Archive for: January 2014

Arizona State Basketball: Are the Sun Devils Contenders or Pretenders?

PretendersThe Arizona State Sun Devils (16-5, 5-3 Pac-12) are riding a three-game win streak, including two against Top 50 RPI teams. They are tied for third place in one of the most difficult conferences and have the unenviable task of playing the No. 1 team in the country twice in a month’s time.

The Sun Devils flirted with the NCAA tournament last season but haven’t received an invitation to dance since James Harden claimed student status. Since their second-round loss to Syracuse, the Devils have gone to the NIT twice in the past four years and grossly underachieved.

Is this the year that the Sun Devils return to the Big Dance, or will they wallow once again in their mediocrity?

Jahii Carson

jahii-mayes

Christian Petersen-Getty Images

Head coach Herb Sendek scored a major coup when 4-star local product Jahii Carson, the No. 33-rated player in the country by Rivals signed with Arizona State University. What was even more shocking was that Carson signed with the Sun Devils on the heels of their 4-14 conference record.

Carson utilized his redshirt season by watching and learning the ways of the team and how Sendek and his assistants ran things. Carson started the first game of the 2012-13 season and hit the ground running by breaking several Sun Devils freshman records, including most points in a season, most assists in a season and most 20-point games. He was also named Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year.

This season is rumored to be his last before declaring for the NBA draft, and although his individual production has dropped off a bit, his team-first mentality has improved, as he hasn’t needed to carry the team as he did last year. Carson ranks third in the conference with 18.9 points per game and sixth in assists with 4.7 per game. Those numbers are good enough to lead all Sun Devils, but he also leads in another category by a large margin—turnovers; he is averaging 3.6 per game including six each in the past two games.

Carson is truly a contender, but this year’s draft class is one of the best in recent memory with Joel Embiid of Kansas, Doug McDermott of Creighton and possibly four starters from No. 1 Arizona joining the fray. His smaller size also has scouts and others doubting his ability to carry a championship team.

“In my opinion, Carson will have a long NBA career as a solid backup point guard on a championship team or a starter on a weak team,” said Doug Franz of ArizonaSports.com, co-host of the wildly popular Phoenix radio program Doug & Wolf. “Jahii Carson will be a mid-second round draft pick in the 2014 draft and receive a non-guaranteed contract. He’d be close to a lottery pick in the 2015 draft and receive a guaranteed contract that will set up his family for the rest of his life.”

Only time will tell if Carson will keep with his plan to enter the NBA draft after this season, but a victory in the NCAA tournament will do wonders for his resume.

Jordan Bachynski

Jordan-Gordon

Christian Petersen-Getty Images

Jordan Bachynski, the 7’2″, 250-pound senior, is making a big noise in his final season in the desert. The Calgary, Alberta native has really come into his own the past two seasons and has increased his draft stock from “not a chance” to “give a second look.”

He currently leads all Division I schools with 4.2 blocks per game and, barring a catastrophe, will break the all-time conference record of 278 career blocks held by Arizona’s Anthony Cook from 1985-1989. At his current pace, he should break the record within the week, although he only notched one block against Cal on Wednesday night.

Last season, Bachynski tallied five double-doubles. To begin this season, Bachynski banged out six straight double-doubles and has 11 total while just coming short on two other occasions.

Bachynski leads the team and ranks No. 4 in the conference with 8.8 rebounds per game. His field-goal percentage of .586 also leads the team and places him at No. 6 in the conference.

“At 7’2″, his NBA appeal is obvious,” wrote Bleacher Report NBA lead writer Jonathan Wasserman. “Guys with this type of size don’t come around very often. If Bachynski hasn’t hit radars yet, he will soon.”

His size makes him desirable, but his toughness under the rim needs to improve. Scouts are also leery about his age; he would be a 25-year-old rookie, and Kyle Nelson of DraftExpress.com states, “For one, scouts will have to determine to what extent the 23-year-old junior can continue to develop considering his advanced age.”

Bachynski had a difficult night Wednesday against Cal, but expect him to rebound nicely against Stanford on Saturday and against the Oregon schools at home.

Jermaine Marshall

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

Jermaine Marshall was clutch in Wednesday night’s game at Cal. After leading most of the game, the Sun Devils blew a 16-point lead and trailed by three with 25 seconds remaining in regulation. Marshall pulled out a thunderous triple to send the game into overtime, where Sendek’s Devils capitalized by outscoring the Bears 17-6.

Marshall finished the game with 22 points, and it’s safe to say that his groin injury that held him out of the Arizona game and limited him against Utah and Colorado is no longer an issue.

The graduate transfer student from Penn State is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 15 points per game, and his three-point percentage of .455 leads the team; his average of 2.6 three-pointers made ranks second in the conference.

Bill Arsenault of the York Daily Record had this quote from Coach Sendek about Marshall:

Jermaine has been aggressive, fun to coach and has given us a great amount of big-game experience. He is a very smart player and knows how to get his points in various ways that all help the team. He also has a knack of coming up with buckets at the right time and getting a key block or steal.

DraftExpress.com ranks Jermaine Marshall No. 68 on its list of top NCAA seniors.

Marshall is the perfect fit in the backcourt with Jahii Carson. The Sun Devils struggled down the stretch last year, losing five of their last seven regular-season games, and blew a 20-point lead against UCLA in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament.

This year, with Marshall in the backcourt alongside Carson, it should be a different story.

Herb Sendek

Ethan Miller-Getty Images

Ethan Miller-Getty Images

Is this Coach Sendek’s final season in Tempe? Has his seat become hot enough for incoming vice president of athletics Ray Anderson to look elsewhere?

Anderson has a strong NFL pedigree as the league’s former executive vice president of football operations, yet his academic resume is even more astounding. Anderson received his undergraduate degree in political science from Stanford University and his juris doctor from Harvard Law School.

Sendek is in his eighth season as the head coach of the Sun Devils, with a record of 135-113 (.544) and a 58-78 (.426) Pac-12 record. Before his tenure at Arizona State, Sendek took the North Carolina State Wolfpack to five consecutive NCAA tournaments yet has only taken the Sun Devils once—five years ago.

The imminent departure of the teams’ top three players at the end of the season signals an urgency for Sendek to not only get into the NCAA tournament, but also to make a deep run if he hopes to impress Anderson and the fanbase at this football-first university.

The Sun Devils have a .6020 RPI, good enough for No. 41 according to ESPN’s foremost bracketologist, Joe Lunardi. They have a 1-2 record against teams in the Top 25, defeating Colorado and losing to UCLA and No. 1 Arizona, and are 4-5 against teams with RPIs in the Top 100. They do not have any bad losses and are a remarkable 11-1 at home this season, with only a conference-opening blemish to Washington on their record.

Sendek’s coaching staff is remarkable in their own right. Associate head coach Eric Musselman has coached in college, the D-League and the NBA over his 20-year career. Assistant coach Larry Greer has been an assistant coach in the NBA as well as a scout to go along with several years coaching in the college ranks. Assistant coach Stan Johnson is the newest member of the coaching staff, with 10 years of college coaching experience.

Final verdict: With the play of Carson, Bachynski and Marshall, the Sun Devils will spend February on the proverbial bubble with games against No. 1 Arizona, a home and away series against Oregon and a road trip to the always-difficult venues of Utah and Colorado.

Nobody expects them to beat Arizona, but sweeping Oregon and Colorado will be great items on their tournament resume.

14th Annual Strong Beer Festival Kicks Off Arizona Beer Week

Strong Beer BannerBeer lovers rejoice!

For all ye lovers of  incendiary IPAs, big barleywines, powerful porters and strong stouts, this is your day. Over 100 breweries will be descending on Steele Indian School Park, 300 East Indian School Rd., on February 15 offering close to 500 different beers in which revelers can partake.

The event begins at high noon for V.I.P. ticket holders and 1 p.m. for general admission. Festival goers are urged to take public transportation as safety and responsibility are key tenets of the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. The Valley Metro light rail stops a couple blocks west of the park at Central and Indian School. There will also be a shuttle running from The Hungry Monk in Chandler to and from the festival provided by Arizona Brewery Tours. Designated driver tickets are also available for $10 for V.I.P. or general admission.

Strong-Beer-Festival1Along with an extra hour to sample the beers, V.I.P. ticket holders will be lavished with several beer-centric gifts including a t-shirt, reserved seating towel, pretzel necklace, $10 food voucher and a meet and greet with the brewers. The reserved V.I.P. section also includes seating and dedicated restrooms. Five additional beer tasting tickets will be issued to V.I.P. ticket holders.

General admission entry starts at 1 p.m. and includes a commemorative 4-oz tasting mug with 15 beer tasting tickets. This festival is like no other, with beers reaching up to 16.8% A.B.V. and several above 10%, you will not have to worry about not having enough tickets.

The two strongest beers of the festival come from The Bruery in Placentia, Calif. According to their website:

Melange #3 is a blend of three bourbon barrel aged strong ales. White Oak Sap, a wheat wine, our Anniversary Series old ale and our imperial stout, Black Tuesday, join forces in this luxurious strong ale that links some of the best characteristics of each of the contributing beers. Chocolate, dark fruits, oaky vanilla and rich toffee-like character reach through the bourbon veneer for an intensely satisfying quaff.

The Melange #3 tops out at 16.8% and the Bourbon barrel aged Bois comes in at 15% A.B.V. Other beers offered by The Bruery are the Sour in the Rye (7.6% A.B.V.) and the Humulus Lager (7.2% A.B.V.).

Local Arizona beers will be the focus of the festival with many breweries making their first festival appearance. The state can be very proud of its 38 breweries as well as three franchises of corporate brewhouses. Local breweries from Lake Havasu City to Tucson, tiny Pine to behemoth Phoenix and 17 cities throughout the state.

The cities of Phoenix and Tucson will both have the most representation with six breweries each while Flagstaff will have five and Tempe will bring four to the party. Scottsdale (three) and Lake Havasu City (two) will also be represented by multiple breweries. Eleven more breweries will be the sole representative of their cities including Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Peoria, Pine, Pinetop, Prescott, Prescott Valley, Sedona and Williams.  Life is good for the Arizona craft beer drinker.

Even though this is the kickoff event for Arizona Beer Week, several national favorite breweries will also be offering strong beers that are rarely, if ever, seen in these parts. Some notable beers include:

  • az-beer-weekBell’s Brewery Black Note – 11.5% A.B.V.
  • Big Sky Brewing Ivan Imperial Stout – 12% A.B.V.
  • Breckenridge Brewery Barleywine – 10% A.B.V.
  • Dogfish Head Brewery Theobrama Chocolate Ale – 9% A.B.V.
  • Great Divide Brewing Peach Grand Cru – 12.2% A.B.V.
  • Lagunitas Brewing Hairy Eyeball – 9.4% A.B.V.
  • New Belgium Clutch Dark Sour – 9% A.B.V.
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Narwhal Imperial Stout – 10.2% A.B.V.

International breweries will also be in attendance including Belgium’s Brouwerij Van Steenberge/Brouwerij Bavik bringing their Gulden Draak (10.5% A.B.V.), Piraat Triple Hop (10.5% A.B.V.) and their Belgian Double Cherry Ale, Petrus Aged Red (8.5% A.B.V.). The Gouden Carolus/Het Anker Brewery, also from Belgium will have their Grand Cuvee van de Keizer (11% A.B.V.), a Belgian Strong Ale.

Hofbrau from Germany will have their Original Lager and Hefeweizen if the Oktoberfest spirit strikes and you are in the mood for an easy-drinking beer, both coming in at only 5% A.B.V. Canada brings us Hop City Brewing with their Barking Squirrel and Mr. Puff Pale Ale. Howe Sound Brewing has some interesting beers in Total Eclipse of the Hop Imperial I.P.A. and Three Beavers Imperial Red Ale.

homebrewers-association-logoThe festival is a rain or shine event and runs until 5 p.m. with last pout at 4:45 p.m. but many brewers will run out so prepare to arrive early. This is a 21 and over event with valid ID required for admission.  and There will be several food booths with beer-related food for purchase and complimentary bottled water will be available for all festival goers, so outside food and drink (other than pretzel necklaces) will be prohibited. No pets, weapons or backpacks will be allowed at the festival so do yourself a favor and leave them at home.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate if they are still available. Go here to purchase tickets before they are all gone!

Arizona: Hotspot For Early Season College Baseball Tournaments

BeaversThe state of Arizona has been a popular Major League Baseball Spring Training destination for decades and it looks as if college baseball administrators are catching on to this trend adding several college baseball tournaments.

With the  first pitch of college baseball scheduled for mid-February while most of the country is still buried under snow,  the desert oasis of Arizona will be welcoming teams from every region of the country including the Northeast (Manhattan College), the Southeast (Mississippi St.), the Midwest (Indiana, Nebraska, Michigan St.) , the Plains (Oklahoma, Oklahoma St.) , the Rockies (Utah) and the Northwest (Oregon St., Gonzaga, Washington) over the next month.

<<<Read the rest of the article on College Baseball Central.

Album Review: A Day To Remember “Common Courtesy”

adaytorememberA Day to Remember’s long awaited fifth studio album Common Courtesy was released digitally in early October of last year but didn’t hit iTunes or record shops until right before Thanksgiving—and fans of the metalcore band were extremely thankful.

Common Courtesy was written over the course of two years beginning in 2010 and was recorded from 2012-2013 in vocalist Jeremy McKinnon’s home studio in Florida. The band and their record label were entangled in a legal battle and the reason for the digital-only release in October was based on the lack of a label.

On October 4, A Day to Remember was notified that they won against their label in court and released the album digitally four days later. The physical copy that was self-released on November 25 contained three bonus tracks and this is the version that I have reviewed today.

A Day to Remember pays homage to their hometown of Ocala, Fla. in the opening track and then delves headlong into hardcore tracks ‘Right Back At It Again’ and ‘Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re The Nail.’ Fans of shredding guitars, pulsating rhythms and thunderous growls will be pleased with ‘Right’ and ‘Hammer.’

McKinnon’s melodic vocals on Common Courtesy are a welcome addition that crosses over into the pop-punk genre. Tracks like ‘Best of Me’ and ‘I’m Already Gone’ are radio-friendly songs with the latter reminiscent of the Foo Fighters recent music.

Violence (Enough is Enough) is already over a year old and still holds up today as strong as when it was released in December, 2012 as the first single. In an interview with Revolver magazine, McKinnon explained ‘Violence’

I was just trying to talk about different perspectives from the world and why people do terrible things to each other. It started out, to me, feeling like you’re helpless. It felt like everything is so much bigger than you–there are people above you no matter where you go. That kind of control of what you can and can’t do. It’s really not meant to be political as it might sound–that’s just never been our band. But it’s that feeling that things are out of your hands. I wanted it to have this dark, ominous feeling.

The next track ‘Life @ 11’ returns to the pop-punk genre resembling Blink-182 with McKinnon’s harmonizing and Alex Shelnutt’s pounding drums. ‘I Surrender’ is another radio-friendly track that was written several years ago but was re-worked for the album. The hardest songs, in my opinion, ‘Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way’ and ‘The Document Speaks for Itself’  follow up the pop songs to let you know that ADTR still knows how to growl and shred with the best of them.

It is rare to see a band put forth a release that is a general improvement over past releases. A Day to Remember has been to hell and back while writing, recording and releasing Common Courtesy so that one can almost feel their tumultuous journey. The formulaic mix of pop-punk and metalcore blend together well on this album ranging from sing-alongs to mosh invitations.

If you are looking for an album that hits all  parts of the rock spectrum, buy this album and “Brace for Impact.”

http://www.adtr.com 

 

ADTR-CCTrack Listing

  1. City of Ocala
  2. Right Back At It Again
  3. Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail
  4. Dead & Buried
  5. Best Of Me
  6. I’m Already Gone
  7. Violence (Enough is Enough)
  8. Life @ 11
  9. I Surrender
  10. Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way
  11. End of Me
  12. The Document Speaks for Itself
  13. I Remember
  14. Good Things
  15. Same Book But Never the Same Page

 

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Arizona Baseball: Wildcats Stretch Out for First Practice of Season

arizona-baseball1Schools across the conference began classes earlier this week and with the beginning of the Spring semester brings the first practice for many Pac-12 baseball squads. I was fortunate enough to attend the University of Arizona Baseball Media Day at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson on Friday to get an advanced look at head coach Andy Lopez‘s 2014 squad.

The 2012 National Champions enter this season with something to prove. After being snubbed by the NCAA postseason selection committee following a 2013 campaign that saw the Wildcats mark a 34-21 (15-15 Pac-12) record, they are hungrier than ever.

The Wildcats return 19 players and welcome 15 newcomers. The ‘Cats lost their two biggest guns after the 2013 season in Brandon Dixon and Johnny Field and will need to replace their big bats. Dixon led the Pac-12 in batting average with .369 and Field was three spots behind him at .347.

<<<Read the rest of the article on College Baseball Central.

Maricopa Amateur Radio Association Connects the World

ANSR-79 Launched From Maricopa Ag Center on Saturday

Amateur Radio has made its way to Pinal County.

Bob Howard and several other amateur radio enthusiasts, or hams, formed the Maricopa Amateur Radio Association in 2013. The club went through all the necessary regulations by adopting their charter, electing board officers, acquiring a club call sign and achieving affiliation through the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

The club typically meets on the last Saturday of the month with January’s meeting keeping to that schedule and meeting at the Maricopa Public Library at 9 a.m.

The origins of Amateur radio can be traced back to the early 20th century when “The First Annual Official Wireless Blue Book of the Wireless Association of America” was published in 1909 listing wireless telegraph stations in the U.S. and Canada along with 89 amateur radio stations. Throughout the history of amateur radio, enthusiasts have had significant impact on science, engineering, industry building, saving lives in emergency situations and aiding the military.

MARA Repeater

The MARA Repeater

“The mission of the Maricopa Amateur Radio Association is provide an organization for hams in the Maricopa area to come together and advocate for their interests,” Club President Bob Howard, W8RH said on Thursday. “The club also provides local services, such as repeaters and group activities related to amateur radio.”

Some events upcoming this year for the club are the ARRL Field Day, Kids Day and JOTA. Other events will be discussed at the January meeting.

The “Copa Hams” club services Pinal County with members in Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy and Arizona City. They have a revamped website by the same name at www.copahams.org as well as Twitter and RSS feeds.

According to the MARA website:  “Amateur Radio is governed by the Federal Communications Commission and by Part 97 of the Title 47 Telecommunications regulations. Getting an Amateur Radio license in the US is as easy as getting a driver’s license; Morse Code is no longer required.”

“Our meetings are open forum where you can learn the various aspects of amateur radio from those who are experts in those areas,” said Howard in the January newsletter. “We have members who are accomplished in DXing, contesting, APRS, Emergency Communications, CW, Digital Modes, and other areas of the hobby.”

Howard also emphasized that FCC licensure is not required to attend the meetings or to join the club and stated that “most hams get started is by finding someone who’s been around for a while.”

Arizona Basketball: Highs and Lows of Wildcats’ Season So Far

Cats HiLoThe Arizona Wildcats basketball team is off to their best start in program history. The cherry on top of the sundae is Thursday night’s 91-68 dismantling of in-state rival Arizona State.

The Wildcats (18-0, 5-0 Pac-12) don’t generally consider the Sun Devils (13-5, 2-3 Pac-12) to be a legitimate rival in men’s basketball, having won 31 of the past 39 meetings, yet the two schools battle mercilessly in all sports for state bragging rights.

Several heralded and vaunted Arizona teams have played in the history of the program including NBA greats Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr and Mike Bibby, but none of the campus legends have done what this 2013-14 team has done—and continues to do.

Here are the highlights (and lowlights) of this record-breaking season.

Doing It as a Team

Head coach Sean Miller has stressed one thing above all else: playing and winning as a team. It was evident that his philosophy was working Thursday night when seven players scored in double figures.

“No doubt about it, we have a group of guys that play with a lot of energy, a lot of effort and are willing to share the ball,” Miller said in the postgame press conference. “One of the best plays of the first half happened when the ball got kicked off from Brandon Ashley. He made it a quick pass to T.J. (McConnell) and he took the wide open shot.”

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Southern CaliforniaGuard Nick Johnson leads all players with 16.3 points per game but Aaron Gordon, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski are close behind. Point guard T.J. McConnell is the consummate point guard, thinking first of the assist and shooting only when needed. He leads the team with 118 assists and was third in the conference prior to Thursday’s game with 6.2 assists per game.

“As we’ve said a ton, we’re unselfish. Everyone’s unselfish, not just one guy,” McConnell said in the postgame press conference. “We can score at any position and that’s what makes us dangerous.”

Not Keen on Taking Freebies

The biggest complaint about this record-breaking, undefeated 18-0 team is that they are horrid from the charity stripe. Perhaps they are trying to do it the hard way, without anything being given to them—but I highly doubt it.

Through 18 games, Arizona is shooting a mere 67 percent from the line, good enough to be ranked 10th in the conference. Only USC and Washington State, who are a combined 1-8 in conference, are behind Arizona.

New Mexico State v ArizonaThe big story is that freshman phenom Aaron Gordon is absolutely tragic from the line, hitting only 39 of 85 for 45.9 percent. As dynamic of a scorer that Gordon is, teams can quickly take him out of the game in Hack-A-Gordon style.

T.J. McConnell and Gordon’s fellow freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also rank toward the bottom of the conference in free-throw percentage. Free throws proved to be big in close games against Duke and Michigan when the ‘Cats hit 21 of 26 and 14 of 15 respectively. If they had shot 53 percent, like Thursday night’s performance, those close games could have easily gone the other way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Nick Johnson

It’s all smiles for the junior from Gilbert, Ariz. as he became the 48th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Johnson is the embodiment of everything that Coach Miller looks to instill in his players. It’s not that far of a reach to say that Johnson will return next year for his senior season as that’s just the kind of man that Johnson is—honoring his commitment.

As Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star noted:

Arizona State v Arizona

 

If Johnson returns for his senior season, he could crack the top 10 of UA’s all-time scorers. He could play another 50-60 games through the end of next season, and even 50 games at his current average of 16.3 would get him to 1,824, which would be seventh, just behind current UA assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who had 1,849 between 1991 and 1995.

Johnson not only leads the team in points per game, he is also the one guy you want on the free-throw line, hitting 82 percent. He also places second on the team in three-point percentage, steals and assists.

“I think he’s played with a chip on his shoulder in a healthy way.” Coach Miller said to Pascoe. “If there’s anybody who means more to his team than Nick does to ours, they’re an all American.”

Moving Forward

The Pac-12 does an excellent job of knocking each other out of the rankings so it’s safe to say that every team in the conference will bring their ‘A’ game when they play the No.1 Wildcats.

Arizona State v ArizonaBoth the AP & USA Today preseason polls had three Pac-12 teams ranked in the Top 25 with Arizona at No. 5 and Oregon and UCLA in the upper third. By the time that Arizona became the No. 1 team in the country, Week 6, Colorado had also joined the Top 25.

Then came conference play.

The 12-0 Oregon Ducks, ranked in the Top 10, needed overtime to beat Utah and have lost three straight to Colorado, Cal and Stanford.

The 14-2 Colorado Buffaloes, with their only losses to ranked teams, started conference play with two wins, but almost like clockwork, they needed overtime to beat Washington State and have lost their past two games. They will most likely drop out of the rankings before returning to Tucson next week.

Next up for the Wildcats is the aforementioned Colorado Buffaloes followed by Utah at home before heading up to the northern California schools and a surprising Cal Bears team that is 13-4 and 4-0 in conference. If the Buffaloes are unsuccessful in breaking the Wildcats’ streak on Thursday, this Cal team led by Justin Cobbs will be looking to play giant killer.

Which would not be a bad thing. I have seen streaks sometimes get bigger than individual games with the pressure mounting to keep it going. Nobody is hoping or wishing that Arizona loses, yet it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen.

Album Review: Five Finger Death Punch ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell, Vol. 2’

5fdp-main-3web-e1389913615738Five Finger Death Punch started working on The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell in early 2013, but there was just so much awesome rock left over that they decided to ‘Use Their Illusions’ and release a second album of the remaining tracks just four months later.

“We came off the road after a couple of great years of touring and were really amped up to write the fourth record. Everybody was in the right headspace and the band tighter than ever, so it was a perfect storm,” guitarist Zoltan Bathory said.  “We jumped in head first and found ourselves 12-13 songs deep fairly quick, but were still coming up with better and better material so we looked at each other and said… okay why stop there?… let’s keep going.”

Fortunately for lovers of metal music, the second helping of hardcore head-banging was not relegated to just leftovers. The first single, “Battle Born,” proves that 5FDP has the ability to crossover into the mainstream rock audience while still maintaining their metal cred. The guys simply know how to create rock radio-friendly music, from anthems like “Cold,” which uses piano and strings accompaniment, to pounding, growling vocals in the opening tracks “Here to Die” and “Weight Beneath My Sin.” If I had to choose the next single to be released, it would definitely be “Wrecking Ball.” Fret not, metal-heads, it has nothing to do with Miley Cyrus and would crush her twerking ass.

5FDP_WSOH2The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell, Vol. 2 has everything that you can imagine from a metal band; hard-driving rhythms, blistering guitars, monster drum solos and lead singer Ivan Moody has the ability to growl and hit higher notes in the blink of an eye. Five Finger Death Punch gently walks the line of being too commercially successful for purists of the heavy metal genre, but the groove put forth on both volumes will make even the biggest metal fan throw up the horns.

For those that look to bands who cover classic tracks, 5FDP does a masterful job on The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” with amazing lead guitar work from Bathory. “The Agony of Regret” is a haunting, instrumental track and a departure from what people know of 5FDP and will surprise many fans on their first listen.

My two favorite tracks on the album are “Let This Go” and “A Day in My Life” with insane drum/rhythm guitar intros and great riffs and solid groove throughout.  “Cradle to the Grave” has entirely too much going on in one song though, while “My Heart Lied” doesn’t have enough, making the two tracks my least favorites, but they work well as album filler.

Five Finger Death Punch is one of the most ardent, dedicated bands when it comes to bringing the music to their fans with their relentless touring. They head off to Australia next month and then hit Europe in March and April with an arsenal of 24 new hard-rocking, arena-tailored songs created to incite a frenzy and rock your face off.

Track Listing

  1. “Here to Die”
  2. “Weight Beneath My Sin”
  3. “Wrecking Ball”
  4. “Battle Born”
  5. “Cradle to the Grave”
  6. “Matter of Time”
  7. “The Agony of Regret”
  8. “Cold”
  9. “Let This Go”
  10. “My Heart Lied”
  11. “A Day in My Life”
  12. “House of the Rising Sun”

Arizona State Basketball at Arizona: Game Start Time, TV Info, Preview and More

jahii-azArizona State Basketball is officially on the national radar Thursday evening.

The Sun Devils (13-4, 2-2 Pac-12) travel to Tucson to take on the No.1 Arizona Wildcats (17-0, 4-0 Pac-12) for a 9 p.m. ET tipoff to be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.

The rivalry game comes hot on the heels of the “Territorial Cup” football game between the two teams last November. The Sun Devils handed the Wildcats a 58-21 whooping and the ‘Cats are looking to return the favor tonight in front of their fans in McKale Center.

  • Tip: 9:07 p.m. ET, January 17, 2013
  • Location: McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Television: Fox Sports 1
  • Commentators: Gus Johnson/Bill Raftery
  • Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (Phoenix) K-HIT 107.5 FM (Tucson)
  • Line: Arizona by 14

The Sun Devils are 4-3 on the road this season and are 1-1 against ranked teams. The Sun Devils have beaten a No. 1 team only once in school history and it was on the road, in Corvallis on March 7, 1981 against the Oregon State Beavers. The No. 5 Devils were led by future NBA players Byron Scott and Fat Lever and coached by the legendary Ned Wulk.

The two times prior to that game and the five times after, Arizona State has lost to the top team in the country—and the games were not even close. The Sun Devils have met the Wildcats as the No. 1 team three times prior to Thursday’s game and have lost by an average of 23 points.

herb-erArizona State head coach Herb Sendek is 7-8 against Arizona and 3-4 in Tucson. Arizona leads the series 144-80 and has won 30 of the past 38 matchups but Arizona State has won seven of the past 13 including a five-game stretch in 2008-2009. Prior to that streak, Arizona had won 24 of the last 25 and currently owns a two-game win streak over Arizona State.

The good news for Sendek’s Devils is that he has Jahii Carson, and Carson plays extremely well on the road. Carson averages 21.3 points per game in road games and his four highest scoring games were on the road including a 40-point effort against UNLV earlier this year.

Senior Jordan Bachynski also leads all Division I players with 78 blocks this season and 4.59 per game. Out of 351 teams, Bachynski alone has more blocks than 274 of them.

The bad news is the Wildcats are seemingly unstoppable. Coach Miller’s Wildcats were met with adversity vs. Duke in Madison Square Garden and at Michigan—but prevailed in the end each time. In the past two weeks, they have held an opponent to 25 points and beat UCLA in vaunted Pauley Pavilion.

Everybody knows about Arizona’s freshman phenom Aaron Gordon, but Coach Miller is looking for a strong team effort over individual performances—and he is getting it.

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

Nick Johnson is the leading scorer averaging 16.3 points per game with Gordon, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski close behind. Point guard T.J. McConnell is third in the Pac-12 in assists averaging 6.2 per game. He is also third in the conference in steals with 1.9 per game. That makes him a modern day Robin Hood by stealing and in turn giving it away.

McKale Center is also a very tough place to win, especially if you’re Arizona State. Under Coach Miller, the Wildcats are 67-11 at home and 31-7 in conference play. They have won 14 straight at home and will face their first ranked team next week when No. 21 Colorado comes to visit.

This game could get ugly fast for the Sun Devils, but I expect it to be a lot closer than people think.

Prediction: Arizona State 72, Arizona 84

4th Annual Arizona Beer Week Returns in February

az-beer-weekArizona is prepping for the biggest and best beer week ever.

From the tall pines of Flagstaff to the dusty borderlands of Tucson, the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild will be celebrating the state’s craft beer industry from February 15-22. The annual event will focus on craft beer education, the artistry of brewing and the all-important tasting of the state’s best suds.

“The purpose of Arizona Beer Week is to reconnect beer with celebration and sense of place,” Rob Fullmer, Executive Director, Arizona Craft Brewers Guild said Tuesday. “Of course, it starts with the Arizona Craft Brewers, but some of the most original and exciting events are those put on by the state’s bars, restaurants and homebrew clubs.”

The week begins with my favorite annual beer festival, the Strong Beer Festival. For the 14th consecutive year, the Strong Beer Festival features several beers with high alcohol content.

The event takes place at Indian Steele Park, 300 East Indian School Rd. Strong-Beer-Festival1in Phoenix with gates opening up to the V.I.P. crowd at noon and going until 5 p.m. Last pour will be called at 4:45 p.m. but it is highly doubtful that even general admission entrants (who are let in at 1 p.m.) will be clamoring for more beer come that time.

General admission tickets for the event includes a commemorative 4 oz. mug and 15 tasting tickets for $50. V.I.P. tickets for this event are well worth the price of admission.  For the $70 price tag, you will receive five additional tickets and an added hour of tasting. Other swag includes a t-shirt and towel from the event along with access to reserved seating and restrooms; a meet and greet with the brewers, a pretzel necklace and a $10 food voucher. For the early birds, the first 100 to purchase V.I.P. tickets will also receive a reserved parking space for the event. Designated driver tickets will also be available for $10 each. Although strong beers will be the focus of the festival, several other craft beer types and styles will be available along with various food and music. Click the above picture to purchase tickets or through Showclix.com.

One of the hottest new trends is “beer running.”  For more on the trend, check out @TheBeerRunner on twitter. Four Peaks Brewery will be hosting the Skirt Chaser 5K at the Tempe Beach Park from noon-5 p.m. There will be a beer garden, live music and an after party. Tickets for the race and after party range from $35-$75, register online here.

brews_cruise_2014To complete your weekend, hop on your bicycle and head over to SanTan Brewery in Chandler for the annual BrewsCruise 2014. Plan on arriving early to enjoy their incredible pub fare and delicious variety of craft beers. The party leaves SanTan at 2 p.m. en route to The Hungry Monk, Dos Gringos-Chandler and ending up at Chandler’s newest nanoBrewery, Restaurant and Bar—The Perch. The $25 ticket price includes food at SanTan and a beer at each location. For more information and to purchase tickets for the BrewsCruise 2014, click here.

Boulders on Broadway in Tempe will also be hosting their 4th Annual Beer Festival at their location.

“Some of the bigger events are in Phoenix where the larger beer market is, but there are a number of events throughout the state,” Fullmer said. “It’s about the people and places throughout the state. As a person that is in tune with craft culture, you may not find a happy hour featuring a local pale ale too exciting, but to someone who is able to make that connection during beer week, well that’s worth it to us.”

Some notable events outside of the metro Phoenix area happening on a Monday night are Tucson’s Thunder Canyon Brewery craft beer education open house at their Foothills Mall location from 6-8 p.m. Brewery tours and discussions with the brewers will take place and there is no charge.

Flagstaff’s Wanderlust Brewing will collaborate with Pizzicleta Kitchen to host the Biggest Little Beer Dinner. The five-course dinner paired with craft beer will cost you $50, contact Caleb Schiff at Pizzicletta for reservations.

For the first time ever, Arizona’s two foremost breweries, Four Peaks Brewing & SanTan Brewing will collaborate for a beer dinner at Vintage 95 Wine Lounge. Executive Chef Michael Wahlberg has created a Brazilian theme dinner to pair with the rarest brews from SanTan and Four Peaks including SanTan’s Saison di Aleatico, Four Peaks Double Knot IPA and SanTan’s Russian Imperial Stout. A collectible beer glass with logos from all participants will be handed out to the first 100 patrons. $65 per person, tickets are available here.

homebrewers-association-logoTucson’s 1055 Brewing Co. will host a beer dinner Wednesday night in the hip, downtown restaurant, Proper.  Chef d’Cuisine Kris Volijk will offer up a multiple course dinner featuring beer from Ten Fifty-Five. Staying in downtown Tucson, Borderlands Brewing Co. will be hosting “an epic beer-related pub quiz.” Get your team of four together to battle it out for a paid-in-full bar tab at Borderlands Brewing Co.

The Arizona Homebrewers Association Rally takes place Thursday, February 20 at the newly opened SanTan Production Brewery in Chandler. The rally includes a VIP brewery tour; a meet & greet with the brewers, an in-depth Q&A session and a chance to win prizes from the AHA and SanTan Brewing. The rally is free for current AHA members and others can join and RSVP here.

Moving back to Tucson, Barrio Brewing will be hosting a five-course beer dinner and Maker House will host “The Biology of Beer.” Maker House co-owner and Ph.D. microbiologist Mike Mallozzi will discuss how the sciences and beer interact.

Friday night will be the perfect time to venture up to Pine and THAT Brewery & Pub. They will be hosting a different type of beer pairing—with donut holes and delicious sauces. Three THAT brews and pairings for $10. Staying in the middle section of the state, Prescott Brewing Co. will be featuring a different appetizer with guest’s choice of beer every day of the week for the incredibly low price of $8.99. Friday night’s special app is the Lodgepole Light braised chicken egg roll with chipotle honey dipping sauce.

Rob Fullmer

Rob Fullmer

The week closes out with a new event in Flagstaff, the Inaugural Brewery Bowl Off at Starlite Lanes. 10 of Arizona’s local breweries are expected to compete for a coveted tap handle spot at the alley for a year. The contest will be based on 75% taste and 25% bowling. Tickets for the general public include a commemorative 16 oz. glass, drink and voting tickets. Bowling and shoes are included in the bigger packages. Ticket prices range from $30-$50 and can be purchased here.  This will be a fundraising event for the Shadows Foundation, dedicated to helping individuals who are affected by life threatening diseases.

Craft brewers have taken a big part in giving back to their respective communities that they serve and these events, while fun, all serve a greater purpose.

“The mission is to protect and promote the Arizona Craft Brewing industry through education. That’s really just the surface,” said Fullmer. “The men and women in this industry are the small business and community leaders in their towns and neighborhoods. They bring people in this state a wonderful product and they are the creators of the places where people gather together, meet their neighbors and build community. We need more of that in this state.”

We do need more of that, so make an effort to visit your local breweries and craft beer bars during Arizona Beer Week and thank them not only for their fine product but for also for creating a place for people to congregate and enjoy said libations.

I know I don’t have to wait for Arizona Beer Week for an excuse to visit my favorite breweries.