The Arizona Wildcats started the weekend with high hopes on the basketball court and on the football recruiting trail. Both programs had a shot at a big win and took things to the wire.
Close-but-no-cigar times two.
The basketball game was the high-profile event. After an impressive showing on ESPN’s GameDay and an electric atmosphere in prime time the UA hoops team battled back late but came up just short against Washington.
It was certainly a more dramatic weekend than usual but the result fit the script for the season to date. A hot-shooting night produced a comfortable win and the grind-it-out struggle ended with a narrow defeat.
Add it up and Arizona completed the first half of the Pac-12 season without sweeping a single two-game weekend. It’s a great way to find yourself in a three-way tie for 5th place, and to get the fans’ eyes peeking at next year’s schedule.
The hope was that Greg Schiano leaving Rutgers for the NFL was going to be RichRod’s Tim Floyd moment. A sudden coaching change leaves recruits looking at other options and Arizona takes advantage. The dream was Fuller becoming the football equivalent of Derrick Williams, complete with championship performances and epic tributes.
The class that gets announced on Wednesday will be short of the 25-player maximum and lacking in star power. What Cat fans should focus on is the “closing speed” exhibited by Rodriguez and his staff over the past few weeks. Fuller had no reason to find Tucson on a map before Rodriguez was hired and he ended up taking an official visit. Other players, including ones as far away as Pennsylvania and Florida, did choose the Wildcats after the new coaches arrived on the scene.
There weren’t any recruiting miracles but the staff made enough noise to put themselves on the map for next year’s recruits and give the fans confidence that bigger fish will indeed end up on the line.
I had to laugh a little when I read comments about the white-out basketball crowd being louder than McKale has been in a long time. Yes, there was a lull during the extended transition from Lute Olson to Sean Miller, but the program’s foundation never crumbled. The UA hoops faithful can borrow Solomon Hill’s line from last year: “We never left.”
It wasn’t a surprise when Washington’s Tony Wroten said, “This was the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard in my life. The crowd was so loud I couldn’t even hear myself breathe or think.”
Pac-12 players will have to get used to the noise, but they’d better enjoy winning at McKale while they can.
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