Schu Strings: Long run unlikely

Have we resigned ourselves to the inevitable yet? Any thoughts of a significant Arizona run in the NCAA tournament appear more and more unlikely as the season draws closer and closer to its conclusion, and the UA runs out of gas.

Every time it appears as though Arizona is making strides, every time it appears the ship has finally been righted, it seems to search out a 40-minute storm that sets everything back. In the UA's most recent brush with improvement, it put together a three-game string that in retrospect might have been something of an illusion.

In Arizona's rout of UCLA at home, it was easy to overlook the 66 percent shooting from the floor because the UA forced 28 turnovers and converted many of those into fastbreak buckets. It was easy to overlook Oregon's 87-point effort at Mac Court because the UA lit up the scoreboard to the tune of an even 100 in a performance where Salim Stoudamire set a career standard and Hassan Adams churned out 26 points and 14 rebounds.

But in different ways, they may have suggested yet another significant chink in Arizona's fast-cracking armor. Fatigue.

The Arizona coaching staff has historically prided itself on the team's conditioning, and usually Wildcat performers are up to the challenge. But the UA's more-or-less six-man rotation could be feeling the effects of a long season and a short bench.

Example: In the last five minutes against UCLA at home, Arizona squandered a double-figure lead, and later assistant coach Rodney Tention admitted fatigue was a factor. With 90 seconds left, Arizona called a timeout, and afterwards went on a late run that played a role in sealing the deal. But during the five-minute stretch beforehand, UA players basically stood around on both ends of the floor, and it showed. UCLA mounted its only competitive effort of the evening.

Example No. 2: Oregon and Arizona expended a great amount of energy in Thursday's track meet at Mac Court. The UA was fresher and more effective on the offensive end while playing just well enough defensively to leave a 13-point winner. Both teams played as if the tank was empty in losses two days later.

In Arizona's case, the matchup with Oregon State looked like a reversal of roles. The UA simply could not stop OSU when it needed to, and as a result lost for the fourth time this season when scoring more than 80 points. Reason? No legs. Arizona looked flat-footed on both ends of the floor, and that was most evident by virtue of the number of loose balls Oregon State was able to track down. Additionally, the UA forced just one turnover in the second half. It got beat to every spot.

This does not bode well come tournament time. Think Oregon was intense? Amp that baby up a few notches when the Big Dance arrives. So what if Arizona wins the first game if two days later it doesn't have the legs to maintain that intensity.

The Wildcats also look as though they have no more than three consecutive good games in them. After losing at USC, they routed UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, then returned home and crushed Oregon State and Oregon. From there, they lost at Washington, eked out a win at Washington State and got swept in the Bay.

Arizona did play well in the second half at Stanford, and then dominated USC and UCLA at home before the Oregon win, but stumbled again at Oregon State. Given the frustrations of this season, if the UA could somehow manage an Elite Eight appearance, it would be quite an accomplishment.

There are those who have talked about the possibility of Arizona playing its first two games in Denver because of the geographic friendliness of the pod system. To me, nothing could be more disastrous. The altitude would not benefit this team at all.

Time is ticking. If nothing else, Arizona needs to take its share of deep breaths before the big run…

…Moving on…

…I'm something of a movie geek. Yeah, it's true. I actually have acquaintances who think the only bracket worth filling out involves guessing the Academy Award winners. Remarkably, I am no better at this bracket game than the one I fruitlessly fill out for the NCAA tournament. I'm actually not sure in which one I've finished last more often.

Picking the Academy Award winners is naturally a slightly different process than selecting those who survive in the NCAAs. For the Oscars it's simply a matter of selecting the winner, from the list of nominees, in any given category.

So for those of you geeky like me, here are the Schu picks for Oscar gold. Fortunately, because of Return of the King, I should be able to get some right.

Best Picture: Return of the King. This was a done deal two years ago after the first installment in the Rings trilogy was released. It's a pay your dues sort of thing, because the Academy had a pretty good idea, that unlike Star Wars, the follow-up efforts would be superb. When Return of the King lived up to the billing, this category was a done deal.

Best Actor: Sean Penn in Mystic River. Penn's greatest competition could be Bill Murray, who has gotten rave applause for Lost in Translation.

Best Actress: Charlize Theron for Monster. Theron usually stars in terrible films, but did a fabulous job in this. You know this is a weak category when Diane Keaton gets a nomination for Something's Gotta Give.

Best Director: Peter Jackson, Return of the King. The other foregone conclusion.

Best Supporting Actor: Alec Baldwin for The Cooler. Tim Robbins is another strong possibility for Mystic River.

Best Supporting Actress: Marcia Gay Harden in Mystic River. Some consider it one of the great character vehicles in recent cinema history. As such, Mystic River figures to get its share of acting related gold.

Those are the biggies. From there, don't be surprised if Master and Commander lands some technical accolades.

As much as I like movies, I've only actually watched about four Academy Award shows, and only then because there was competition involved. If I don't get an Oscar bracket this year, maybe I'll just check out a flick Sunday night instead.

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