I'm in a bit of a mood due in part to Arizona's disheartening loss to USC last night. So, if the tone of today's Fizz is a little sour you now know why. In fact, I'm so disappointed in how the Wildcats looked last night I'm not even sure I can clearly convey my thoughts today. All I can do at this point is post the article and let you be the judge as to whether the Friday Fizz sizzles or fizzles this week.
I've never been really high on Michael Vick but apparently his friends have.
I heard on the radio this morning that USC must continue to win if they want to get into the Big Dance. Enough is enough. USC is in. They're now 4-2 against ranked opponents this season. When is this east coast bias stuff going to end? Apparently not any time soon because Washington State has been knocked out of the Top 25 after their overtime loss to Stanford last week. I guess a 15-3 record with wins over Gonzaga, San Diego State, USC and Arizona and close road losses to UCLA (55-52) and Stanford (71-68 OT) isn't good enough for Vitale & Friends.
You know what will get you into the Top 25? Clemson's schedule. The Tigers are 17-2 and of those games have played only two ranked teams (Maryland and North Carolina). I'll give you two guesses at which of those games they lost. No surprises here: 92-87 to the Terps and 77-55 to the Tar Heels.
I have so many thoughts on Arizona basketball right now that my fingers won't be able to keep up so be patient, I'll get there soon.
Sorry to everyone about my NFL picks last week. I know I've helped you buy all kinds of toys that you couldn't normally afford this year so cut me some slack. After all, the sun shines on every…never mind. What I'm trying to say is I'm sorry that I went 4-0 with my picks in the divisional round. Here, let me make it up to you: I like the Saints over the Bears and the Patriots over the Colts on Sunday. There…still friends?
Here's my "mail order great gift" suggestion of the winter season. Dale and Thomas Popcorn. Look them up on the Internet and send some to your best friend right now. You'll be the talk of their household for the next month. I promise.
Okay. I'm now ready for this. Here we go.
I went to the UA/USC game last night. First off, did anyone know that USC has an underground bar on campus? I personally witnessed one guy buy a bottle of white wine, three beers, and two kamakazi shots with his Student ID card. I should've known right then and there that the gods were on the side of the heathens last night.
For the game itself, what a downer. Two positives though was the play of both Nic Wise and Daniel Dillon. Dillon was unbelievable in shutting down a red hot Lodrick Stewart in the game's final ten minutes. He also had a monster dunk and never did anything on offense that got the team in trouble. For Wise, he made a few mistakes but he hasn't played in a few games. What I thought he did very well was dictate the tempo of the game in the minutes that he played. He also played decent defensively but was not quite good enough on D to stay on the floor as long as Dillon did.
Memo to Jawann McClellan: It's okay that you're slumping a bit. Everyone slumps from time to time, even the greatest of the great. Just don't ever put your head down and more importantly, don't ever stop playing defense just because shots aren't falling. Last night you did both and it cost Arizona dearly. Stewart lit Arizona up for 30 minutes until Dillon came in and started fighting through picks and denying Stewart the ball. JMac, you're too good to get down on yourself so keep your head up and just play hard. When you break out of your offensive funk the hard work you put in now will make the reward all the better.
Last night's lighthearted moment came at halftime during a speech from Paul Westphal whose number was being retired by the Trojans. When Westphal made reference to USC's great basketball legacy, my buddy Troy nearly spit out a mouthful of soda.
My friend Joe V made two very good points last night. First, he said Arizona lacked a true go-to-guy in the clutch. He also said that in most games this season USC, defensively, will pick on one player and look to take him out of the game by denying him the ball. Guess what, he was right. Stewart started the game fronting and denying Chase Budinger. It worked for about two minutes until Budinger got mad and started playing some ball. So, guess who USC picked on next. McClellan. How did JMac respond? Unfortunately, he went 1 for 7 in only 21 minutes. As for Joe's other point it did come with a disclaimer in that he's not saying none of Arizona's players can be a go-to-guy (he admits they're all capable) they're just choosing not to be. I sort of have to agree. Going back to one of my criticisms of the Oregon loss, Williams had 34 points with three minutes to go against the Ducks and never took another shot until the last field goal attempt with one second left in the game. Against USC last night, it was the same thing. Never did Arizona set up a play for Williams, Shakur or Radenovic down the stretch – or if they did they didn't look like they were running the play that was called.
One last point of frustration and then it's time to put the USC game behind us for a while until I can really break it down. Olson & Company clearly are not reading my articles because Arizona again blew a golden opportunity to get the two-for-one possessions at the end of the first half. Arizona rebounded the ball with 55 seconds on the clock and instead of pushing it up the floor for a quick shot Olson called for the motion offense. AND for the SECOND time in as many games, Arizona didn't even get off a shot as Radenovic dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds. USC ended the half on a 6-0 run and that was that. The crowd was in it. The Trojans were fired up. And Arizona wasn't the same from that point on.
Arizona absolutely must beat UCLA on Saturday if they have any hopes of doing anything in the conference this season. The thought of the Wildcats being 4-4 through the first eight games is making me nauseous right now.
Expect J.P. Prince to thrive at Tennessee. It's a shame things never worked out for him at Arizona.
On a much happier note, unlike in football, in basketball one game or even a series of games doesn't make a season. While Arizona is struggling a bit now, there's no reason to think that this team won't be able to turn things around in the second half of conference play. Heck, if they beat UCLA they'll be 5-3 in the Pac-10 and will get the Washington and Los Angeles schools at home in February. That wouldn't be bad at all.