#rushthetrip: Wrapping Up 12 Games, 17 Days and 5,476 Miles on the Road

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on February 25th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

They say that all good things must come to an end, and so is the case for my 17-day journey through college basketball’s Western lands. Large cities and small towns alike took turns as temporary homes, while the miles of passing scenery morphed from desert to snowy mountains and back to desert again, with plenty of change in between. The whirlwind ride reinforced the breadth of variety in the towns, arenas, and fan bases that stand behind Divison I’s basketball programs — only further mythologizing the notion of a “typical college town.” They make you work out West (note to future college basketball road trippers: the Heartland will be far kinder to your car’s odometer), but the payoff was worth every exhausting mile. By the numbers and some personal favorites, here’s the story of my trip.

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It's Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It’s Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

#rushthetrip, By The Numbers

  • Days: 17
  • States: 10
  • Games: 12
  • OT Games: 3
  • Miles Driven: 5,476
  • Distance from Tucson, AZ, to Spokane, WA: 1,494 miles
  • Tickets Received: 2
  • Biggest Arena: BYU (capacity of 20,900, sixth in D-I)
  • Smallest Arena: Sacramento State (capacity of 1,200, 348th in D-I)
  • Most Points (Individual): Stephen Madison, 42 (Idaho)
  • Smallest Margin Of Victory: 1, Boise State over New Mexico
  • Largest Margin Of Victory: 15, Gonzaga over Pepperdine
  • Best Team (by KenPom ranking): Arizona (#1)
  • Worst Team (by KenPom ranking): Southern Utah (#351)

#rushthetrip Favorites

Best Venues

  1. The Pit, Albuquerque, NM
  2. Marriott Center, Provo, UT
  3. McKale Center, Tucson, AZ

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

#rushthetrip Day Two: Exhilaration and Apprehension as McKale Center Watches Cats Escape

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 7th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

West of Lawrence, Kansas, there may be no better home court than either of the two I visited to start this trip. The folks at UCLA, Gonzaga and Utah State might all have reasonable gripes (especially Bruins fans) with that assertion, but back-to-back nights at The Pit and McKale Center is about as good as college basketball can get. Some 450 miles separate the two universities, so six hours of driving (which included a successful journey through Truth or Consequences, New Mexico) brought me to Tucson to watch Arizona host Oregon.

There's No Doubt About It -- Arizona's McKale Center Is One Of College Hoops' Grandest Stages

There’s No Doubt About It — Arizona’s McKale Center Is One Of College Hoops’ Grandest Stages

The obvious storyline entering last night’s game was how the Wildcats would bounce back from not only their first loss of the season, but also the season-ending injury suffered last weekend by Brandon Ashley. Not surprisingly, the hoops-savvy McKale faithful were keyed in on Ashley’s absence (and its impact) throughout the evening. It began in pregame warmups, when Ashley’s crutch-waving at midcourt fomented the student section into a moderate frenzy, and continued when his replacement in the starting lineup, freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, received the loudest ovation of any Wildcat during introductions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.08.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 8th, 2011

  1. We begin in Tucson, where Arizona got the regular season started with a 73-64 win over Valparaiso. After a mediocre exhibition season, this was a fine win to open up the year for the Wildcats. Kyle Fogg broke out of his shooting slump with 16 points, but the surprise of the night was freshman Nick Johnson. Johnson continued to outperform freshman teammate Josiah Turner with 14 points and six assists, while Turner had a lackluster seven points and one assist. Turner got the start,but it is becoming more evident from head coach Sean Miller that Johnson will be the second guard in the lineup in crunch time. Matching Johnson’s 14 points was senior forward Jesse Perry, but even more impressive was the ten rebounds he collected. Up next for Arizona is a visit from Duquesne on Wednesday night.
  2. There is a serious lack of power in the Pac-12 this year after many stars left last season. As Patrick Finley points out, the top seven scorers in the league last year are now gone, not to mention eight out of the nine best rebounders. But while you may see less highlights on SportsCenter because of it, the lack of star players and exceptional talent could make for one of the best Pac-12 championship races in recent history. “I don’t know if there’s a team to beat,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar told reporters. When you look at it, five teams (California, Arizona, Washington, UCLA, and Oregon) could all make a serious push for the conference crown. There will surely be upsets along the way as well, considering that the next tier of teams (Oregon State, Stanford, and Colorado) have enough talent to also compete night in and night out.
  3. If you were ever wondering how to build a basketball dynasty, Greg Hansen has laid out the steps that former Arizona coach Lute Olson used to take the Wildcats from conference cellar-dweller to national powerhouse. Included is everything from “playing nonconference road games,” to “acknowledging the fans,” to “running an up-tempo offense.” This is truly a great read for all Pac-12 fans, whether you want to take the trip back to memory lane or look to the future and see if your team is navigating the right steps on the road to a future dynasty.
  4. CBSSports has compiled its annual list of the Top 100 Best Players, and the Pac-12 is represented with a total of nine players at #’s 23, 24, 42, 46, 47, 49, 77, 85, and 88. Topping the Pac-12 portion of the list is Washington guard Terrence Ross. With the departure of Isaiah Thomas from Seattle, Ross is going to play a huge role in both the Husky offense and defense this year. Directly behind him is UCLA forward Reeves Nelson, who had a ridiculous 14 double-doubles last season. Nelson is both a threat from the perimeter and low post, making him a nightmare for opposing defenses. At #42 is a surprise pick, Bruin center Joshua Smith. Smith can certainly score, but constant foul trouble does not make him a Top 50 player in my mind. Josiah Turner, Jorge Gutierrez, Jabari Brown, Allen Crabbe, Jared Cunningham, and Trent Lockett round out the Pac-12′s representation on the list.
  5. Arizona State will be looking to change the attitude around the program when they take the court on Friday to open up the regular season. The Sun Devils have not won a postseason game of any kind since 2009, which was also the last time they went to the NCAA Tournament. While 2009-10 was supposed to be a rebuilding year, expectations were higher going into last season. Instead the Devils finished 12-19, last in the Pac-10, reviving old doubts about the program and the direction in which it was headed. We live in a world of “what have you done for me lately,” so the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances has coach Herb Sendek on the hot seat. “That’s definitely not what I expected, to be a junior (without) having played in an NCAA Tournament,” guard Trent Lockett said, reiterating the point. The Sun Devils will begin their quest back to relevancy when they take on Montana State at Wells Fargo Arena Friday afternoon.
Share this story

Pac-12 After the Buzzer: Panic in Tucson?

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 28th, 2011

The Lede.  In the “Did that just happen” category, we have the Seattle Pacific Falcons, who promptly marched into the McKale Center on Thursday night and stunned the Arizona Wildcats, 69-68, in the first Pac-12 exhibition game of the season. This wasn’t your usual “LeMoyne over Syracuse” upset, where a D-II team gets very lucky and catches multiple breaks. The Falcons came in with an excellent game plan, executed it to perfection, and just flat out-played the Cats for 40 minutes. SPU understandably came out tight, with the Wildcats scoring the first six points of the game and the Falcons not making a basket until Jobi Wall put home a three two and a half minutes in. From there until the final ten minutes of the SECOND half, it was all Falcons, building up a thirteen-point advantage that they would hold on to for most of the game.

Get 'Em Out of Your System Now, Coach... (credit: Az Republic/D. Kadlubowski)

Arizona would finally regain the lead at 63-61 with 4:03 left, but Wall put the Falcons back on top with a layup two minutes later. The last minute of the game was absolute nuts, beginning with Arizona’s Solomon Hill bringing the Cats to within three with a free throw with 23 seconds remaining. After an SPU miss on the free throw line, Arizona pulled within one on a layup with five seconds to go. The inbounds pass would then be intercepted at half court, but a desperation three at the buzzer by the freshman Nick Johnson would fall short, clinching the surprising one-point victory for the Falcons.
Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story