Monday, March 23, 2009

Arizona's Chance to Continue the Dance

While the Scum Devils went home with their forked tail between their legs, Chase, Jordan, Nic and co. are still wearing their dancing shoes. And no they're not glass slippers, because despite their seed, Arizona is not a Cinderella. This is a good thing, Cinderella isn't supposed to win, and every year there's a Cinderella, midnight eventually comes.

That's right, the Wildcats are among the Top 16 teams in the nation, suck it Dookie V. But that's why opinions are like...well you get the idea. The Cats have a pair of double digit wins under their belts and are facing their toughest test of the season, but let's face it, each one of the next game(s?) is their toughest test of the season.

This game will be a lot closer than some people are suggesting. As of right now the line is Louisville by 9. It's a fair line. If the Cats come ready to play like they have in most of their biggest games of the season, (Kansas, Gonzaga, UCLA, Washington, Utah, Cleveland State, etc), this will be a lot closer than 9. If that "other" Cats team comes out, the one losing to ASU, Washington State, UCLA, etc. the Cats will be out of the game with 5 minutes left.

So how can the Cats get past the Cards from Kentucky?

In the first weekend of the Tournament, The Cats have made both of their opponents turn the ball over to the tune of 30 times in two games. A specifically impressive 19 turnovers against Utah who was averaging less than 14 per game all season. The Cats combined to get their opponents to turnover the ball 6.5 times more than their individual opponents' averages. Very good numbers, can their defense keep that up? The Cardinals are a lot deeper than Utah and Cleveland State.

Meanwhile through two postseason games, the Cardinals haven't been as careful with the ball as they were all season with 36 turnovers. That's up 8.2 turnovers through the first weekend. Obviously, Louisville has a little bit more time than Cleveland State did, to get ready for that Arizona Press/Trap/Zone Frankenstein Defense they've been running. The real test for the Cardinals will be protecting the ball. If they can turn the ball over less than the 18/g their averaging so far they should be in good shape, if Arizona can cause some trouble and get them off of their game, the Cats have a shot.

"Home" Court:
Much has been made of Arizona's struggles on the road this season. They have been a completely different team when the crowd is against them. BUT, Cleveland State started getting some fan support in Miami yesterday, and the Vikings got back in the game, but Arizona held on. A show of things to come? Perhaps, but there were still plenty of Arizona fans and chants in the building.

Louisville, KY to Indianapolis, IN - a little over 100 miles and about an hour and a half away.
Tucson, AZ to Indianapolis, IN - over 1700 miles and about 26 hours.

There will be more Louisville fans in attendance, for sure. Imagine if the game was in Phoenix, you're telling me that the building wouldn't be rocking with BEAR DOWN chants? Well folks from the midwest tend to move to Arizona, not vice versa. So, while there might be some Arizona and neutral fans who start to pull for AZ, they will be outnumbered. This will be the biggest test of the game for Arizona, getting past the fans. Which leads me to...

When Arizona comes out with their asses on fire, things go well for the Wildcats. They started fast against Cleveland State and Utah. Arizona has been able to rally, Arizona has been able to hold on late, Arizona has been able to play close. But Arizona has also given away leads, Arizona has played down to opponents, Arizona has played defeated with time on the clock. Arizona needs to decide the tempo of the game. They need to play Arizona basketball. If they get the early lead, they can keep the crowd out of it. If they can keep the crowd out of it, it becomes less of a home game for Louisville.

This is just as big of a factor as any other in the game. Louisville is a lot deeper than Arizona. If this becomes a track meet Arizona is going to lose their legs, and Louisville will be nice a fresh entering the later parts of the game. Arizona got scary against Cleveland State. The Big 3 struggled in the first half, and 2 of the 3 had 3 fouls entering halftime. Wise and Hill finished with 4, Chase and Fogg had 3, and there were more than a few close calls. There was a point in the game with ALL THREE of Arizona Three Headed Monster sidelined. Uh Oh, that won't be good against the top team in the country. Arizona's got to play smart both in deciding tempo and avoiding fouls.

Bottom Line:
Louisville is the better team. There is no doubt about that they have a better record, better numbers, better depth of talent, a better coach, and more experience. They played a tougher schedule in a tougher conference. There is no debating this. Not even Randle can tell me that Arizona is a better team than Louisville, and he's a pretty big Homer (p.s. Happy Birthday Matt!!!)

Other Notes:
Rumored Arizona Coaching Candidate Rick Pitino will be facing the very same Arizona Wildcats this weekend. I would love it if the Cats win and after Pitino and Pennell shake hands at mid-court Pitino turns around and ribs off his shirt to show off his brand new Red "Property of Arizona" T-shirt hiding below. I can just imagine Jerry The King Lawler and JR announcing this. It would be one of the most ridiculous moments in all of sports history.

Bleak Future? Arizona will, most likely, be losing First Rounders Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger to the higher ranks, leaving Nic the Quick alone with a lot of youth, not to mention all 4 of Arizona top recruits have announced their departure. But, Kyle Fogg a.k.a Ducky, is getting better by the game, and could prove to be one of the better players in the Pac-10 over the next couple years. Zane Johnson is primarily a 3 point shooter, but it doesn't hurt having one of those on a team, and Jamelle Horne is mind blowing. Of course with Horne it's either good or bad. The Good being his out of the gym athleticism and intensity on the court, he dunked the ball TOO HARD to go through on Friday night. The bad being the mental errors that have plagued him since the UAB game, and his sometimes too much emotion, he dunked the ball TOO HARD to go through the net on Friday night. Yes I meant to type that twice.

Arizona is the lone Pac-10 team still allowed to play organized Basketball right now. But I don't want to hear people saying that the Pac was a weak conference. They may not have been as successful as years past but they were able to go 5-1 in the first round (thanks Cal). Of course the second round saw 4 of the remaining 5 drop their games, but 2 of those games were good, close games (USC by 5 to Michigan St. and Washington by 2 to Purdue). Meanwhile the ACC which is constantly touted by ACC honks, homers, and Greivis Vasquez as the top conference saw 3 of their 7 teams lose on day one, two more dropped on day two, and saw Duke celebrate a Sweet 16 berth like they won the whole thing.

The master of bias and hypocrisy, Dookie V, still thinks Arizona doesn't belong in the Tournament despite being one of the final 16, yet says they've got a good chance to beat Louisville, and says there's no surprise that they beat Utah and Cleveland State....What? How can there be no surprise that they have won 2 games and has a "good chance" to beat the top ranked team in the country, but they shouldn't be in the Tournament.

Oh yeah...ASU Still sucks. And just because we can:


Mark said...

Greap post.
I am just curious if Arizona is really one of the best 16 teams in the nation or if they lucked out just a little with their opponents. (Whotah? and Cleveland State?)
Either way I'm still rooting for the Cats!