Usually, this inquiry is met with a look of puzzlement, then a bit of laughter and finally mild shock when the Wildcat asked realizes the person was actually serious. Now I will readily admit that Arizona State is a much better basketball team this year. This is probably the best Sun Devil hardwood entry since the 1995 Sweet 16 unit paced by Mario Bennett. And ASU has given the UA fits this season, looking very good in an impressive win at Tempe, and fighting hard in the close loss last week in Tucson. But hello, thick skulls, knock knock knock…one decent season does not a program make, and Arizona State has a long road to hoe before it can even begin to consider to suggest that maybe, slightly, possibly, perhaps, well kinda, it could be gaining some ground in its effort to start narrowing the gap.
For members of the Phoenix media to suggest this, it's like saying Biosphere 2 is making real strides toward colonization on Mars.
I shouldn't have to break out some numbers, but what the heck. Maybe a tad more info will be of assistance. Before the Tempe loss, Arizona had won 12 straight in the series. As Luke Walton said, to have a rivalry suggests both teams are winning their share of games. Now if the Valley media considers one win in 14 closing the gap, well, um, maybe the students in Tempe aren't the ones doing the hard partying.
Since ASU last made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Arizona is 17-5 in NCAA tourney games. I didn't look that one up. Ben Hansen, our trivia dude, did, but what a telling stat.
This is not a knock on ASU as much as it is the occasionally absurd line of questioning by certain members of the media who seem to long for a time when Ned Wulk was beating up on Ben Lindsey. Oh wait, that happened exactly one year. Well, you have to grab onto something, I suppose.
The Sun Devils are better than I expected this year, and their performance in Tucson was hard-nosed and inspiring. They were basically playing for their season and the opportunity to make the selection committee look long and hard at the possibility of accepting a seventh Pac-10 entry in the field of 64. I admire that kind of effort. I believe ASU is as good a seventh place conference team as there is in the country, and I believe it will be a load come Pac-10 tournament time, but any suggestions to closing the gap should just be put on hiatus here and now, until long after Arizona State mounts a series of successive campaigns and tournament appearances.
It took millions of years to form the Grand Canyon. It's going to take ASU a lot of seasons of success to reach the level Arizona has achieved, and the sooner members of the Phoenix area media realize that, the better.
Or maybe they don't have to. I mean, it is great ammunition.
In other media stupidity, it's nice to see the big websites continually making their NCAA bracket projections. This used to be a yearly tradition beginning around mid-February, but now the countdown is basically underway from the opening tip. In my opinion, there is not a greater waste of space or html coding than the projection of the 64-team field into the NCAA tournament. Now I can understand a debate involving a No. 1 seed, or why such-and-such team should earn a higher placing or bubble spot over somebody else. But to project which No. 1 seed will play which No. 16 seed, or which 2 will play 15, and so forth, is beyond comprehension to me. Why? Because while you can actually argue the merits of who should be a 1 and where, vs a 2, etc., there's no reasoning whatsoever to explain why a specific No. 1 should play a specific No. 16 seed. None at all. And to engage in this endeavor before the tournament seems just little more than a waste of time.
That said, in the spirit of media overhype, I think I'll begin working on my bracket predictions for 2004 later this week.
I don't want to be Mr. Almighty Podium boy here, so I guess I should give kudos to my friend Kelly. Kel lives in Chandler, a suburb of the very same Valley occupied by the aforementioned Phoenix area media. None of that really matters. What does is that Kel and I had a friendly bet, a dime I think it was, because I'm a big spender, in regards to the popularity of the Winter Olympics. She said they'd be huge. I said she was off her rocker. It's the Winter Olympics. Nobody cares about the Winter Olympics. The Olympics, on the whole, have taken a hit since the collapse of the Iron Curtain. No Cold War, no bad blood in Olympic competition.
Boy was I wrong. Everywhere I went, people were talking Olympics. The Canadian figure skaters, Apollo Ohno's tuft of chin hair, the US hockey team, bleeping Curling, for goodness sake. I'm at Old Chicago following the abysmal No Way Out WWF Pay Per View last week, and Curling is on the television. Bleeping people in the bar are cheering when the US rolls that damn stone.
Cheering. For Curling. Was I confused? Perplexed even. Oh yes, I most certainly was.
Yes, the Olympics were a big deal. Kel was right. I was wrong. Maybe the gap is closing.
John Schuster likes to be called "Schu". Hw is a copy editor for Cat Tracks magazine and appears on the KNST's Wildcat pre and post game shows. His coulumn appears every Tuesday. He likes Godzilla.