Notes from Wonderland: Cut McKale some slack

Don't tell John Schuster or Ryan Radtke, but I listen to their post game show when I can. Please don't tell them because they will get big heads, and their egos are already out of control. After most home games I only get to catch the tail end. After shagging quotes, writing and posting stories, and packing up everything, I usually don't get out of McKale Center until almost two hours after the game ends. I usually get to catch the end of the show.

Following the ASU game I tuned in and heard a number of callers complaining about the McKale fans. They complained about the student section being spread out and said we need to be more like other schools. I used to think that way, but now I disagree to an extent.

I have had the good fortune to go to road games at half the venues in the Pac-10. Without a doubt the McKale crowd is the best that I have seen. I will admit that I have not seen the Pit that is Mac Arthur court, but McKale is vastly superior to Pauley, Haas, USC and even the vaunted Maples Pavilion.

First of all, none of these venues are full. With Arizona in town, none of these teams could fill their building. Pauley had several thousand empty seats. Haas and the Sports Arena were less than 2/3s full. Maples Pavilion, which is a small arena, had several hundred empty seats in the prime alumni spots.

Even with students separated and a number of older alumni at courtside, McKale is louder than any of the other aforementioned arenas. The fans may get quiet at times, but generally they get excited BEFORE the team needs them to. When Arizona makes a comeback or needs a defensive stop, the crowd gets into it. They stand, they cheer, they root.

"Our crowd knows when to get involved," Lute Olson said recently. "When they see we need something they give it to us."

They don't do that at Maples. When the Cats made their great comeback against the Cardinal the building was fairly quiet. The students were standing, as were the Wildcat fans, but not the alumni. The older fans had to be prodded into standing and even then they were fairly quiet.

The only complaints the Arizona students should have is with the lottery and the assigned seating. Frankly I like the fact the students are at both baselines. It makes both ends intimidating. I do wish they were general admission seats, so large groups of friends could sit together, but other than that it works. The lottery is silly, it should be first come first serve, allowing true hoop fans to get tickets.

The other thing I find interesting is that, even though they are separated, the Wildcat students are better "fans" that the other schools. A lot of other places try too hard to emulate Duke's Cameron Crazies. They print up shirts and try to get too creative. They print up lists of chants and taunts. While at times they are funny, they are not as loud as the Wildcats' students. Stanford in particular was a big letdown. They had some funny taunts, but they weren't into the game as much as Arizona students. They were all pretty loud, but these vaunted student sections were no better than the Cats'.

While the situation is not perfect it is very good. McKale crowds are excellent. Don't believe me, just ask Bill Frieder. Recently the former ASU coach was asked which was a tougher place to play, Maples or McKale?

"Oh, McKale definitely," Frieder answered.

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