Simple Mistakes Costing ‘Cats

A frustrated Russ Pennell during the Arizona/Arizona State game. Picture from azcentral.com

A frustrated Russ Pennell during the Arizona/Arizona State game. Picture from azcentral.com

The lights just got a lot dimmer for the Arizona Wildcats tonight as they notched their 8th loss in their first 19 games. The 11-8 mark that the ‘Cats will go to bed with tonight is their worst record after 19 games since Lute Olson’s first year at Arizona when they were 5-14. Not only is the low mark disappointing, but the Wildcats must now win 9 of their remaining 12 games to reach the magical 20th win that is considered the cost of an NCAA Tournament Ticket. Despite being feasible, that is no small task by any standards and will likely end up with their dancing shoes having NIT written on the label rather than NCAA for the first time in 24 years.

The Wildcats have lost three straight games, as well as losses to the four teams in the top half of the conference they have faced. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially considering how hard they’ve played only to have a questionable whistle play a deciding factor in their last two losses – against USC and last night against ASU. From an offensive standpoint, the Arizona State game was simply ugly. Too many turnovers, poor shooting, missed lay-ups, the whole-nine-yards. But for as bad as the Wildcats were offensively, the Sun Devils were right there with them.

When all is said and done, however, it’s not just bad officiating calls that are doing the Wildcats in. It’s sub-par coaching and terrible execution from what we’ve become accustomed to in Tucson. Don’t get me wrong, I really admire the job that Pennell is doing and how hard he is working for this program. In regards to being an interim coach, he’s doing a good job – but not a great one. He’s working hard with each of the players during practice and the results are evident. Nic Wise has improved by reducing his turnovers and has made better decisions with the ball in his hands. Jamelle Horne and Zane Johnson went from being almost non-existent under Kevin O’Neill to being a solid contributors. And Kyle Fogg has shown tremendous growth in his freshman year becoming one of Arizona’s better defenders.

But there are still mistakes, mental lapses, and poor efforts that are hurting the Wildcats. Most notably the ones late during close losses, like Horne’s two fouls, Nic Wise’s turnover against USC and his poor shot selection against UAB. These stick out in our minds because they are simple mistakes that happen periodically throughout the games but are amplified because of the situation.

The correction of these simple mistakes is where Arizona’s chance at making a push for the NCAA Tournament resides. They have the same amount of talent as ASU, USC, CAL, and just about everyone else in the PAC-10, but are struggling because of their mistakes. If Arizona is going to turn this season around and get a nice pair of NCAA dancing shoes in March, the lessons the coaching staff have been trying to get across to them during practice are going to need to kick in immediately. Arizona can’t afford to beat themselves with simple mistakes any longer.

Last Shots

Every time Arizona has lost a close game this year, the “if’s” come out. Don’t get me wrong, every fan for every team thinks about the “if’s” after a close loss. “What if so-and-so did miss that lay-up/open jumper/freethrow?” “What if so-and-so didn’t make that errant pass/over-penetrate/get called for a foul away from the ball on that one play?” “What if the refs had held their whistle/blew their whistle on this play/didn’t call so-and-so for a cheap foul?” I do it, I’m terrible about it. The most common one from Arizona fans is now up to “Arizona is four-possessions away from being 15-4 right now.” You want to know what it really boils down to? Arizona is a head-coach away from being 15-4 or better right now. It’s true. With a younger, healthy Olson, Mike Montgomery, Mark Few, or any other quality head coach the Wildcats don’t lose those games.

You decide… watch the highlight clip from Fox Sports on the Arizona/Arizona State game. Towards the end they show the play where Jordan Hill was called for a moving screen. Perfect screen angle – Is this a bad call?

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2 Responses to “Simple Mistakes Costing ‘Cats”


  1. 1 Davd C January 22, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I love your site keep up the good work! Is there any possible way that you see Arizona making the NCAA tournament? Any chance at al?

  2. 2 naterb January 22, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    There is a possibility that Arizona could make the NCAA Tournament, but it is pretty slim and gets even less with every loss they take. Essentially what it boils down to is Arizona protecting home court from here on out and winning their road games. I believe the ‘Cats have to go 9-3 the rest of the way and make it at least to the semi’s in the PAC-10 Tournament. I’ll do a more detailed write up and post it as an entry in the next couple of days.


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