Marching to Vegas: The Wildcats, The Buffaloes and The Zebras…Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2013
From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.
I had this whole thing on Arizona State thought up. I was going to spew some stats about Herb Sendek’s “fastest” team since 2003 and the promise he’d made about playing with more pace and whether or not there was a correlation to victories. After all, his group is off to a 12-2 start. Had I continued on this route of statistically analyzing the Devils, I’d also mention their strength of schedule or lack thereof and direct you to Ken Pomeroy’s blog post about hopping off of Kevin O’Neill’s back for the opposite (too strong of a schedule). ASU has played the nation’s 211th most difficult schedule.
But then Arizona made its comeback. Or did Colorado hand it away? Or did the refs egregiously misuse the monitors? These were the questions that perplexed me Thursday night as I sat in my apartment and tried to wrap my Wildcat mind around that game. On the one hand, I was ecstatic, WHAT A COMEBACK! I knew I’d been presented the ultimate scenario with which to stick Buffalo noses in but that’s not my style; certainly not on an undeserving play. The other thought would be that the Buffaloes lost that game. They wound up scoring fewer points than their opposition and by the definition of competition, that’s a Colorado loss. It’s also not exactly becoming of a winner to forgo a nine-point lead and go 3-of-8 from the free throw line while committing two turnovers in the final 1:47. That is not a recipe for winning. The final thought surrounds the striped men and I never like placing a game on their shoulders but…well… I mean… I suppose… well…
So to revisit my three questions:
- Did Arizona win?
- Did Colorado lose?
- Did the refs blow it?
To answer these questions, of course, would be to get us to the resolution of the contest. Or even better, it could settle our minds about a controversial game in which Colorado spent a grand portion of time exposing Arizona as perhaps a poor shooting team with evolving bigs. Conversely, the Wildcats wore down what may be a group of Buffaloes with a short bench, what could ultimately spell the Buffs’ demise. And there’s the age old debate over Pac officiating…
But to answer my questions: Yes. Yes to all three because that’s exactly what happened. Each of those scenarios played out and I think we do each scenario discredit to not mention that each played a critical role in the outcome. To strictly say Colorado blew it is to not acknowledge that Nick Johnson and Kevin Parrom were hellacious trapping CU ball-handlers down the stretch and that Lyons has glacial water in his veins. To strictly say Arizona won it is to ignore the fact that Colorado very well may be the best-coached team in the conference and that, regardless of what the stripes saw on the monitors, Sabatino Chen has onions. I’ve said it from before day one that I love college seniors and Chen played like a senior. It drove me nuts as a Wildcat fan – absolutely batty – but that’s the beauty of college hoops. If all credit is heaped onto the Wildcats here, the Buffs’ effort is lost. Unfair. A word that leads me to addressing the most difficult of these questions: the monitor review. Colorado got hosed on that one and it’s the easiest aspect of this game to harp on. They made a play to win the game and it was taken away – evidently right along with their heart as they were outscored 12-3 in a lackluster overtime. But I have to say, if that becomes the primary focus of this ball game, you’re not seeing the big picture. The big picture here is learning from games played and improving. The aforementioned (3-of-8 FT shooting, two late TOs, etc) cannot happen if you expect to win. Conversely, on the Wildcat side of things, you don’t get to hang with the Dukes, Louisvilles, Indianas, and Michigans when you spend 41 minutes without a lead at home. FORTY-ONE MINUTES WITHOUT A LEAD. And that’s ignoring five turnovers from your senior and 2-of-15 from your three leading scorers in the first half. These are the issues to address in both locker rooms. Focusing on the whistle is narrow and becomes an excuse and excuses quickly turn into losses. And at this point, you could go ahead and call me an Arizona homer, sure. I’ll wear it but what I’m addressing here is that both teams did their equal parts to win and lose this game. The surface dialogue is certainly the moments spent hovering over a television monitor but that can’t be the takeaway from a game like this. Shouldn’t be.
The refs blew it, Colorado lost it, and Arizona won it; some strange, twisted conglomeration of those three truths are what we get to call the start of our Pac-12 basketball season.