Where’s the Next RTC in the Pac-12?Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 21st, 2014
Rushing the court: a rite of passage for college basketball fans; an endearing hallmark of the sport; the name of a pretty darn good college basketball blog. Last week’s “controversial” rushing of the court by Indiana fans after their win over Wisconsin got me thinking: What would it take for each of the schools in the Pac-12 to break out a good old-fashioned RTC this season? Now, there are some people who have come up with all the rules for when RTCing is allowable. We’ve even posted our own general guidelines around here in the past. But my own personal recommendation for court rushing (and a good, if dangerous, motto to live your life by): If it feels good, do it. So, if Washington State, say, wants to rush the court for a ho-hum mid-January win over Oregon State, for instance — hey, more power to ya. But RTCing anytime something marginally good happens ruins the specialness of it. So, what follows would be the most likely scenarios for possible court rushings in the Pac-12.
First, we’re going to group a bunch of schools together. What do Stanford, California, Arizona State, Utah, Colorado, Oregon State and Oregon have in common? Those are the seven remaining road games on Arizona’s schedule. These guys are all easy. If they beat #1 Arizona (even if the ranking changes) at home this year in just about any way – blowout, last-second buzzer-beater, or game getting called after the first possession with the home team up a hoop – you can expect to see an exodus of students from the stands out onto the court. And it will be good. And really, each of those schools has a fighting chance against the Wildcats and you have to figure at some point the ‘Cats will get caught. Maybe even twice. So, the expectation is that there is at least one RTC in the Pac in our near-future.
So, those seven are easy. Any chance any one of those team would RTC in any other scenario this season? Maybe if Cal continues its hot streak and can stay in the conference race long enough to get a win in exciting fashion on Justin Cobbs’ and Richard Solomon’s senior day — the final Saturday of the regular season against Colorado. Maybe if one of these other teams gets hot and caps off a great run with a buzzer-beating win or a major comeback. But, for the most part, it is all about beating Arizona for this group.
Washington and Washington State do not host Arizona this season. And given that all expectations are that these teams are going to be in the back half of the standings for most of the year, it is hard to imagine a scenario where an RTC is warranted at either of these schools. Maybe if Washington continues some of the middling success it’s had early in conference play, then Huskies’ fans would be excited about a win over UCLA during the last weekend of the season. Washington State? Hmmm. Please don’t rush the court this year.
USC and UCLA have already missed out on their chances to knock off Arizona at home, and odds are good that there is not a court-rushing in either school’s immediate future. In fact, while the official RTC court-rushing database is incomplete, I don’t believe UCLA has ever had rushed the court. And the Bruins may never have one — they’re supposed to be too cool for such a thing. Still, for a brief instant when Jordan Adams drilled a late three against Arizona to complete a 13-0 run to tie the game a couple weeks ago, the remote possibility of a Pauley Pavilion court-rushing briefly existed. As for USC, if the Trojans beat UCLA on Saturday, February 8, mark it down: the court will be rushed. While normally there are only enough USC students in attendance to fill the center circle, the students usually show up against UCLA. Still, the Bruins just beat the Trojans by 34 points at Pauley, so the odds are not great that the Trojans have what it takes to knock off their rival this season.
And, that leaves Arizona. A court-rushing by the #1 team in the country and a heavy favorite in its conference race is rather untoward. And schools with programs like Arizona don’t make a habit of rushing the court on the regular. Still, I point you to February 7, 2004. Stanford was #2 in the country, 19-0, well on its way to an eventual #1 ranking and #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona came into town, bringing with it a #12 ranking and its usual traveling band of supporters. Keep in mind that this was back in the day when Stanford students actually showed up for Cardinal basketball games. Dick Vitale was courtside for the game of the week. And there was Stanford alumnus Tiger Woods (pre-scandal) sitting courtside cheering on his team with more emotion than a Sunday afternoon stroll at The Master’s. In other words, the joint was jumping. But, with a minute left, it looked like the Wildcats were going to end Stanford’s undefeated season and send Cardinal fans home unhappy. And then this happened.
That, aside from being one of the greatest regular season games in the history of college basketball, is the type of thing that would need to happen for any possibility of an Arizona court-rushing to occur this year. Somebody in the conference – maybe Cal, maybe Oregon – is going to have to go on a run, win a bunch of games in a row and come into McKale with a top 15 ranking. And that team is going to have to play one hell of a game for 39 minutes. And Arizona, as Arizona is wont to do, is going to have to fight them tooth and nail for those same 39 minutes. And then something crazy is going to have to happen in the final minute. Odds are not good that McKale will see such an occurrence. But if it does happen, it will have to be that type of scenario. And man, wouldn’t that be fun?