Charmed: Home sweep and Oregon loss give Arizona third shot at first placeby Scott Terrell on Feb. 25, 2013, under Sports
It’s not every day you get a second chance in life. Making a first impression, taking a test, talking yourself up in your annual work review, they’re all like the NCAA basketball tournament: one and done.
Thanks to Oregon‘s last-second loss to Cal the Arizona Wildcats have a third chance to control their fate in the race for the Pac-12 regular season championship. Will the third time be the charm for this up-and-down group?
It was the exact same situation three weeks ago that gave the UA its second crack at being the front-runner. The Cats swept Washington and Washington State and Oregon struggled with Cal and Stanford.
But just two games later Arizona lost another home game and was back chasing Duck tail feathers. To be tied for first again at this point is a huge opportunity. There’s a reason they keep stats for second-chance points but don’t even bother counting third-chance points.
(It’s interesting that the same team was at the center of all these plot twists. Cal beat Oregon, then beat Arizona, then beat Oregon again. The Bears giveth, the Bears taketh away and the Bears giveth again.)
((It’s also worth noting it was assumed that the Ducks had the easiest schedule because they only played Arizona and UCLA once each. Maybe it’s a bigger advantage that the Wildcats only played Cal once.))
There’s talk about the UA not having a shot at the real conference championship because Oregon and Cal have the head-to-head tiebreakers. I don’t care about any of that. They don’t hang banners for the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. All teams that tie for the best regular season record are rightfully declared league champion.
The banner at McKale lists 12 Pac-12 championships. There’s no asterisk next to the two years that were co-titles. The Border Conference banner also has a dozen championships even though two were ties. Arizona is in first place right now. For the third time.
So here we go. Three teams tied for first in the loss column with one red-hot team breathing down their collective necks. A two-week sprint to the finish.
I still think there’s a good chance Oregon loses at Colorado on the final weekend. The problem for the UA is if UCLA can take care of business at home this week against the Arizona schools the Bruins’ final road trip looks much softer now. The Huskies have three feet in the grave (just 5-8 against Pac-12 teams other than Arizona State) and the Cougars are already covered with dirt.
(Speaking of UW/ASU, bonus fun for Wildcat fans: ASU scored 92 points in the first game against Washington…and lost. The Sun Devils held the Huskies to 68 points in the rematch…and lost again.)
((There are two schools of thought on ASU’s loss to Washington. One side says it’s bad that the Pac-12 might get one fewer team in the NCAA tournament. The other side says if X teams make the Dance I’m cool with ASU being X+1.))
I will go on record saying at least one of the tri-leaders will win out so Cal will not win the regular season championship (but will be the Team Nobody Wants to Play in Vegas). If you want to take this crown you have to win the rest of your games.
So tournament play starts early for Arizona. Three straight must-win games for a championship.
The Cats hope their third chance makes the best impression.
* * *
I don’t usually comment on recruiting but a 5-foot-7 point guard? Sign me up! Fast little dudes zipping around the court and dropping dimes for dunks are very entertaining.
Next season Nick Johnson will again have to serve as the backup point guard with T.J. McConnell as the starter but in 2014-15 Parker Jackson-Cartwright can be the backup with McConnell as a senior. Then PJC starts as a sophomore, hopefully with another quality point behind him.
UA fans everywhere are hoping Sean Miller will never again have fewer than two true point guards on his roster.
And I suppose that’s why I don’t usually comment on recruiting.
- – - – -