Polar Opposites: The gap between Arizona and ASU Basketball has never been widerby Scott Terrell on Feb. 11, 2011, under Sports
Some fans want their biggest rival to be really good so there can be more at stake when the teams play. They want both teams to be playing for conference championships, high tournament seeds and elite bowl games.
I want one-sided dominance in the rivalry. The game means something every time, in and of itself. So when ASU is down, I want them way down. I want my guys to be the best and their guys to be the worst.
In other words, what we have right now.
If you’re wondering how things have been going for ASU, take your current feelings about Arizona Basketball and turn them upside down. As the Wildcats and Sun Devils prepare to do battle on the hardwood you may have noticed there’s a slight gap between the two teams in the standings. And by “slight” I mean “as huge as possible.”
Arizona is in 1st place. Arizona State is in last place. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Has it ever happened before? Has one school ever held all the bragging cards in this great state of ours?
The worst ASU ever finished during Arizona’s 11 Pac-10 championship seasons was 7th and the Sun Devils did it three times: 1988, ’89 and ’90. The UA’s best finish during ASU’s three 10th-place seasons was 3rd in both 2004 and ’07.
It’s not a surprise that the Devils’ two biggest positive-gap years occurred pre-Lute Olson. ASU was #2 in the conference compared to Arizona’s 6th in 1980 and Arizona State finished tied for 3rd during the Ben Lindsey debacle in 1983 that led to the Cats’ only dead-last Pac-10 finish.
In football it’s interesting that for both sides the biggest gap during the Pac-10 era happened under the current coaches. Dennis Erickson led ASU to a 1st place tie in 2007 while the Wildcats finished in 6th. Mike Stoops produced the biggest standings difference when the UA finished tied for 2nd in 2009 compared to the Devils’ 9th place finish.
So this basketball season has the chance to become historic stuff. Just in case the Cats needed some extra incentive for Sunday.
For the record, forget the record; ASU can absolutely win this game. The Sun Devils have been competitive in their last four games. This will be their biggest home crowd since…the last UA game. ASU won it’s “bowl game” in Tucson this year. Can the basketball team win their version of the Final Four? If the Wildcats want history they’ll have to earn it.
Sean Miller has the chance to do something Lute never accomplished. Arizona in 1st, ASU in last.
Excuse me while I go stare at the standings and smile.
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