If you are a basketball fan or even better a fan of west coast basketball, then you will want to block out December 17th for sure.
On that date at 1:00 p.m., it might be the best pre-season game of any for west coast college basketball, when Arizona battles Gonzaga in Seattle on CBS. (As a side note, between the two schools, they will appear on national television 31 times this year during the regular season, not bad. )
While many are picking the UCLA Bruins to win the Pac-12 this, I disagree, thinking it will be the Arizona Wildcats to win the initial Pac-12 basketball championship and I have even gone as far as to pick them to win the NCAA championship, they are that good. Also important to keep in mind that with the renovation of Pauley Pavilion this year, the Bruins will have no home games, which will hurt.
I think coaches are more important in basketball than any other NCAA sport and Arizona has a gem in Sean Miller. He is not only an outstanding in- game coach, but he is proving himself to be one of the top three head coaches in the country when it comes to recruiting. Two things to watch this season is will the loss of Miller's brother, Archie, who was his top assistant have a big impact and also the shooting last week of reserve player Kevin Parrom in New York City impact on the team. It is always unreal scary for young men to have a friend and teammate get hurt, let alone get shot. (At this time Parrom is expected to recover fully).
The Wildcats have the stability of Kyle Fogg as a returner, plus top super freshmen recruits in Angelo Choi and Josiah Turner. The talented players coming into college today can hardly be called freshmen, they have so much experience playing basketball and have been exposed to so much pressure prior to entering college, they are more than ready. Bottom line, look for the Wildcats to easily win 30 games, once again.
Gonzaga on the other hand will be a team to watch this year for many reasons. Do they have the players to compete on a high level, as the have in the past? Can they continue one of the greatest dominant performances in sports in the last 25 years and win their 12 straight regular season championship? Is this Mark Few's last year in Spokane and will he leave for a better job? How much challenge will BYU bring to Gonzaga as they enter league play in the first year?
One thing I can tell you is, Gonzaga has some good players coming back in Robert Sacre, Marquise Carter, David Stockton and Sam Dower. Stockton, the son of hall of famer John, shocked everyone last year with his play, sometimes he even shocked his teammates with spectacular passes that they were not ready for. Sacre on paper is also the best player in the conference.
While Gonzaga has been a dismal failure in the NCAA tournament, there is no disputing the awesome success during the regular season and I expect that to continue as the Zags will win their 12 consecutive regular season championship this year, despite the challenge of newcomer BYU and rest of the outstanding teams in what is a very good basketball conference.
And speaking of good basketball, why not have the Pac 12/WCC challenge each year. Why has this not happened before now and just take the top nine teams in each conference and play each other the following year in match-ups per your positioning in the conference the previous season. Maybe the real reason is the fear that this might show that the WCC is on par with the Pac-12 in basketball, make no mistake about it.
So keep December 17th free and I give big plaudits for Arizona playing Gonzaga and once again I give big plaudits for behinds the scenes guru, Mike Roth, the Gonzaga athletic director for his years of always scheduling quality opponents for the Zags in pre-season. He will never get enough credit for what he has done for Gonzaga basketball.
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