Tag Archives: Tucson

SeanMillerPresser

Getting to know Arizona: For one reason

Sean Miller sat at a table next to Jim Livengood, his wife, and his three children. Set up in the middle of the McKale floor, the former AD spoke effusively about his newest hire before turning the mic over to the native Pennsylvanian. Miller thanked Coach Olson before saying anything to anyone about anything else. He too would speak effusively about the program he was inheriting and the legacy he would work to carry on. Hours earlier, at a similar press conference with a less celebratory mood, Miller was asked about his decision to become the next head coach at the University of Arizona, “I would never leave Xavier unless it was a place that I really felt you could win a national championship.” He’d go on to lead his first Wildcat team to a 16-15 record. The first Arizona team since 1984 not invited to the NCAA tournament. Xavier would attend their third consecutive sweet sixteen. That was 2009 and this is 2013. Four years removed from that press table on the McKale floor, Sean Miller will unveil his best team yet. His best chance yet to affirm that April 7th decision.

Why I love them: Arizona is going to be so outrageously good. It’s wild that Gordon gets the majority of eyeballs (yet understandable) and if you’re writing a 1000 word column on the Cats, he’s taking up 40% of it. Respect. But in a singular blurb entitled “Why I love my favorite team of all-time on my own blog so you’re going to have to deal with all of my biases and Kool Aid drinking because it’s mine all mine” I’ll gladly talk about the other kids:

  • Brandon Ashley was AG before AG.
  • TJ McConnell was a top five theft before bailing on small ball for the big boys. A defense and pass first PG in a SM system? Yes please. Did you know a former coach said TJ was the best player on Arizona’s practice floor last year? Do you know who that former coach was? Luther Olson.
  • Nick Johnson made exponential improvements from FR to SO season. That’s a somewhat expected improvement; a standard time to leap ahead. But the greatest leap he made was fully understanding and embracing his role as a lock down defender. You see what he did down the stretch? Dinwiddie, LD2, Ian Clark, Wesley Saunders, Craft? Zipperhead nada. Lock down. And now he’s got a partner in crime (see above) (and below)
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson compares more favorably to Andre Iguodala than AG compares to Blake Griffin. 6’7″ with a 7’1″ wingspan, when translated into hoop, means: NIET. As in NIET anyone is getting by him. StealsOnblocksOndeflections.

Quick break here because I’m exhausted and can’t even wrap my mind around who to write about next. I literally have an elevated heart rate right now because I got anxious I’d forget to mention someone.

  • Kaleb Tarczewski is a seven footer who dropped 6/6 a season ago. Kinda meh, ho hum, but if you were privy to the report my boy James whipped up a year ago regarding top-50 big men recruits, it’s about par for the course. You know where the majority of those top-50 big men who average about 6/6 in their freshman campaign wind up? Lotteries.
  • Once there was this frail point guard I interviewed. He went on to surprise people as a freshmen and disappoint them in the subsequent two years. But he’s a senior now. He’s seen this and he’s experience that (and by that I mean an elite eight, ever been?). He’s Jordin Mayes and he’s going to surprise you because iced veins were meant for March.

And that’ll cover it for now. I didn’t get to the defensive collective of this group or the possibility of instant offense from a guy like Gabe York. Zach Peters is like a Wear twin who won’t ever have to be featured (that’s what the Wears were supposed to be). Yet the Wildcats aren’t even allowing Peters to play. Just try and come at me with the shooting stuff.

Oh, and there’s that Miller guy.

Why I hate them: I don’t. Can’t. Won’t ever. Bear down.

Stat you need to know:

35.8

Percentage from three point distance opponents shot against the Wildcats last season, the second highest such percentage a Sean Miller team has ever yielded. Aside from his first ever season, no other SM team allowed opponents to shoot better than 33%. His worst ever ranking (the bookends aside) was 85th. My point here is that last year appears to be a statistical anomaly in which his defense was lead by not-TJ McConnell. Last season’s eight losses saw AZ opponents shoot 46% from distance. In my book, How to Lose Basketball Games, chapter three is titled “Allow Your Opponent to Shoot >40% from 3FG: And other ways to lose from beyond the arc.”

In their words: Ezra covers Arizona hoops for PointguardU and is a great twitter follow. Do you like sports? Follow Ezra.

There are no more excuses.

With TJ McConnell running the show, an improved and polished front court at his disposal, and Aaron Gordon doing basketball things that only Aaron Gordon can do, justifications will not manage if Arizona does not reach the Promised Land. The talent is too strong and the road to Jerry World is too forthright.

Now that’s not to say the task won’t be daunting. The Wildcats have one of the more challenging out-of-conference schedules in the country – a potential Madison Square Garden match-up with Duke overshadows a trip to Ann Arbor to play the national runner-ups.

And despite being the runaway pick to win the conference, the Pac-12 won’t be a cakewalk as Oregon, UCLA, Cal, and even The School Up North could provide legitimate challenges.
But come March, when Sean Miller’s teams traditionally peak, this one should peak a little bit higher. By then, the chemistry between McConnell and his teammates should be uniquely strong and Arizona will have an inherent advantage against most opponents because its front-court size and talent.

Furthermore, if the Wildcats earn a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, their path to the Final Four will presumably never stray from the comforts of Southern California and its rich base of UofA alums.

It’s year five of the Sean Miller Era and patience is becoming less of a virtue and more of a commodity It’s time for expectations to become reality.

Quotable:

“They’ve got about 75 pros on their team.” – Lorenzo Romar on why Arizona is the Pac-12 favorite

“But who in their right mind would think that Gordon will bring the ball up against Duke in the Final Four, cross over Jabari Parker, spin off of Rodney Hood, and dunk so hard on Rasheed Sulaimon that Sulaimon gets a concussion? (Arizona fans just scanned the room for something to put on their laps to hide their collective erection.)” – Mark Titus

Outlook: I have sunglasses on right now and it’s not the hangover. No the future is so bright I’m wearing shades and it’s taking all I’ve got to not talk about hotels and things to do in Dallas. What’s it like there in early April? Alas, there’s entire slate of basketball to be played and games to be won. None of this is going to be easy for the Wildcats but they’ve positioned themselves to make it look so. Their schedule is great – I’m attending as much of it as I can – and everything I mentioned above. Detractors, critics, and realists will mention Arizona’s unproven outside shooting. They have a point. But the greater point on that front is that if Arizona is grossly reliant on its shooting they’ve got bigger problems. If the offense isn’t running through someone named Aaron, Kaleb, or Brandon: issues. Furthermore, Arizona is going to get its buckets in transition. Defense will be their signature. I imagine a lot of run stopping timeouts from opposing benches (20-4 run, etc.).

We’re one week away.

He touched the ball.

Go Cats and here’s to basketball games in football stadiums.

Bear down.

AllBuffs

All Buffs Wrap: Conference Kicks and The Red Letter Game

This week’s wrap up for AllBuffs is more of a preview. You see, Colorado joined this conference, escaping the tyranny of Big-12 Hoops in which no one seems to care much to challenge the Jayhawks; a fact I’d like to cite for their 8-straight conference titles but reality is they’re just that damn good.

Read my AZ-CU Preview at AllBuffs.

Well now that they’re in the Pac-12, Colorado was seeking a rival. Last season Utah – their travel partner – wasn’t worth the endeavor. The Utes would prove one of the worst major conference foes of all-time and the Buffs would win the conference tournament. They settled on the Wildcats as their main rival.

An outsider might call it a little brother move - I wanna be like them! – and perhaps there was an element of such. After all (and I’m always quick to rattle the stats off), Arizona has won 25 conference titles, visited the Final Four four times, and won the 1997 National Title amongst many other braggable accolades.

But then the Buffs went ahead and beat the Wildcats twice last season. Down year’s be damned. When the new kid on the block – expected to finish eleventh – picks the baddest kid in the playground and KO’s them, literally knocking the Wildcats out of the tournament for just the second time since I was born, they mean business. And if you’ve followed their program, they indeed do. They’ve played more-than-respectably this season and Tad Boyle is far on his way to building a program.

So Thursday night, when these two square off it should be a helluva ball game. Both school’s have loft expectations for 2013 and it begins this week.

I’ll be watching – albeit after rushing from the office due to the damn 5pm tip – and excited to see what will come of this long awaited return to conference play. Glad it kicks with doozy.

Lazy, Desert Town Preview: USC at Arizona

Zack Jerome, a friend, previewed the USC-Arizona game. He’s good, hell with a pen as he’ll tell you. The following is my Arrogant Game Preview rebuttal:

Our first interaction was a hug.

I’d walked into the bar, crowded with the familiar home-for-the-holidays crew, and was introduced to this Angelino. At the time he was the boyfriend of a high school friend. Today he is her husband, founder of Arrogant Nation and that evening he was hugged by me because that’s what we do in a lazy, desert town.

That’s what Tucson is. It’s not Los Angeles and it’s not supposed to be. We’re drier than Seattle, lower than Boulder, less techy than the Bay, bigger than Eugene, Pullman, and Corvallis. We sure as shit ain’t Tempe.

Huge buildings in Tucson!

You see, we’re a happy bunch and we want to have a good time. So much so that sometimes we’ll even come onto the field before the game is over! I mean, who doesn’t want to party with Jeremiah Masoli? And our all-time winningest coach? Dude is renowned for being a sweet old man. We found him in Hawaii. A good man, Dick Tomey was celebrated for losing during his tenure at San Jose State. God bless him.

John Mackovic.

Of course there’s the whole never-been-to-a-Rose-Bowl thing. But let me ask this: why would I want to go to Pasadena for New Years? In Tucson it’s 75 and sunny and we can golf or hike or jump in our own swimming pools or lotion our hands because it’s so effing dry. Get up at 4am to sit in miserable traffic to watch a goddamn flower parade? No thank you. I’ll take Bud Nitros on the couch with the door to the porch open. And because I’m home visiting, my mom will probably even go pick up my Chad’s Choice from Beyond Bread.

Hell with a pen, Zack? I’m self-deprecating on a QWERTY.

But it’s not all fun and games in Tucson. We’ll fire your basketball coach and gladly take Derrick Williams off your hands (don’t be surprised, you knew it was going to come down to basketball – I mean, the football locker rooms are in McKale). And we’ll take coaches who turn down the head job at Alabama and talk with a drawl and spread the shit out of a football field.

Look, Rich is our kinda guy. He’s the lowest profile, high profile guy you can find. Check out Tucson. Seriously, check it out. It’s the thirty-third most populous city in America. But you’d never guess that and you’d never guess that RichRod was once the hottest name in coaching. In his introductory press conference, guns blazing, he declared, “Why not Arizona?” We ate it up.

Why not Arizona?

We leave the arrogance to the big city because we’ve got saguaros to maintain and we check our shoes for scorpions. We watch basketball in March and embrace all of the UC rejects who don’t want to go to Tempe. Do you know why Jerry Bruckheimer (UA grad!) keeps making mega movies for USC kids to hold boom mics in? Because it’s hot as hell in Tucson during the summer and what the hell else are we going to do?

Back to the hug.

It was unexpected for Zack and unexpected that I’d smell deceased bear on his coat when I embraced him. But embrace I did because that’s how it’s done in a lazy, desert town. We welcome – contrary to state legislation – any and all and will raise a cup of bourbon or whatever you like to celebrate competition and sport. SPORTS!

Good luck, Zack. You’re the best. And watch this:

Week 5 Pac-12 Basketball Review

This post can also be seen at ryanrecker.com. Worth the visit if you like a good podcast or some legit prose. Ryan is the Sports Director at KVOA-Tucson.

The Pac-12 finally got their marquee non-conference win. Granted, it didn’t involve a basket or a ball or even a scoreboard. Arizona outdrew both the ACC (Florida State) and Big East (Pitt) combined in ESPN College GameDay attendance. BOOM! Put that in your calculator and RPI it!

Leader in the Clubhouse: This is a tough one to call so let’s talk it out:

Cal has the track record and has consistently looked like the team to beat
But Washington marched into Tucson and left with a win
But Cal just beat the Huskies in Seattle
But Washington couldn’t hold court against the Jackrabbits
But Cal has lost to the Cougars and Beavers
But Washington has the tougher SOS
But Cal has the higher RPI

Back-and-forth to be sure and I ultimately give the edge to Cal here, but the point isn’t the aforementioned bolds and italics. The point here is that halfway through the Pac-12 season I think the cream has finally risen to the top. Or, perhaps better said, the pretenders are showing their true colors. Allow ourselves some optimism and we’ll call it the former but whilst on the topic of true colors, UW showed theirs. By wrecking the whiteout, UW finally got that road win so many of us needed to see in order to take the HecEd homers seriously. The proverbial corner turned, Romar’s squad has pieced together what I’d call a nice in-conference resume. There’s still half-a-schedule to play but at 7-2, both the Huskies and Bears can rightfully claim to be the conference’s elite. These two, unfortunately, won’t tip off again this season (unless it’s in the Staples Center) and that’s really a shame because the one time they did it was a helluva game. Shout out here to USC for winning their first conference game.

Game of the Weekend: The Block, Part II OR The Foul, Part II. What do you want to call it? Presumably the former if you’re a Husky, the latter a Wildcat – you’ll recall this. While Tony Wroten’s block may not have had quite the drama of Derrick Williams’ a year ago, it was no less game saving and no less gigantic. The man-amongst-boys freshman may have efficiency, turnover, and overuse issues, but he owns the lead on a quickly improving if not good team and made the play of the game as the final buzzer sounded. Of course – and we’re back to asking if you’re a Husky or a Wildcat – the play of the game could also have been the blocking call with just over five seconds remaining in the newly tied game. There’s no doubt it was a foul but why did Josiah Turner need to try and draw a charge there? Freshman mistake? Lost in the moment? Did he just Horne-it? Whatever it was, it put the Huskies at the line for a chance to seal the victory which CJ Wilcox did. Cold blooded, if you will. But I need ask no question regarding your allegiance when I tell you that this was a terrific basketball game and fit the billing of the GOtW. Perhaps lost amidst the hectic finish to this game was Solomon Hill’s night. He missed two shots and took eighteen. Sweet efficiency did he have a ballgame finishing with 28 and 11, his third straight double-double. Also, Terrence Ross: good.

The Big Loser: A case could be made here for a number of teams: Colorado seemingly can’t get over the hump and win on the road; Oregon lost at home to Oregon State; Stanford and Arizona have dropped to 5-4; WSU lost to ASU; Utah lost to USC. Looking back over that list I’m reminded that we’d previously said we were going to be optimists in this post so I won’t mention the foul stench of sub-mediocrity. I digress and move on to my final answer: Stanford. Sure they lost on the road in a rivalry game but this team is offensively inept and it’s beginning to glare. They’ve lost three straight in which they’re shooting a cringe-worthy 36% from the field and 19% from distance, a shot the Cardinal rely far too heavily upon to shoot so poorly. I’d love to give Johnny Dawkins’ crew the benefit of the doubt and excuse this losing streak to playing on the road, but that’s too many excuses for a team that played a non-non-conference schedule. I’m selling my Cardinal stock but investing in their classmates.

What We Learned: Sometimes life just isn’t fair. You’ll recall that Arizona junior, Kevin Parrom, was shot in the hand and leg while visiting his dying mother on the heels of losing his grandmother? Yeah, that month occurred this past summer and the road back has been a long one for Parrom. But he was back. The Wildcats’ spark plug understandably needed more time than perhaps fan patience would allow but he was back, averaging 9/5/3 in the three games leading up to Saturday’s whiteout, demonstrating the complete and gritty style he’s come to be known for. And in that game, in leading the Wildcats to a halftime lead, the junior put up 7/3/2 in just ten minutes of play. Kevin Parrom was indeed back. But when the second half began, Kevin wasn’t back. He wasn’t on the court, he wasn’t on the bench. Nothing was said by the ESPN crew and when the cameras finally found him, he was wearing a boot. You see the human foot accounts for about one-eighth of the bones in an adult – a significant number in the grand scheme of things and subsequently an increased probability of breakage. Basic math, right? The odds played out on Saturday and Kevin Parrom’s season was declared over. A broken foot to blame. Grandmother, mother, mortality; no, life isn’t always fair. But maybe to break Kevin Parrom you must actually break him. Incapacitate him so he can’t be the heart-and-soul of a basketball team, recover from heartache amongst teammates and family, or play the game he loves. Nope. Not breaking Kevin Parrom can break Kevin Parrom. Just ask him.

Early Week YouTuber: This happened.