Random Thoughts On Hoops And More!
By Tom Danehy
NOBODY ASKED ME, but (that has never stopped me before): The Arizona Wildcats are a much more interesting team without Joseph Blair. You don't know whether they're going to win or lose every time they step on the floor. That can be nerve-wracking, but it sure gets the juices flowing.
Besides, they showed that they can play with the best teams in the country with that whuppin' they laid on UCLA; now they just have to find consistency. If anything, I think a team like this is less likely to lose in the first round of the NCAAs, because every conference game will be a battle and they won't go into the Tournament looking ahead.
It should be fun.
Washington has got to be kicking itself. They come into McKale and win for the first time since people were able to say "supply-side economics" without breaking into hysterical laughter, and then they go up I-10 and lose to an absolutely horrible ASU team.
I'm sure Huskie Coach Bob Bender wouldn't have minded a split heading into the desert swing, but after winning at Arizona, a sweep should have been a lock. Washington also lost to Pac-10 doormat Oregon State earlier in the year. If they don't make the tournament, those two games will haunt him for a long time.
So the Seahawks are moving to Los Angeles. What, not enough empty seats showed up in Seattle?
The Arizona women's basketball team is letting a great chance at their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid slip away with some appallingly sloppy play late in games. They lost both ends of the Northwest road swing through Washington and had golden opportunities to take control of both games. They'll probably have to go 6-3 in the second round if they want a decent shot at making the tourney. That includes a road swing to the Bay Area and tough Stanford and a trip to Oregon, which includes No. 15 Oregon State and Oregon, to whom the Lady Cats lost at McKale.
Thus far, the Lady Cats have lost two games (UCLA and Oregon) that they had in the bag and two others (Washington and Washington State) that they very easily could have won. I want them to cut that stuff out, right now.
Sports fans, remember the name Nicole Lara. No reason; just remember it.
The Salpointe Catholic Lancers have a great shot at becoming the first big-school state champion in basketball since Saguaro did it in 1982 with a guard named Rodney Peete (now of the Philadelphia Eagles).
The Lancers are led by sure-thing All-State player Brian Smith, a straight-A student who leads his team in scoring, rebounding and minutes played. They also feature the state's best three-point shooter, Will Porter, who scored 47 points in a game earlier this year, and a front line which includes six-foot-seven Smith, six-foot-ten Brian Stewart and six-foot-eight Peter Riggs.
Salpointe is a sparkling 26-1 on the year and has a bye into tomorrow night's division finals at Amphi. Despite their record, they are still ranked by the Arizona Republic and USA Today behind Phoenix Shadow Mountain, whom they beat at Salpointe back in December.
If the two happen to meet in the state finals at America West Arena, it should be a classic.
Maybe it's partly wishful thinking, but I honestly believe that Magic Johnson's presence makes the Lakers the toughest team in the West. They have nearly half a season to come together and get ready for the playoffs. This could be a wild playoff season.
Back in the '80s, the NBA was exciting, but the playoffs were somewhat perfunctory. You just sat around and watched the Lakers and Celtics march through the competition toward the showdown. These days, the NBA playoffs are getting more like the NCAAs, where upsets are possible and even expected.
Go ahead and laugh, but I still expect the Phoenix Suns to make some serious noise in the playoffs (unless, of course, they have to play Houston). OK, that's enough laughing.
Now, on a serious note, an old friend of mine died last week. Kevin Williams, who broke many of Lynn Swann's receiving records at USC, died in a railroad accident when the train on which he was working as a brakeman derailed and caught fire north of Los Angeles. He was 38.
Kevin and I both attended San Fernando High School, but at different times. By the time he came along, I had been out of school for a few years, but I worked there doing a variety of things, including coaching. He was part of a group that won back-to-back L.A. City big-school football championships. He was also one of the top prep sprinters in the nation.
In fact, San Fernando used to run the wishbone offense back then, and Kevin and the other halfback, Ray Williams (no relation), who went on to star at Washington State, were so fast that future Heisman Trophy winner Charles White had to play fullback in the offense. Of course, White averaged 12 yards a carry from the fullback spot, so it's not like he was hurt by the demotion.
Kevin still holds the USC record for TD pass receptions and ran on two NCAA championship 4-by-100-meter relay teams.
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