Final Lap: Arizona Wildcats still in the Pac-10 driver’s seat…if they can grab the wheelby Scott Terrell on Feb. 28, 2011, under Sports
They’re exactly where they want to be.
It’s true there was not one redeeming quality about the Wildcats’ performance in L.A. Not a single thing worth remembering and trying to build on.
Yet the standings still show Arizona in 1st place. The schedule still has the Cats finishing up at home against the Oregon schools while UCLA has to travel to the state of Washington.
It’s an exercise in contrasts: Would you rather be the team coming off a sweep and playing the toughest road trip, or the team that just got swept but is playing the easiest home stand?
It’s B, right? Home court trumps all.
Those claims about difficulty and ease aren’t just hyperbole. Washington and WSU are a combined 11-3 in conference home games this year (even with UW falling to the Cougars). That .786 winning percentage is tops among Pac-10 travel partners.
Oregon and OSU have joined forces to go 3-11 on the road in Pac-10 play, the worst mark for a rivalry pair by a wide margin. If the Wildcats got to choose the remaining schedule for themselves and UCLA it would look exactly like it looks now.
Yes, the Wildcats can still lose these games. For one, Sean Miller has never beaten Oregon State. But the biggest monkey on Arizona’s back is named Mo.
Momentum is a massive force in college sports. We know all about the Tale of Two Half-Seasons by the Wildcat football team. The UA baseball squad started 20-4 last year but ended on a 7-15 slide. A season can suddenly turn and never come back.
Tied for 1st place heading into the final weekend. There isn’t a single Cat fan who wouldn’t have jumped all over that in November. Heck, I would have taken it just two weeks ago.
For this team, at this point in the program’s development, this remains a great place to be and a significant opportunity.
With Washington turning into the Tin Man against Wazzu there’s no guarantee that UCLA loses this week. (Stat of the weekend: In the 2nd half the Huskies scored three times as many points as they scored in the 1st half, and they lost by double-digits.) But it doesn’t matter. An Arizona co-championship with a split against the other contenders and not getting swept by anybody would still be very rewarding.
Turn off the Pac-10 scoreboard, win two home games, and celebrate.
What’s it going to take?
1. Pass the ball.
The Wildcats had a combined 28 assists at home against the Washington schools. They had a paltry nine this past weekend.
2. Make shots.
You can’t get assists if the ball doesn’t go through the hoop. 54% 3-point shooting vs. WSU and Washington, 26% in Los Angeles. The gym matters.
3. Emotion, emotion, emotion.
Mo and Emo go hand in hand. Feed off the crowd, ratchet up the energy and attack.
If this were a car race – preferably the Subway Fresh Fit 500 in Phoenix, to boost the local economy of course – the UA just spun around four times and put a huge dent in its front end. But now that the smoke has cleared the Wildcats are still on the lead lap and they have the fastest car – the one with the big “McKale Center” on the roof.
There’s no time to pout. There’s no need to pout.
Grab the wheel and hit the gas.
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