The difference between playing UA at McKale Center and ASU at the "whatever the hell it is called now" is this: it has been 21 years since I last played at McKale and I can almost replay the entire collective trauma back in my mind as I write this, while other than the fact that I vaguely remember that I always, and quite inexplicably, played well at the Black Hole in Tempe, I really only remember parts of the game my senior year when Joey Johnson of the Tramp Stamps jumped clean over, spread eagle style, Freaky DeShon Wingate and brained himself on the front rim. Playing ASU is like an afterthought. It's the part of the menu entitled "Other Interesting Reds." Whereas playing at McKale is one of the highlights of every single season. UA is the best place to play in the conference - it's the best gym, it's the best atmosphere, and you know you better bring it or you are going to get slaughtered and the place will be beyond bonkers. The place always starts at bonkers and then if you start missing shots it just goes to Social Distortion's opening cord of Prison Bound in concert loud.
Butt, butt, butt, butt coil - with this year's team you know that we have to win the front end of the roady at McKale if we are going to have a chance at a road split. We simply don't have enough guys and Landry and Jeremy have to play huge minutes. Fatigue is a factor, mentally and physically for this team. Plus, in this instance, you have about 38 hours of R&R between tip offs. Look, Landry and Jeremy played 72 and 76 minutes in Arizona this weekend. They have to, but that is brutal. That type of work load will not only keep you from trolling on Friday night, but it will result in occasionally putrid first half shooting. And they shot a combined 4-17 in the first half at the Black Hole. (Note, this ties in nicely with another paragraph, one paragraph from this paragraph.)
But I digress. Hey, for fun let's digress a bit more. In 1987, we went zone against UA at McKale after being blitzkrieged in the first five minutes. When Mike Montgomery went zone in any game before Xavier with David West, you know how buugly it was. At some point I got subbed in for Terry Taylor and took over the left guard spot on the bad 2-3 zone. Novian Whitsitt had the left forward spot on the backline of the 2-3 zone. We are just back on D after another missed shot and without setting anything up, they are just in base zone offense, and the ball swings to Craig McMillan at the right free throw line extended. I get a funny feeling and start to slide back into the key thinking they are going to weakside seal and go to Anthony Cook on a diagonal pass. Wrong, dumbass. McMillan fires a missile 20 feet in the air toward Nogales and I turn and Novian and I are looking up at Sean Elliott's Nike bottoms as he goes all Batman. Vague echoes in the distance of "Lob" are coming from somewhere and then the sonic boom of the ball slamming off the floor and the McKale crowd going Bat(radio edit). Bad play, bad game, we just got run out of there, but a great experience for what that was worth.
Guard play - I have no comment on the ASU game other than this: coaches should rarely, if ever, start a guy in a road game that can't score. I know everyone likes to say that minimizing turnovers and executing on defense are the keys to winning on the road. Blah blah blah. You have to avoid risk on the road. And the one thing that can happen on the road that you can expect once or twice is that your team will come out and not make shots early and the home team will make shots. Hey, does our team lack for shooters? A bit. And I don't coach, so I get to second guess and make up axiomatic crap instead of coach practice today, too. But, our strategy backfired in Tempe. And are ASU guards any bigger and more athletic than UA's? Not really.
Jarrett Mann v. UA: He was locked into the game from the tip defensively and he handled the ball with purpose. Those aspects were critical for us to be in this game until the end. You keep Nic Wise under control early and the Kittens can't blow you out and you have a chance. We had a chance, a damn good chance as it turned out. But, if you are going to drive to the basket and beg for fouls, you gotta make free throws. You can't go 1-4 when it matters most. The converse was Nic Wise going 10-12 and being furious with missing two. Maybe I am being too hard on Jarrett on the free throw thing, but the only reason UA is in first place right now is Nic Wise's free throw shooting.
Drew Shiller and Da'Veed Dildy v. UA: I actually liked these guys minutes in this game. We needed some of Drew's shots to go down, and we needed Da'Veed to take more than one shot. Get to the rim Da'Veed, stop being so unselfish and help the team more. If you can get to the rim once that easily, you should try like hell a few more times. On the other hand, Drew got Fogged by Kyle Fogg every second he was on the floor. I thought he rushed a few shots, but it is understandable given the great defender UA devoted to Drew. Drew is probably thinking someone should show him a bit less respect.
Jeremy Green v. UA: Dude, 76 minutes in two games. I hope you get a nap and a massage, and not necessarily in that order. Fantastic game. Tough shot after tough shot. Fouled a guy out. Well, would have anyway except for the typical McKale Center officiating like cowards thing that happened. I won't go all Gaga this time over Jeremy, but this time he went into the most hostile environment in the conference and hung big numbers in a game that was tight the whole way. This isn't hanging numbers at ASU or Wazzou in a vain attempt to come back from being blitzed. This was different. This was competitive and clutch every second.
Well, that is it for guard analysis because we don't have any more guards. Wait, sorry Tavita. Maybe we can try him as a designated full court inbounder. We can run him and Shiller as double baseline inbounding quarterbacks and teams won't be able to know ahead of time who the strong armed inbounder will be. Wait, never mind. That leaves us with three guys in bounds. Coach, help me...bartender, uno mas.
Final Thoughts: The good news is we get to go to LA and play teams we
have already beaten. That should give us some confidence. We can get
the 'Ruins at Pauley. That is the first game of the Roadie, and that is
actually the team we maybe match up best within the entire conference. And
remember folks, when the chips are down and game is tight at USC, all Coach
Dawkins has to do is look down to the end of the bench (not very far really) and
point at Tavita. That should scare the hell out of the Soiled
Conundrums! I guess I am saying, take a broom to LA.
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