your team’s got a shot so long as they’re not a Ute, Trojan, or Sun Devil. And ultimately, having a shot is what it’s all about.
Also bear in mind that Tim Tebow never beat a Pac-12 school (irrelevant that he never played one).
Leader in the Clubhouse: Colorado, duh. The Buffs sit atop the conference standings as the only undefeated team. Of course they’re also the only team that has yet to play a road game but that shouldn’t take anything away from Tad Boyle’s group. Few people want to or will hop on this band wagon, but it is worth noting that Colorado has won their three conference games by an average margin of 23 points. They may not be the favorite but the Ski Trip cannot be taken lightly anymore.
Game of the Weekend: Well this one’s easy. Stanford and Oregon State’s quadruple overtime thriller takes the cake. Watch some exciting stuff here. This was a grossly painful loss for the Beavers who’d kicked their weekend off right with a solid win over Cal and a shot at making it a brutal weekend for the Bay Area schools as Stanford had lost on Thursday. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards (pun!) and Craig Robinson finds himself in an unfortunately familiar position at the bottom of the Pac. But 11th place is new so that’s kinda cool?
The Big Loser: The Washington Huskies took the Pac-12’s innagural ski trip to swiftly demonstrate to everyone just how disappointing they are. After an exciting sweep of the Oregon schools and a moderate return to the hype machine, Lorenzo’s team caught an edge (ski reference!) and face planted in front of the hot ski instructor on work exchange from Switzerland. And now I’ll return to the afore-used “disappointed.” I want more from this Huskie team. I’ve been a bit down on them for awhile and Romars roller coaster season’s have been frustrating to watch during these down years of Pac hoops. The talent has been there and it comes as no surprise to me that his teams have played well in tournaments (back-to-back Pac-10 tournament titles and a Sweet Sixteen). I therefore wouldn’t be shocked, in the least, to see this team playing its best ball when their back is against the wall. It’s just too bad that’s what it may take.
What We Learned: I think I’ve been saying it for a bit in some capacity but let’s make it traceable: an 8-1 home record and 5-4 road record will win this conference. That’s 13-5, you’d have beaten every team at least once, and hopefully swept Utah, USC, and ASU. A loss to any of those three schools very well could be the kiss of death but my overarching point is teams must follow the current pattern and win at home. The home team is 14-6 thus far with Utah and USC accounting for three of those losses (ASU has yet to play at home which is probably OK because no one is going to attend anyway: 4805 average attendance). I saw someone dropped the stat that there were only four BCS schools with losing records at this point in the season. Our aforementioned cellar dwellers accounted for 75% of that foursome. Look, it’s going to be a long season for any and all of the Pac-12 schools but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an intriguing aspect to the whole thing. The beauty of college basketball is that you can play your way into that mad little event in March and then anything can happen. Just ask Shaka Smart or Bill Self. Or Tim Tebow.
Start Your Week YouTuber: Hey, just like a Pac-12 home team, all he does is win, win, win…