Category: Tucson Sports

Inaugural Hi Corbett Classic to Feature College World Series Finalists

hi-corbett-classic

TUCSON, Ariz.  —  The 2012 College World Series Champion, Arizona Wildcats and the 2013 College World Series runner-up Mississippi State Bulldogs will highlight the Hi Corbett Classic this weekend in southern Arizona.

The No. 15 College Baseball Central Bulldogs travel to Tucson after  sweeping the Diamond Classic in Starkville, Miss. Mississippi St. (11-4) defeated Michigan State and Eastern Illinois two times each and completed the 15-game opening home stretch with a 3-0 win over South Alabama an Wednesday. >>>Read More on College Baseball Central 

World Golf Championships Quarterfinals has Big Names Absent

RickieAmerican golfer Rickie Fowler wasn’t the only player to find himself in a “sticky” situation on Friday. Several PGA veterans and top-seeded golfers found the Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. to be difficult in the Sweet 16 matchups.

Of the top 12 seeded players beginning play on Wednesday, only two remain—No. 2 seed Jason Day and No. 3 seed Jordan Spieth.

A third round of upset-laden matches were par for the course on Friday as we bid adieu to two No. 2 seeds, a No. 3 seed and a No. 4 seed—all to higher seeded players. Of the remaining eight golfers, three were considered underdogs receiving a seeding of eight or higher.

 

Rickie Fowler Is Unstoppable

 

One of the more stylishly flamboyant golfers on the PGA Tour, who never fails to bring it with his fashion sense hasn’t brought it when it comes to his golfing.

Fowler’s last and only PGA tour victory was the Wells Fargo Championship in May 2012. His highest finish in a major was tied for fifth in the Open Championship in 2011. Fowler recently finished tied for 10th in last year’s U.S. Open.

So, forgive the powers that be who seeded Fowler at No. 14.

Fowler has shown that he is for real in Marana. He has taken down three of the top 25 golfers in the world, according to Official World Golf Rankings, coming in at No. 56, down three spots from last week.

No.2 seed Sergio Garcia, who was leading 2-up on the front nine, conceded a putt on the seventh hole, in essence, handing the entire match to Fowler. The American would go on to win on the final hole with a birdie while Garcia parred.

After going down three skins through eight holes, Fowler knew what he had to do but would his actions speak louder than words down the stretch?

I would say so.

Fowler birdied holes nine and 10 to bring the deficit back to one and he kept it close with five straight halving holes through 15, including a birdie on 11 as well as a bogey on 14. Fowler finally tied it up with a birdie on the short 16th hole and won it all with a closing birdie on 18.

Fowler’s Saturday opponent will be crowd favorite, University of Arizona alum, Jim Furyk.

8 Is Great in This State

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Ernie Els Out of the Trap
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Two No. 8 seeds, both from South Africa and both intricately intertwined with the other, could meet in the semifinals on Sunday. Both golfers defeated a lower-seeded player on Friday, hot on the heels of knocking out their bracket’s top-seed golfer on Thursday.

Louis Oosthuizen made quick work of No. 5 seed Webb Simpson 5 and 4. Simpson birdied on the fifth hole to take a 1-up lead, but it was his last birdie and last lead of the tournament. Ooosthuizen would win the next three holes and six of the next eight, eventually taking the victory after the 14th hole.

Ernie Els’ journey would take a little longer than 14 holes, but he was surely happy to win on Friday in regulation after needing playoff holes in his previous two matches.

No. 4 seed Jason Dufner took an early 2-up lead after three holes but his bogeys on the fifth and sixth holes brought the golfers back to even. Els would take a 2-up lead of his own after 12 holes before returning to even after 17. Els’ clutch birdie putt on 18 secured a victory—in regulation for the South African veteran.

Oosthuizen will face No. 2 seed Jason Day for the Bobby Jones championship, while Els will take on No. 3 seed Jordan Spieth for supremacy in the Gary Player bracket.

Hometown (Sort Of) Hero Making Good Back in Tucson

Jim Furyk with Heroes' Welcome Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Jim Furyk with Heroes’ Welcome
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The 43-year-old from West Chester, Penn., now makes his residence in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., but he lived in Tucson from 1988 to 1992 attending the University of Arizona. Furyk was a two-time All-American at Arizona and led the Wildcats to the lone NCAA title in 1992.

Chants of “U of A” could be heard across the course by lubricated Tucsonans showing their pride and at the same time, their age.

Furyk struggled mightily to begin Friday’s match, dropping two of the first three to Harris English. Furyk found himself 3-down after six holes but would eventually right the ship, knocking in birdies at seven and 12. Coupled with English’s bogey on 10, the golfers were all square moving to the 13th hole.

A back-and-forth lead change on holes 14 through 16 provided great entertainment for the crowd but when Furyk matched birdies on 17, the crowd went wild. He would maintain the 1-up advantage through 18 to claim victory.

A daunting task for Furyk lies ahead in taking on Rickie Fowler for the Ben Hogan championship on Saturday.

Graeme McDowell Shows His Staying Power

 

No. 4 seed Graeme McDowell and No. 8 seed Hunter Mahan were not the last golfers to tee off on Friday, but they were the last to finish. A marathon 21-hole match was sealed on McDowell’s birdie on the third playoff hole.

Mahan won the first two holes but McDowell evened things back up after five holes were completed, and it was a dogfight from there for the next five holes before Mahan birdied 11 to take the 1-up lead. A rollercoaster ride was in store for Mahan hitting a double-bogey on 14 followed by consecutive birdies.

McDowell needed to take the final two holes to send it to a playoff and Mahan helped with a bogey on 17, but the glory was all McDowell’s when he birdied 18. The golfers halved the first two playoff holes before McDowell sank the birdie on the third hole, claiming the victory.

Facing McDowell in the Sam Snead championship bracket will be No. 7 seed Victor Dubuisson.

The Frenchman Defeats the Good ‘Ol Boy

Watson and Dubuisson Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Watson and Dubuisson
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

George Lester Watson, Jr., otherwise known as “Bubba,” the good ‘ol boy from the “Redneck Riviera” couldn’t catch a break on Friday in Marana.

Victor Dubuisson took an early 2-up lead after as many holes and never looked back. Watson did his best to keep it close, winning five skins, but Dubuisson never relinquished the lead and won 1-up after 18.

When it seemed that Dubuisson was ready to finish off Watson after taking a 3-up lead after 14, Watson responded with birdies on 15 and 17. Watson needed the skin on 18 to bring the golfers even but ended up with a par giving Dubuisson the only wire-to-wire victory of the day.

The Sam Snead bracket will set the Frenchman, Dubuisson against Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.

3 Top Seeds Fall on Day 2 of World Golf Championship

Rory 2

It was another gorgeous southern Arizona day at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain with temperatures nearing the 80-degree mark without going over. The atmosphere in the hospitality tents was raucous but nowhere near that of the “other” PGA golf tournament held in Scottsdale annually on Super Bowl weekend.

The beautiful weather must have convinced the top-seeded players that they would rather be enjoying the lavish confines of the neighboring Ritz-Carlton resort as opposed to playing on its course. The three remaining No. 1 seeds were shown the door Thursday, leaving three No. 2 seeds and two No. 3 seeds as the highest-seeded players heading into Friday’s final eight matches.

No. 8 Seed Louis Oosthuizen Defeats No.1 Seed Henrik Stenson

 

South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 35th ranked golfer in the world according to Official World Golf Ranking, has been having a great time in the southern Arizona desert.

He defeated No. 9 seed Nick Watney 1-up on Wednesday and was rewarded with the task of facing No. 1 seed Henrik Stenson, Sweden’s top golfer and the No. 3 golfer in the world—ahead of Phil Mickelson.

Oosthuizen showed no signs of awe or astonishment and took a quick 3-up advantage after the first four holes. Stenson would birdie six and pull back to within one stroke but the two went on a five-hole par streak leaving Oosthuizen up two after the 11th hole.

Stenson went on to bogey 12 and both golfers birdied 13 then bogeyed 14 to keep Oosthuizen 3-up. Oosthuizen’s birdie on 15 coupled with Stenson’s par ended the day for Stenson.

Oosthuizen will face No. 5 seed Webb Simpson on Friday at 1:43 p.m. ET.

No. 8 Seed Ernie Els Defeats No. 1 Seed Justin Rose

Els

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Ernie Els, another South African golfer, who actually financially supported fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen through his foundation, advanced a step farther on Thursday.

“The Big Easy” has won four major championships; twice at the U.S. Open and twice at the Open Championship, as recently as 2012. Els has had an extremely successful 20-year career dating back to his 1994 PGA Rookie of the Year nod.

Els is one spot above Oosthuizen in the World Golf Rankings at No. 34 and is making his presence known in Marana after convincing victories over Stephen Gallacher and a 20-hole triumph over No. 1 seed Justin Rose.

Els looked like he was going to pull away early after going 2-up through four holes but bogeys on five and seven brought them back to all square, where they stayed over the next four holes. Rose took a 1-up lead when Els bogeyed 12 but a birdie on 15 evened the score again.

The back-and-forth continued over the next two holes and the golfers were all square after the regulation 18 holes.

A birdie on the second playoff hole secured the upset for Els and he will face No. 4 seed Jason Dufner on Friday at 2:07 p.m. ET.

No. 9 Seed Harris English Defeats No. 1 Seed Rory McIlroy

 

The 24-year-old Valdosta, Ga., native won two PGA Tour events in 2013, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November and the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June, besting Phil Mickelson.

English is ranked No. 39 in the Official World Golf Rankings and defeated PGA veteran Lee Westwood on Wednesday 5 and 3 before knocking off tournament favorite McIlroy 1-up on Thursday.

English had a two-stroke lead twice on Thursday after holes 11 and 13, but McIlroy proved why he was the favorite winning holes 14 through 16. English’s par on 17 brought the golfers back to even and McIlroy apparently folded under the pressure with a double-bogey on the first playoff hole.

English will face local favorite, University of Arizona alum, Jim Furyk in the first group on Friday, teeing off at 12:55 p.m. ET.

No. 14 Seed Rickie Fowler Defeats No. 6 Seed Jimmy Walker

Allen Henry-USA Today Sports

Allen Henry-USA Today Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Rickie Fowler wasn’t expected to play well this weekend, he was supposed to take an early exit against Match play expert Ian Poulter. Yet, here he is, with two straight victories heading into the Sweet 16.

Fowler needed all 18 holes to dispatch of Walker but dispatch of him, he did.

The golfers see-sawed through the first six holes and no clear leader was apparent until Walker took the 1-up lead on the ninth hole. The score stayed the same for the next four holes until Fowler birdied on 14 to square it up.

Cue the see-saw again.

Walker went 1-up after 15 and Fowler took the next two skins to take a 1-up lead into the final hole where both golfers parred and Fowler emerged victorious.

Friday brings another match that Fowler is “supposed to” lose—facing the No. 2 seed, eighth-ranked player in the world, Sergio Garcia. The pair will tee off at 1:07 p.m. ET.

Remaining Sweet 16 Matchups

 

There were other matches on Thursday where the lower seed won but not by any large margin to be considered an upset. The highest seed still remaining in the Sweet 16 is No. 14 seed George Coetzee who defeated No. 11 seed Patrick Reed 1-up after 21 holes.

Coetzee upset Steve Stricker on Wednesday, and he will once again have his work cut out for him on Friday when he faces No. 2 seed Jason Day at 1:55 p.m. ET.

A battle of USWG top 15 golfers face off in the final pairing of the day when No. 2 seed, Matt Kuchar (No. 10 USWG) takes on No. 3 seed Jordan Speith (No. 13 USWG) at 2:19 p.m. ET.

Another balanced pairing to watch at 1:19 p.m. ET is No. 4 seed Graeme McDowell taking on No. 8 seed Hunter Mahan. Both are respected veterans on the PGA Tour that have been the model of consistency in Marana over the past two days.

Directly following Mahan and McDowell at 1:31 p.m. ET is everyone’s favorite Bubba—Watson will be looking to limit upstart Victor Dubuisson.

Arizona Basketball: 5 Burning Questions for Remainder of 2013-14 Season

Gordon Zeus

The Arizona Wildcats are off to the best start in program history and have been ranked No. 1 in the country for eight weeks in a row. The Wildcats (21-0, 8-0 Pac-12) have also set the school record for longest winning streak at 21 games.

The Wildcats face a suddenly-struggling Cal Golden Bears team Saturday night at Haas Pavilion at 10:30 p.m. ET. The Bears (14-7, 5-3 Pac-12) started the season on fire winning their first five conference games including a win over then-No. 17 Oregon. California has since fallen on hard times losing their past three.

Arizona holds a 55-29 advantage over Cal and has won three of the past four meetings, including a triple-overtime thriller in Berkeley in 2011. Despite the Wildcats’ recent success against Cal, is is that fourth game that sticks in Arizona’s craw. Arizona has won 17 straight games at home, with their last loss being to Cal on February 10 of last year.

Can the Wildcats exact revenge on the Bears for that loss? Can they avoid the mounting pressure to maintain perfection? Click through for more burning questions about the remainder of the Wildcats’ season.

What Is the Reason for the Slow Starts?

slow start

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona hosted Utah on January 26 and came out listless. Within 90 seconds, they were already down seven points, after 7:30 had elapsed in the first half, the Wildcats still had only one field goal and trailed 12-2. They had missed ten consecutive shots including two free throws and two three-point attempts during that span.

Three days later at Stanford, the Wildcats were reliving a bad case of deja vu, scoring only one field goal in the first 7:30 of the game. Stanford kept it close by taking a 31-30 halftime lead and led by as many as seven points in the second half before succumbing to the nation’s top team.

“Half of the game we didn’t know what type of defense they were in so it was definitely something we had to adjust to,” head coach Sean Miller said following the Utah game. “But we adjusted to it and started hitting shots.”

The true measure of a team is not measured by how well they start, but how well they finish. The Wildcats have the heart of a champion by showing their closing ability when necessary. Not to speak ill of Utah or Stanford, but if Arizona continues the one-field-goal-in-seven-minutes trend, they can expect an early ouster from the NCAA Tournament.

Do They Realize That Free Throws Are Actually Free?

New Mexico State v Arizona

Christian Petersen-Getty Images

The Wildcats are bad at the free throw line—horrendous, to be more precise. Their .662 percentage ranks 10th in the Pac-12 while they have taken the fifth most attempts.

Aaron Gordon is a disaster at the charity stripe hitting only 44-of-98 for 44.9 percent and fellow newcomers Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and T.J. McConnell aren’t faring much better at 61 and 64.3 percent from the line.

Veteran players Kaleb Tarczewski, Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley lead the team but barely register on the Pac-12 stat line with Tarczewski at No. 15 and Johnson and Ashley at 18 and 21 respectively.

In close games this year, the Wildcats have shot alarmingly low against UNLV (50 percent), Colorado (57 percent), Utah (60 percent) and Stanford (62 percent.)

Free throws are a gift but they are also used as a defensive strategy when the opponent knows of the weakness. Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson especially, need to be in the gym before and after practice working on their free throws.

Granted, no NBA General Manager will pass on these electric players due to their limited free throw skills, but in an effort to be all-around players, they need to at least start shooting 75 percent.

Will They Handle the Mounting Pressure of a Perfect Season?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If the past two games have shown us anything, it has been that the Wildcats may be feeling the pressure of being undefeated. They have already set records for best season start and longest win streaks in program history, do they need to continue the streak to keep the fan base satisfied?

The answer is a resounding no.

Although it would be quite the feather in the cap for Sean Miller’s team to be the eighth team in NCAA history to go undefeated and the first in nearly four decades. However, a loss might even be considered a good thing so that the Wildcats can focus on the games ahead instead of maintaining the streak.

 

Will Sean Miller Be Lured Away by North Carolina?

Miller UNC

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Arizona struggled after the abrupt retirement of long-time head coach Lute Olson. The rocky two-year stretch from 2007-2009 saw much controversy and two head coaches in Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell.

After “only” advancing to the Sweet Sixteen, Athletics Director Jim Livengood hired Xavier head coach Sean Miller following the 2009 sesaon. Miller’s first year was a tumultuous one, going 16-15 and 10-8 in the Pac-12.

Miller’s team missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 25 years and people were questioning the hire. The questions are no longer “Is Miller good enough for Arizona?” but “Is Miller too good for Arizona?”

With North Carolina’s men’s basketball program struggling, there are many rumors floating around about Roy Williams’ possible ouster. The Tar Heels (14-7, 4-4 ACC) began conference play with three straight losses and losers of four of their first five.

The University of North Carolina is one of the most storied basketball schools in the country and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they had their feelers out and were looking to sway Miller back to North Carolina where he spent five years as an assistant for the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

How Many Players Will Declare for the NBA Draft?

The only sure answer to this question is to look at which players have no remaining eligibility. With only one senior on the team, Jordin Mayes is your answer.

The other players are question marks, including all five starters.

UA NBA

The most draft-ready players are junior Nick Johnson and sophomores Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley. Point guard T.J. McConnell and super frosh Aaron Gordon could declare as well.

Declaring for the NBA is one thing, playing is yet another. All you have to do is look at last year’s players that entered the NBA Draft, Solomon Hill and Grant Jerrett.

Hill was drafted in the first round, 23rd overall by the Indiana Pacers and has already been sent down to the D-League Fort Wayne Ants. He is back with Indiana but has only played in one game for a total of six minutes.

Jerrett was drafted 40th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers and then had his rights traded to Oklahoma City. Jerrett was later drafted No. 1 in the NBADL Draft by the Tulsa 66’ers who lost 17 of their first 20 games.

The NBA is tough to break into.

With 351 colleges and universities, not to mention international players, filtering into 30 teams with 15 players each, just making a roster is defying astronomical odds. The NBA D-League adds some hope with 17 additional teams with 12 roster spots.

Arizona’s starting five is phenomenal at the NCAA level, as is evidenced by their 21-0 record, but they all need to decide on what’s more important, playing the game they love at the college level or risking it all on the chance of fulfilling their dreams, knowing that the odds are heavily stacked against them.

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.

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.

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.

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

Ka’Deem Carey and Carl Bradford Bid Farewell To Arizona

Bradford

The opening to A Tale of Cities, Charles Dickens’ epic novel novel written about London and Paris, might very well describe the college football landscape of Arizona:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

Rarely does one compare Dickens to college football, but in this case, it holds true. Both of the state’s college football programs, on the brink of reaching their highest level, will wake up tomorrow with the knowledge that a high-profile and highly productive player will be gone—a blow that could send both programs “back to whence they came.”

The University of Arizona’s running back Ka’Deem Carey and Arizona State University’s linebacker Carl Bradford both had a year of eligibility remaining at their respective schools and both declared for the NFL draft on Monday.

Ka’Deem the Dream

NCAA Football: Arizona at Arizona State

Ka’Deem Carey spent only two years at the University of Arizona and is the school’s all-time career rushing leader with 4,232 yards. He ranks seventh all time in Pac-12 history and holds the conference record for most rushing yards in a game with 366 yards against Colorado in 2012.

Carey’s 16-game streak of 100-yard rushing games also tops the Pac-12 record books and is the longest such streak in all of college football over the past decade. He led the FBS in 2012 with 148.4 rushing yards per game, finishing with 1,929 total yards.

As reported by ESPN, Carey noted his appreciation of his tenure at Arizona:

“I’m excited for the next phase of my career and to enter the NFL Draft,” Carey said. “I want to thank God, my family, Coach Rodriguez, Coach Magee and all of my coaches for everything they’ve done for me. My time playing football for Arizona will always be very special to me and I want to thank the fans and the Tucson community for supporting me throughout my career. ”

Carey was a two-time consensus All-American, a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 selection and the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year for 2013. He was considered a finalist for the Heisman Trophy by many experts but was left off the list of invitees to the annual event in New York City. He was, however, named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award but finished behind Boston College’s Andre Williams in the voting on December 12.

“Ka’Deem Carey was a great player for us,” head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We wish him all the best as he pursues his professional career.”

Carey is projected to be drafted late in the first round but could still be on the board come the second round.

 A “Devil” of a Linebacker

Arizona v Arizona StateArizona State’s hybrid linebacker position called the “Devil” backer seemed custom-made for Carl Bradford.

The redshirt junior out of Norco, Calif. decided to forego his senior season and sign with NFL agents Dave Dunn and Justin Schulman of Athletes First according to Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal hours before the school had given an official statement.

Bradford had a stellar season in 2012 with 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss. His 2013 resume sported 61 total tackles, including a team-high 19 for a loss of 107 yards. His 8.5 sacks were tied for the team lead with Davon Coleman. Bradford also led the team with five quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.

Bradford issued this statement on Monday:

After four great years on the campus of Arizona State University, I have decided to pursue my dream of playing in the National Football League. I have many wonderful memories of my time here, and I will miss playing in front of the terrific Sun Devil fans. Although I will not be on the field in maroon and gold next season, I am excited to cheer on the Sun Devils with all of you. I am honored to be a graduate of ASU and I look forward to supporting the university as a proud alumnus.

Bradford was an integral part of an Arizona State defense that ranked near the top in many FBS statistical categories including most interceptions returned for touchdowns (tied with three others), No. 3 for most interceptions and sixth in interception yards and sacks.

With the graduation of defensive standouts Will Sutton, Chris Young, Alden Darby and Osahon Irabor, Bradford made the right choice by declaring this year as the defense will have plenty of growing pains in the 2014 season.

“It was an honor and a privilege to coach Carl Bradford at Arizona State University. Carl leaves ASU with his degree and that is what we are most proud of,” Coach Todd Graham said in a statement on Monday. “We appreciate Carl for being a great Sun Devil and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

According to Ryan Bafaloukos of House of Sparky:

“Bradford is projected to go as high as the second round by some draft analysts who believe the Arizona State product has tremendous upside as an edge pass rusher at the next level.”

What Lies Ahead?

NCAA Football: Oregon at ArizonaAnd so it begins. Which team will have a tougher time rebuilding? Arizona without Carey or Arizona State without nine defensive starters including Bradford?

The future is yet to be seen but judging from Rivals.com‘s ranking of 2014 draft classes, Arizona State ranks second in the conference and Arizona ranks fourth. The teams rank No. 19 and 23 respectively nationally. Scout.com tells another story altogether ranking the Sun Devils and Wildcats as the top two teams in the conference and No. 11 and 15 nationally.

It’s no secret that both teams will be rebuilding in 2014, but with veteran coaches in Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham, the down time will minimal.

One thing that will always remain the same is that each team circles one date on the calendar every year, the annual meeting for the Territorial Cup. This year it returns to its traditional day after Thanksgiving slot and the University of Arizona will host.

It will be interesting to see where Carey, Bradford and Sutton end up, hopefully not on the same team, that would truly be Dickensian.

NIT Season Tip-off Final: Arizona vs. Duke Complete Game Preview

Zona

The No. 4 Arizona Wildcats and No. 6 Duke Blue Devils, two of the country’s top college basketball programs, will meet in the NIT Season Tip-Off final on Friday, and both teams are fortunate to be there.

Both teams showed signs of weakness against lesser teams earlier in the tournament but also showed their mettle by overcoming said weaknesses by winning when all hope looked to be lost.

Date: Friday, Nov. 29

Time: 6:05 p.m. ET

Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y.

Television: ESPN

RadioArizona IMG Sports NetworkBlue Devil IMG Sports Network

 

The Wildcats (6-0, 0-0 Pac-12) opened up against Drexel on Wednesday night listless and uninspired. Trailing 27-8 in the first 13 minutes, they would go on to win 66-62 in a game that nobody thought would be as tight as it was.

”I think the story line for this game may be that Arizona was overlooking Drexel but that’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said, according to arizonawildcats.com. ”We watched every tape and invested a lot of time and it became apparent to me we were in for a handful.”

The Blue Devils (6-1, 0-0 ACC) have had a tougher road to the final scraping by a 1-4 Vermont team, 91-90, at Cameron Indoor before a 74-64 squeaker over Alabama (3-1) in Madison Square Garden.

Duke looked horrible at home against a far inferior opponent, giving up 90 points at home, which had the Cameron Crazies and the rest of Blue Devil Nation crying foul.

“Well, they were terrific and we were awful, and being terrific made us look worse,”said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski during a press conference. “As a unit that is all of us. This was an unacceptable performance, and we were lucky to win.

jabariThe 74-64 victory over Alabama was closer than the score shows. The Blue Devils held the Crimson Tide to only 22 first-half points but then allowed them to come roaring back with a 12-0 run to pull within six points to begin the second half.

Freshman phenom Jabari Parker stopped the bleeding with a layup and one at the 11:45 mark and put on a one-man show, scoring 10 of the next 12 Duke points. The Tide rolled again, pulling back within six with under three minutes remaining. They would close the game out on a 10-6 run, but their defensive lapses were glaring.

“Since Kansas, we haven’t been playing like a Duke team defensively,” said sophomore forward Rodney Hood, per The News & Observer. “It’s a program game, it’s about fighting for the program.”

Regardless of how they got there, Both teams are in, and the hype machine is in full effect. The matchup of freshman sensations Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon is reaching a fever pitch on Twitter.

 

 

The front page of ESPN’s Men’s College Basketball page has their faces prominently displayed with the title “Everybody’s Looking at You.”

“Boy, college basketball fans are in for a Black Friday treat,” wrote ESPN.com’sKieran Darcy. “Two weeks after that fantastic Champions Classic doubleheader in Chicago, we get another top-10 clash—No. 4 Arizona versus No. 6 Duke, at Madison Square Garden, no less.”

The former No. 2-ranked Parker and No. 4-ranked Gordon are living up to the hype. Parker has begun his collegiate career scoring 20 or more points in each of his seven games this season. Parker is only the second player in Division I history to accomplish the feat along with a little-known player out of the University of Texas—Kevin Durant.

gordonAaron Gordon hasn’t been lights out in the scoring department but has shown more strength as an all-around player, averaging 12.5 points as well as 9.7 rebounds per game. He is also second on the team in blocks with nine.

This game isn’t only about the freshmen but also about the coaches and storied programs.

Arizona is 21-2 all-time in the NIT Season Tip-Off, including an 8-1 record at Madison Square Garden, while Duke has won 15 straight NIT Season Tip-Off games with their last loss coming 17 years ago to Indiana. Coach K and the Blue Devils are 23-7 in all games played at Madison Square Garden.

Arizona has won the tournament three times, second only to Duke’s four tournament titles. A battle for the ages is indeed in store for everybody, so enjoy this holiday treat as I assume this will be the last time we see Parker and Gordon match up in the regular season at the collegiate level.