- Why Airlines Want to Make you Suffer - This is a devastating one. It all makes sense because it’s making cents and there’s nothing to be done about it. Or is there? I’m not even sure. I thought about driving to more places but then realized the immediacy and convenience – promptness only – of flying. It’s our fastest means. The world around us is becoming increasingly customized and personalized. Simplification and customer service are ubiquitous. The phrase “there’s an app for that” suggests everyone is trying to help us, the consumer. Why aren’t the airlines?
- Ohio State QB Braxton Miller Predicts Oregon to Win National Championship – This is kind of hilarious and probably not worth a complete #34b link, but it does ignite a grad transfer debate for the injured star. Isn’t UCLA losing a dual threat quarterback? Or wait, isn’t Oregon? Thinkaboutit.
- Solomon Hill’s Development a Silver Lining for Struggling Pacers - My man! Here’s the guy who once told me he’d never gone to Tucson’s most famous late night burrito joints because – well – because he was aiming to be a first round draft pick. And then he was. And now he’s playing (almost) like one. Hill was one of my favorite players to play in Tucson because he seemed to embody the program from the day he arrived. I don’t mean that Solomon Hill played “the Arizona way” or whatever corporate saying you might include. No. Hill arrived an overweight, perhaps overrated, freshman into a program that was out of players and overrated. Together, they worked their asses off. And one day, in June of 2013, David Stern announced Solomon, a first round pick.
Perhaps long ago it was projected that Solomon Hill would be drafted in the first round. But ever since first donning Arizona’s cardinal and navy, things have seemed to be an uphill (no pun) battle for him.
First it was his weight. Arriving on campus soft if not big and in the doghouse with first year coach, Sean Miller. Hill had sights on playing the two-guard while Miller was questioning if he’d play at all. In that freshman campaign, the aspiring two connected on just four three pointers at a 22% clip. By the time he left Tucson, he would make 111 more at a 38% clip. And though he wanted to be a two-guard, his team needed him to be a forward. So he did that; leading the team in rebounding in 2011-12 as the team’s second tallest contributor. The following season, Miller and the Wildcats needed him to do everything. Once again he did, finishing amongst the top-3 Wildcats in nearly every statistical category.
The consummate teammate, Hill worked hard his entire Arizona basketball career and on Thursday night he saw the fruits of his labors.
Solomon Hill was drafted twenty-third overall by the Indiana Pacers. The first round.
Quickly, he was welcomed to the league:
— Sean Miller (@UACoachMiller) June 28, 2013
I can’t welcome a teammate at this point…. So welcome to the league Solomon Hill!!! #beardown
— Andre Iguodala (@andre) June 28, 2013
Congrats to @kingxsolo on becoming a first round pick of the Pacers. Heart and soul of Arizona basketball the past few years.
— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) June 28, 2013
YEAAAA SOLO!!! Man you don’t know how happy I am right now … My roommate for two years .. He improved so much man .. This is crazy.
— Derrick Williams (@RealDwill7) June 28, 2013
Hill is Miller’s first four-year player to be drafted, a momentous occasion for his proclaimed Player’s Program. Such a talent and meaningful component will undoubtedly be missed.
I, for one, enjoyed watching every bit of the aforementioned development. Each October it looked as if a new player had arrived, energized to be the best player he could be to make his team the best it could become. It near broke me as his most valiant of efforts to come back against the Ohio State University didn’t quite shine.
Floor, meet all of it. Hill’s MO whilst in Tucson.
Alas, this isn’t a post-mortem, it’s a celebration of the kid’s hard work. Bravo, Solo. The Pacers are getting a tremendous worker as mentioned but perhaps, more importantly, they are subtly piecing together a very modern basketball team. They’re compiling the pieces to become a conglomerate of versatile and large defenders. A tone set by the two-time champion Heat and swiftly being adopted across basketball (see: 2012-13 Ohio State Buckeyes, Kawhi-love, Pacers roster).
A closing anecdote:
I was presented with a late arriving invitation to last season’s basketball media day. My first access to credentials, I promptly let work know I was sick while spending the vast majority of media-day-eve preparing myself to ask a plethora of questions. And when finally faced with my moment to confront Solomon – he was alone at the Arizona circular, banquet-style, luncheon table – I anxiously approached. My prepared question somewhere amongst my notes but dancing top of mind.
“Solomon! I’m Adam Butler with SB Nation, how are you today?”
“Good man, how are you?”
Did he just bother to ask me how I was? Indeed I was caught off guard but had question, top of mind. A mission.
“Solomon, I’m from Tucson and I’ve just go to know: Nico’s or Beto’s?”
A brief silence ensued as the 22-year-old contemplated my asinine request to understand for which local taco shop he held an affinity.
“Never been to either one, actually. Heard they’re good, though?”
Never had this collegian been to Tucson’s most notorious – and fantastic – late night dining.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s why he’s headed to the league.
I’ll miss them. You will, too. And with the wrap of this season, reality has sunk in that some of our favorites will move on. Cue the Vitamin C, it’s graduation time.
And this crop of seniors saw some stuff. They endured but did not define one of the worst stretches in Pac-12 hoops there’s ever been. By way of historical context I have none. But anecdotally can you tell me I’m wrong? These seniors saw the winner of their conference not play in the NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 was bad.
But they won’t be defined by this period of ineptitude. They’ll be defined by the fight we saw and the resilience we cheered. As a slew of fantastic writers boasted of their favorite seniors’ careers (all below), I was reminded that we’re not always fans for the wins and losses. We’re drawn to the human components of this game, the universal truths that we all struggle in an effort to succeed. Which is why it was so rewarding to see EJ Singler in his first Big Dance. And Solomon Hill lead down the home stretch. And see Brock Motum score 79 points in his final three games. And see the career transformation of Larry Drew II. And Joe Burton play the role of cultural ambassador.
Maybe they didn’t win any titles and reached just a single Elite 8 collectively, but they were the seniors of our teams and sometimes that’s about all we need to be a fan.
The 2012-13 Pac-12 Seniors – or at least those who were so kindly discussed by those who follow them closest for the Waxing Seniority series:
- On Kevin Parrom by Brad Hill
- On Solomon Hill by Ezra Amacher
- On Larry Drew II by Andrew Murawa
- On EJ Singler by Dave Piper
- On Abdul Gaddy by Jack Follman
- On Brock Motum by Jeff Nusser
- On Sabatino Chen by James Lucas
- On Joe Burton by Connor Pelton
- On Jason Washburn by The Ghost of Jack Gardner
- On Carrick Felix by David Bowers
- On Jio Fontan by Jacob Freedman
LaQuinton Ross got open and that point guard lauded for his playmaking ability found the pistol hot wing. Onions ensued in a play Grant Jerrett said he’d wear the blame for. All screens are switched, that one was not. It became central to the post game dialogue, a dissection of the biggest shot yet made in this tournament. In that unfortunate moment of miscommunication, Grant Jerrett remained on ball. But to point a finger at Grant is to dismiss the mal-execution of a second half’s transition defense. It’s to dismiss the unfortunate lack of offensive execution in the game’s third quarter. It’s to ignore the great fortune of the Ross jumper.
But there’s only one shining moment.
And for nine straight points, Solomon Hill would not retire. Hell for four years he built for games like this and when he found his team facing their biggest deficit of the game, he carried them. With just a quarter of game in a career to be revered as All-Time remaining, “my man” – as Sean Miller once put it – was not ready to leave. The senior from Los Angeles, the senior of the Miller-era, the senior who played every role the program needed, our senior, scored nine straight points. He might go, but not quietly.
Neither would Mark Lyons. This young man, he of every possible storyline, was not about to hang up the Arizona #2 jersey he adorned for one triumphant season of basketball. Albeit brief, the young man from Schenectady, NY was about as Wildcat as they get. Disregard the position you thought he would, could or should play. He played like hell, he played like March, he scored 73-points. And as it appeared his hand was going to be forced to hang that top up, there he was. As we’d seen across 34 previous games – from the unforgettable in Patric Young’s face to the forgettable inside Pauley – our rent-a-point and his own Onions were streaking to the basket, drawing Ross’ contact, and allowing our hearts to soar with hope and our minds to wander to far away places like Atlanta.
But there’s only one shining moment.
And for two coaches with the history they share and the respect they hold and the friendship they maintain, what did all that mean? With the three dropped and the heave intercepted and the buzzer buzzed, Thad Matta and Sean Miller embraced and smiled, understanding that what had just transpired – regardless of which side of the scoreboard you sat on – was special. That their season’s work could lead to a tie ball game with but a handful of ticks remaining in a situation begging to build on the lore of our favorite month. Yeah, they smiled. Helluva game.
Thad marches on with his scarlet army. A very good team with some marvelously talented players. Aaron Craft is all the headache they said he’d be and Deshaun Thomas is all the beast anyone can handle. And their role players? Well if you’re OK calling a 6’8″ slashing and shooting sixth man named LaQuinton Ross a “role player” then I’m satisfied in telling you that Ohio State’s role players are fantastic.
Sean, on the other hand, will console his Wildcats and himself. He may have smiled court side with his old pal but inside he hurts – I certainly do. Because that’s the last we’ll see of that senior who did score nine straight; and that guard who drew the contact; and everything that Kevin Parrom brought to Tucson. That’s it for him and those three. The others will learn from the experience and some day be able to draw upon the magnitude of a tremendous Sweet Sixteen and make plays in the mold of their departed teammates.
But there is only one shining moment.
There’s a sound reason they call this thing madness. It’s the natural byproduct of 67 games to crown one team. We celebrate a solitary moment, the one we says shines because it’s the moment in which all of these moments collide into something special. And when it doesn’t happen that way, when someone else captures their own version of the shine, sometimes we forget all that was so special about getting to that point.
Like when the season was debuted in front of a packed McKale, the 1988 team honored and the vaunted freshmen unveiled. Like first tip against Charleston Southern when the promise of perhaps capturing that shining moment was about as green as it could possibly be. Like that first taste of vulnerability as the Clemson Tigers gave the Wildcats their best shot. And then the Cats swung right back, showing the kind of toughness requisite to special seasons.
And Florida. And Miami. And Nick’s block. And Colorado.
Of course Pac-12 play left something to be desired heading to Vegas looking worse for the wear. And then they were found and whether he touched the ball or not Sean Miller loudly and expensively reminded his team that they were exactly that: A team. That he had their back and they his. That individually they weren’t going to capture any moments but that the team would.
Which brings us back to a dribbling Aaron Craft awaiting a screen from his sixth man following yet another dramatic and fervent Wildcat comeback. The kind we’d become accustomed to in this confusing, exhilarating, shining season.
There may be just one shining moment, because not all of them can be shiny.
But I sure enjoyed all the others.
The last remaining Pac-12 squads in the NCAA tournament face steep challenges. For the Ducks, they’ve drawn the Dance’s number one overall seed and the toughest press this side of Gutenberg. In the West bracket, the Wildcats will face the Ohio State Buckeyes and their athletic set of wings and a scrappy point guard.
So how can these two squeak by? How can Oregon get to their first Elite Eight since 2007 (subsequently this is their first Sweet 16 since then, too)? What’s it going to take for Arizona to advance?
The advance factors:
- Oregon – Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd are the team’s primary ball handlers. They man the ship for the nation’s 83rd most turnover prone team (21.5% TO%). That’s not good and as we mentioned, Louisville has a press which not coincidentally is at the root of the word “pressure.” They put heaps and loads of it on guards. And teams. The Cardinals are second in the country in defensive TO% (28%). You realize this means their opponent yields nearly 1/3 of their possessions to the Cardinals? That’s like having your team manager stand outside a restaurant bathroom and watch guard while you… well wait… it’s nothing like that. But the point is, Artis and Loyd are preparing for the toughest test of their season. This undersized tandem will have their hands and faces full of pressure. Dealing with it and taking care of the rock will go a long way in advancing the Ducks.
- Arizona – As it’s been a season long dialogue, Mark Lyons is the obvious X-Factor for the Wildcats. I wrote about it for Point Guard U this week and now allow me to quote Chris Dufresne’s LA Times piece on the semi-PG:
The truth is, Arizona will win this year’s NCAA title if senior guard Mark Lyons plays the way he played last weekend in Salt Lake City.
By that hyperbolic (though I love it) account, I think it’s fair to call Lyons an X-factor. And just to recount, “last weekend in Salt Lake City” means 50points, 63% shooting, and just 4 turnovers.
- Oregon - Maybe this one is obvious in that I’m about to make a total pun but subtly very important to the Ducks’ success will be their wings (see what we did there? so much giggling right now). And by wings I’m looking at Daymean Dotson and Carlos Emory. In his first big dance, Dotson has scored 40 points on 54% shooting and is 8-15 from deep. For a team that struggles to shoot the three, the emergence of a greater-than-50% shooter is nice, to put it subtly. And in his swan song, the senior Emory has gone ahead and become great energy off the bench and spent his upset minded first weekend dropping a combined 26 points and grabbing 13 boards. The Duck Wings (decidedly I’m hoping this catches on) combined for 66 points. Stay hot my friends.
- Arizona – While we may have overwhelming memories of the cardinal and navy putting up gaudy offensive numbers, the core of the current team and current philosophy is tough defense. That tenant was lost for some portion of the season and then it reemerged in contagious fashion as Nick Johnson has reestablished himself as the defensive stopper Sean Miller lauded him to be. Thad Matta and others are taking note, too. It is yet to be determined what assignment Johnson will draw but the tone is set: Defense will win games for these Wildcats (unless you ask Dufresne, above). The Buckeyes pose no mega, collective threat offensively as the core of their success lies on the defensive end, too. Can Johnson be the more disruptive force?
Under the Radars
- Oregon – These Ducks are pretty damn big. With a starting front court of Woods and Kazemi they’ve managed to be one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. And after those two they trot out the likes of Waverly Austin (6’11”) and Ben Carter (6’8″). It’s been this rebounding edge that I believe has allowed the Ducks to overcome their proclivity for turnovers. DYK the Ducks are one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation (36% OR%)? DYK the Cardinals are one of the not so good defensive rebounding teams in the nation (yield a 33% OR%)? Now, I should note that the Cardinals manage to rebound the hell out of the offensive end (38.5%), a byproduct of their full court pressure. But this advantage could be negated by Oregon’s size and rebounding. The rebounding battle (looking at you Iranian Mound of Rebound) should prove central.
- Arizona – The crop of freshmen have been lauded since forever. As the names said “yes” to Sean Miller last summer the fable grew. And then the season began and they were….freshmen. They’re the only top-10 recruits still playing which is a moderately fun fact but what they provide is something Ohio State just may not be able to handle: size. These kids are huge which the Buckeyes are not. Now size itself is not the answer (too many jokes to be made here) but just as Dotson/Emory have caught fire in the Dance, so too have these pups. Excluding Jerrett from Saturday’s win over Harvard in which he played just one minute after injuring his now completely healthy elbow, this triumvirate (and one game tandem) has put up a combined for 35 points, 36 boards; or 7/7.2 in just 21.4 minutes. They’ve been the difference makers on the glass and in the lane and will need to continue to do so against the undersized and less-than-stellar rebounding Bucks.
It’s become the chic pick. Nine of twelve CBS experts have picked it. The President picked it. Gottlieb, Davis, and others made such a selection.
This afternoon, inside Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, David will be introduced to Goliath. The fans lingering from earlier games and the fans who have arrived early for later games will cheer loudly for David. Amongst all of the 6 vs. 11 and 5 vs. 12 match ups, this is the only one that features power conference vs. mid-major (we can ignore 5 UNLV vs. 12 Cal). And for such, the world thinks the Belmont Bruins will upset the Arizona Wildcats.
They’ll tell you that Arizona yields a tremendous amount of three-pointers; that their perimeter defense has disappeared as they give up those threes at a 36% clip. They’ll remind you that they’ve closed the season with a less than stellar 9-7 record (the same record the 1997 Arizona Wildcats closed their regular season with) including an abysmal loss to USC in which they allowed the Trojans to shoot greater than 60% afield. Undoubtedly someone will bring up Mark Lyons’ shot selection and the lack of depth at the guard position. Someone’s going to call the freshmen a disappointment and yet another will mention that Arizona has not beaten a Bruin this season.
And these “outside the box thinkers?” They’ll cite Ian Clark’s dagger-like precision from deep. Did you know this kid drops threes easier than it is to see through a pair of LuLu Lemon leggings? He connects at a 46% clip from deep and at a 54% clip overall. He’s an efficient scorer: 4th nationally in eFG% at 67% which is a higher eFG% than Derrick Williams’ 65% in 2011. Yes, Ian Clark out-efficients even Arizona’s #23. And as a team, those same thinkers will expand, the Bruins make threes. They shoot 40% of their shots from there and make 38% of them. “How’s that match up with that porous Wildcat perimeter?” they’ll laud. Stylistically, it might appear, Belmont was built to upset these Wildcats.
Not so fast my friend.
These Bruins are small. Their largest contributor is 6’7 240lbs Trevor Noack. Trevor, who basically runs the five for the Bruins, is roughly the same size as Arizona’s starting three, Solomon Hill (6’7” 220lbs). Arizona’s five is 7’ 260lbs. In the business, we call that a mismatch. The Cats, of course, roll out three others bigger than Trevor. They also have Nick Johnson, currently playing the roll of antidote to opposing facilitators. The last two players Johnson has defended (Spencer Dinwiddie and Larry Drew II) combined to shoot just 4-17. No doubt Mr. Clark is eager to meet him. Or the most recent incarnation of Arizona’s defense which has allowed ASU, Colorado, and UCLA to shoot 30% from out there.
What’s more about the three-point conversation is that while Belmont takes 40% of their shots from out there – obviously a significant portion of their offense – the Wildcats limit opponents to just 30% of their offense from deep. The Bruins shoot ‘em, the ‘Cats limit them.
And on the reverse side of that coin, the Wildcats are no three-point shooting slouches themselves. They take 38% of their shots from there and make 36% of them. Not. Too. Shabby. Especially considering these Bruins (who do force turnovers at a high rate which can pose a problem for the TO-prone Cats) yield 37% of their opponents’ offense beyond the arc. That, my friends, would seem to play directly into Wildcats paws.
Additionally these Wildcats can rebound whereas Belmont…not so much. They’ve got the 217th best OR% and yield – defensively – the 262nd highest OR%. Arizona, with its size and propensity to board, will have their fill of second chance opportunities. Possessions, my friends, will win basketball games. Especially considering Arizona scores about 1.13 points on each of them (compared to Belmont’s defense which yields about 0.94ppp).
Ultimately, this is nothing more than a chic pick.
Arizona is the better team. They’re bigger, faster, and stronger. Belmont is intriguing and no doubt good, they garnered a better seed than 20% of the dancing Pac. But they’re just that, David. Arizona is Goliath, swatting aside the flung rock intended to drop them (this is more than a metaphor, by the way; Belmont shots are blocked at an 11.5% rate, 34th worst in the country).
None of which, of course, is to dismiss the magnitude of any game in this cherished tournament. No at all. Arizona will be approaching this game with the respect it deserves. The hype, however, has muddled the facts; a fair conclusion when all eyes are on the opportunity to steal a few bucks from one’s cube mate in the office challenge.
But I’d say look elsewhere to steal a win. Not this Arizona team against this Belmont squad. Not in Salt Lake. Not when “my man…he’s never coming back here” is in play. Which is to say one should not underestimate the power of the career finality staring down Parrom, Hill, and Lyons.
Some Goliath will fall today. A David in some arena will sling a rock that strikes him ‘tween the eyes, dropping the bigger opponent in shocking and wild fashion.
I couldn’t quite give this one an un-biased spin so I asked my buddy Brad to craft this here tourney preview. Full disclosure, he’s 110% Wildcat.
Not too long ago, Arizona was projected as the top seed in the West region. Arizona stumbled to the finish line and enters the tournament as a 6 seed, having split their last 10 games. However, this is still a team that started 14-0 and knocked off Florida–the best team in the country. Arizona has also played some of its best basketball over the last 4 games and seems to have patched up its shoddy three point defense. The question for Arizona, and its fans, is which team will show up: the team that started 14-0 and played inspired defense over the last two weeks; or the team that found a way to lose to USC? The experts are counting on the latter, as Belmont is the chicest upset bid in the entire draw (9 of 12 CBS Experts pick Belmont, as did The President). Only one way to find out: let’s dance!
Why I like them: Sean Miller. Sean Miller coached teams do well in tournaments: he has coached in the NCAA Tournament 5 times and been to the second weekend 3 times. More importantly Arizona is loaded with talent. The team sports a group of freshman that comprised a top 5 recruiting class and is collectively playing their best basketball of the season right now. Additionally, Arizona starts three seniors who all have aspirations of playing professional basketball. The most encouraging reason to like the Wildcats is that in the past three games, they’ve held opponents to 12-39 (30 percent) from behind the arc–six points lower than their season average 36 percent. Bottom line: Arizona has the talent, the coach, the experience and the pedigree to beat any team on any given night.
Why I don’t like them: They allowed teams to shoot threes at a 36 percent clip this year; that’s good for 276 best in the country. (Belmont has two senior guards that shoot over 40 percent from three, and one–Ian Clark–is the best 3 point shooter in the nation). After starting 14-0, Arizona only managed to beat one team (Colorado) in the top half of the Pac-12 conference the rest of the way. To make matters worse, reliable Senior’s Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons shot the three at a less than 30 percent clip the last ten games of the season; while playmaker Nick Johnson disappeared for the month of February and most of March. Bottom line: Arizona has played inconsistently and shown an ability at times to lose to any team on any given night.
Poetic Justice: Kevin Parrom endured a tragic and well documented year that saw him lose his grandmother and mother to cancer and then endure recovering from a gun shot wound. He chose not to redshirt just so he could keep his mind on basketball and now he leads his team on a special tournament run. Mark Lyons came here for one season: to win. And so he does and Sean Miller’s first recruiting class leaves their mark on the program.
Best possible scenario: Arizona’s defense shows up and their size and athleticism overwhelms Belmont. In a second round tossup Mark Lyons is lights out from behind the arc, and Arizona prevails in a close game against a talented New Mexico squad. In the Sweet 16 Arizona gets some help from Iowa State who shoots lights out from three in the first two rounds, knocks off Ohio State, and then goes cold against the Wildcats. Finally, Arizona’s length gives Kelly Olynyk fits in the Elite 8, and Grant Jerrett plays the game of his life, as the Wildcats head to the Final Four. Sean Miller’s first. Ultimately, the Wildcats run out of steam in the national semi-finals but, man, what a run.
I really don’t want to dive deep into a preview of this tournament. Or any post-season for that matter.
I could tell you that I really like Arizona’s talent or that Shabazz, Jahii, Askia, Crabbe/Cobbs, or Powell are terrifying in single elimination. We could touch on which Stanford team we think shows up in Vegas and whether or not my buddy Matt is right when he just says, “Dammitalltohell! Oregon State’s gonna win it!”
How healthy or unhealthy is Dre Roberson? Can Brock carry a big run? Will the Huskies play their way out? Is Oregon in a breakable slump? Why has “Judo Ken Bone” twice been Googled this week in arriving at PacHoops.com?
All things to ponder.
Right now I’m ecstatic that we’ll be treated to a rivalry game and a 5-12 matchup that features a twelfth seeded Oregon State Beavers squad that just beat the fifth seeded Buffaloes. And all the rest of it.
But come this time of year, I prefer the Billy Beane school of thinking. Have you seen or read Moneyball? The entire story centers upon the agonizing work Beane and his staff put in to creating the best possible baseball team they can on a limited budget. They are painstakingly trying to win. But when asked about the playoffs, what Beane’s approach to the most critical time of year is when legacies are cemented and legends born, Beane says, “My job is to get us to the playoffs. Everything after that is fucking luck.”
Well my job isn’t really to get anyone to the playoffs. It’s actually completely unrelated and if you’re ever interested email me and we can discuss it but I guarantee you it’s a complete tangent from college basketball or Moneyball or really anything remotely pertaining to a final score.
I spend the working months of the season trying to rationalize every piece of the year. I want to fathom just what effect Shabazz will have on his team or Arizona’s three bigs on their squad or whether Ahmad Starks really can spark the team defense Craig Robinson so glaringly lacks. I rationalize that some of these teams aren’t as good as expected and others are better. Basically I try my best to meld the summer’s recruiting gossip, the preseason’s practice hype, and then actual game play into some rational argument for whatever the hell is going on.
Similar to how Beane said it, all bets are off. This is tournament time and we’re in the midst of one game seasons. While “anything is possible” is an overplayed phrase this time of year…anything is possible.
It’s to this hope that we cling and there’s a reason for that hope, a rationalization of irrationality I suppose. No longer are we seeking the best over the course of 30-games. Because that’s when luck – as Beane puts it – can be diluted. Across 30-or-more-games, the cream is going to rise to the top. The aberrations and anomalies will be weeded out.
But now this is where we thrive, the fans. This may be Billy Beane’s nightmare but it’s a fan’s dream. It’s why we’re fans.
That finite peek at some semblance of hope that our team, on this night, on that court, might have a shot to make the shot and win a game they might otherwise have no business competing in.
At this point in the year we know every bar that can broadcast the Pac-12 Network. And the ones that don’t. We know the spot we can watch an FSN broadcast and we all have an opinion on Bill Walton. And we know our own team inside and out and that isn’t about to stop us from picking them to win this damn thing and Dance.
Somewhere across these great interwebs I will and have made some rational prognostications. But here, in this moment, know that my favorite part is the fucking luck.
With the regular season now wrapped and the Pac-12’s seniors having played their final home games, we’re taking a tour across the conference and bidding this group of seniors farewell.
With every ferocious dunk and dagger three pointer, the narrative of Solomon Hill’s four year odyssey at Arizona becomes more fulfilling.
In an era defined by one-and-dones and players feeling self-entitled, the progression of Hill from a freshman to a senior has illustrated a satisfying reminder of all that is still right in college basketball.
When the Los Angeles native re-committed to be a part of Sean Miller’s first recruiting class at Arizona, he likely envisioned himself having a similar route through Tucson as fellow class of 2009 commit Derrick Williams.
But while Williams went on to win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year his rookie season and then transformed into a college superstar as a sophomore, it took Hill a bit longer to mature.
At 6’7, 220 pounds, Hill quickly realized he didn’t quite have the size to physically dominate in the way Williams did. Instead, under the watchful eye of the Arizona strength and conditioning program, he developed into one of the more versatile big men in the Pac-12.
Off the court, Hill bought into a structured lifestyle that included avoiding many of the distractions that often consume college students. On the court, it has translated to eye-catching results that could catch the eyes of some NBA scouts.
In nearly every statistical category, there is a near-linear progression from his freshman through senior years. None may be more attractive than his three point percentage, which has skyrocketed from a dismal 22% his freshman year to around 40% as a junior and senior.
But Kenpom.com or any other stat analyzing site couldn’t portray the true evolution of Hill as a player and a person since he arrived at UofA in the summer of ’09.
Whereas early in his career he was content with being a complimentary piece on offense, Hill has acquired a kill or be killed mentality mixed in with a terrific understanding of game situation. Albeit he is still plagued with occasional inconsistency, he knows when it is time for him to take over or when he should dish it inside to one of the bigs.
Hill has also handled his senior responsibilities remarkably well. It’s not easy to keep together the chemistry of a team loaded with underclassmen but here we are in March and there is still a sense of unity, despite the recent setbacks in conference play.
With the Pac-12 Tournament and the Big Dance around the corner, it’ll be Hill’s Last Hurrah and a chance to seal his legacy in Tucson.
But whether the final destination is Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Atlanta or somewhere else, there will be no disputing what Hill has meant to this program and what Arizona has meant to Hill.
When Hill made the pledge to become a Wildcat – less than a week after Miller left Xavier – he made the biggest gamble any young basketball player can make. It paid off.
One of our favorite things about collegiate athletics is its fleeting immediacy. The players we cheer for, those who don our colors, are there for a predetermined and brief period. We enjoy their services for, at most, four seasons and then its on to their next venture. It’s quick, gone in what feels like a flash, and we’re then left with a new crop of talents to cheer, critique, and enjoy a new group.
But it’s this brevity that magnifies the relationship.
We know all too well of its finality that we’re further drawn to irrational levels of fandom. I love it. And now the seniors have now wrapped up their final home games. They will never play on their home court again. For this, I’m sad.
Because these are the guys we’ve followed since before they got to school and watched improve and watched succeed and watched fail and watched grow. They’ve embodied a lifecycle we appreciate and now is the time to usher them on and out.
For such, I’ve reached out to some of my favorite writers, bloggers, and fans in an effort to try and capture the feelings of this time of year. Both the bitter and the sweet.
So coming today and beyond, you will see the following seniors celebrated by those who’ve followed them close:
- Solomon Hill by Ezra Amacher of PointGuardU
- Kevin Parrom by Brad Hill of Awesome
- Larry Drew II by Andrew Murawa of Rush the Court
- Jason Washburn by Jack Gardner of Jack Gardner’s Ghost
- Jio Fontan by Jacob Freedman of Galen Central
- Sabatino Chen by James Lucas of AllBuffs
- Joe Burton by Connor Pelton of Rush the Court
- Abdul Gaddy by Jack Follman of Pacific Takes
- EJ Singler by David Piper of Addicted to Quack
- Brock Motum by Jeff Nusser of Coug Center
- Carrick Felix by David Bowers of David’s Desert
It’s a good crop we’re saying farewell to and a terrific group who have pieced together some remarkable, exciting, and fun careers.