They sneak up on you. They chip away day by day at your mind. They wear down your psyche. They're ruthless, but subtle. Conniving, but endearing. They're the enemy but come off as your friend. Who am I talking about? The biased east coast media of course. For the first two and a half months of the basketball season they tricked us with their praise of the Pac-10 but now that the season is winding down they're staging a national effort to bring the premiere west coast conference to its knees. In a coordinated move reminiscent of how major news networks have joined forces in selling out the Republican Party, sportswriters, analysts and color commentators are beginning to show a united front on assaulting the Pac-10. As I do every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (how my loving wife puts up with this I'll never know) I was watching the many college games being aired. On Tuesday night alone, three different commentators made reference to how they didn't agree that the Pac-10 was one of the best conferences in the country. "I just don't buy the hype," one said. Two weeks ago there was talk of the Pac-10 getting seven teams into the NCAA Tournament. Now, ask anyone and that talk is now down to five teams. In another week, mark my words, the only conference teams being mentioned for March Madness by the national media will be UCLA, Wazzu, USC and Arizona. Oregon will probably still make the tournament but don't think for a second that these thieving media types won't be scheming up any and all ways to belittle the accomplishments of the Pac-10 this season.
Deep breaths…deep breaths.
Arizona lost…more deep breaths.
Arizona lost again last night at the McKale Center. That's four home losses this season. I remember the days when it was near impossible to beat Arizona at home, the days when we won 71-straight home games, went 122-10 at home and so on. Today, those days are nothing but a fading memory.
My goodness, what is going on with the Wildcats? I'll let my alter ego flag this question:
Without getting too technical and without calling out any specific Arizona players we have two glaring problems. First, Arizona's overall foot speed is actually very slow when compared to most other teams. If you don't believe me then all you have to do is re-watch three games from this season – each of the USC games and the North Carolina loss. Both teams were able to breakdown our perimeter defenders off the dribble and get to the hole at will. Second, Arizona doesn't value every possession like the teams ahead of them in the conference standings. USC had only 8 turnovers last night while Arizona had 16. What's worse is that of those 16 turnovers, 10 were unforced errors by Wildcats players just being lazy with the ball. Arizona is a good team. There's no doubt about it. They've lost eight games but all have been close except for one. The problem is that since they don't value the basketball, the turnovers they have at critical moments are magnified to the nth degree. Last night they had three turnovers against USC in the last two minutes of the game. Conversely, the Trojans had no turnovers and there in lies the difference. USC won and we lost because of our inability to get off shots in crunch time. It's been a recurring theme and is the number one reason why Arizona is now 1-5 in games decided by five points or less.
Some more quick thoughts on the USC game:
Jordan Hill needs more touches down low. He was 3-3 from the floor. Just get him the ball. Lodrick Stewart looked like Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson of the old Detroit Pistons championship teams in scoring 26 points off the bench. He was the difference maker last night and although Nick Young gets all the hype for USC, when Stewart plays well the Trojans win. It's that simple. Unfortunately for Arizona, Stewart played probably the game of his life. Good for him.
Looking ahead, Arizona welcomes UCLA to McKale for a game tomorrow morning. The bad news is that UCLA is an "every possession counts" kind of team which will serve to exploit Arizona's main weakness. Better news is that UCLA is only good when they get dribble penetration from Collison. That can be neutralized if Arizona incorporates more zone defense against the Bruins. If they don't, Arizona, outside of Daniel Dillon, lacks the quickness to stay in front of Collison and prevent him from getting into the lane where he can wreak havoc. It's a game Arizona can definitely win. Whether they will or not I just don't know anymore.
A lot of outsiders looking in have asked me about Arizona's coaching staff and whether or not I think they're part of the problem this season. It's a fair question. While I think in all aspects of life all parties are partly responsible for any situation that goes amuck, it's becoming clear to me that the responsibility for the problems Arizona is experiencing lies with the players and not the coaches. Case in point, last night with 5:08 to go and Arizona leading 71-67 Coach Olson called a timeout to set up a play that will get us a good look at the basket and increase our chances of going up by six points (I'm a big proponent of these kinds of timeouts). Out of the timeout, our point guard carelessly turns the ball over for a dunk the other way. The momentum quickly shifted to the Trojans and that was all she wrote – you could just feel the loss coming after that play.
And just like that, poof, the alter ego is gone.
I've been eating relatively healthy lately but I finally caved today and went to a fast food joint. I must say, the best thing about fast food isn't that it's served fast. It's that it just tastes – so – good.
For you baseball fans: Calling all pitchers and catchers. Calling all pitchers and catchers. Let the hour long stretch sessions and 30-minute long toss drills begin.
It's NBA All Star Weekend with this year's festivities taking place in Las Vegas. Hmmm, I wonder what the over/under on Cincinnati Bengals players getting arrested in the City of Sin is. If there isn't already one, I'll set the betting line at two for tonight and three for tomorrow night.
Tim Hardaway was informed by the NBA that his representative services were no longer needed by the league this weekend in Vegas. No surprise there. When are public figures going to realize that free speech does not free you from the consequences of the words you speak?
Speaking of the NBA, Paul Pierce returned to the Boston lineup, scored 32 points and helped the Celtics snap their 18-game losing streak. Yeah! Now quickly start losing again so we can get the number one pick in this year's draft.
Getting back to Arizona for a second, the other night I had a dream that I was sitting in the stands at the Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles watching the four Thursday games. The weird thing was that all four games were of Arizona playing Arizona. I didn't think anything of the dream until last night when it dawned on me that in my dream, just like in reality, I was watching Arizona beat themselves over and over again. Sadly, I'm not making a word of this up.
My good friend Marc and I were knocking back a few cold ones last night after the USC loss and we were talking about work. I made the astute comment that work is a four letter word. He countered by saying work spelled backward is krow. Think about it. And yes, I'm further amazed at how my loving wife could possibly love me.
What would a Friday Fizz be without mentioning what's going on down in San Diego. If this isn't the final piece of evidence that coaching in college is better than coaching professionally I don't know what is. Marty posts an NFL best 14-2 regular season record (with a first year starter at QB no less) and then loses a tightly contested playoff game to a Patriots team loaded with veterans. His reward was getting fired this week. Meanwhile, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano just signed another four year contract extension giving him job security through 2016.
In NASCAR news…