1) Snow. Yes, snow, in Arizona. On the 145 mile drive from Litchfield Park (where we were staying) to Tucson, we actually went through four different weather patterns. First we slugged it out through Phoenix traffic and rain. It was brightened somewhat by the two rainbows directly overhead but it made the rush hour traffic a bit tougher. Following that near Mesa we actually had sunshine. The sky was somewhat blue above but ahead of us it was ominously gray, black, white, and some other weird color that only Bob Ross could probably define. Thus after the sun, we actually had snow on the road near a town called Florence. It was muddy, slushy, and darn cold, and we saw at least three good lightning strikes, but we finally made it to Tucson in one piece. It was 37 and snowing when we walked into McHale.
2)The crowd at McKale arena is ridiculously loud and involved. I don’t know that I’ve been in a louder hoops environment, and this game wasn’t even a big deal for the ‘cats. Red everywhere and very knowledgeable fans. The faithful for Arizona know their hoops, and they are loud most of the game. Very intimidating place to play from the moment the lights go out when they are introducing the Arizona starters. Which leads me to one question….I know that unless the Huskies are facing a very good opponent during a good season, the Dawgpack won’t be as loud as the “’zona zoo” that sits behind the basket along with the band to help them, but why doesn’t the UW athletic department turn out the lights at Hec-Ed when the Huskies are being introduced? There might be a good reason but I’m not aware of it. It’s a very cool way to get the crowd (and kids) into the game from the get go.
3) Lunch before the game at the Macaroni Grill was eventful in Goodyear, Arizona. I have to give some love to that place because both my wife and I have food restrictions, and they accommodated with gluten-free menus. She had the penne Alfredo, I had penne marinara, and her aunt had an incredible lasagna. The General Manager for the place came out and asked how our meals were. The gluten free penne was a hair undercooked and when we mentioned it, our meal was promptly comped. All we had to pay for was the wine we drank. We tipped the waitress heavily, and Kyle from the Macaroni Grill from Goodyear, if you are reading this, you are a great GM.
4) The difference between a basketball school and a football school? Go to an Arizona hoops game sometime. They really epitomize what Pac-12 basketball should be but is not. They stand most of the game, they REALLY get behind their team, their students definitely affect the game sitting behind the hoop as the Huskies had to attack that end in the second half. It was loud, red, and nonstop. And with the game all but decided with still 14:00 to go, no one left early. Even on a late tip Wednesday night game, there were very few empty seats until about 3:00 to go and the ‘cats up 19. There were literally no lulls in the game no matter how bad the game turned, and when Channing Frye was spotted by the scoreboard camera and shown, the crown instantly erupted, not even needing to be told who it was. I’m telling you, these Arizona Wildcat fans know their history. And? They were darn friendly. I love the fact that they sit during the time outs to rest and as soon as the horn blows to get the teams back on the floor, the crowd rises again to meet their team. And they seem to know a lot about baseball too. Robert Refsnyder was in the crowd and he received a nice ovation when shown. Not the love that Frye received, but still impressive for a college baseball player.
5) Being a former band geek, gotta tell ya that I loved Arizona’s band selection of music, and their drummer was very solid. However it was the electric bass that made their sound fat and beefy. I LOVE the electric bass on an indoor application. Husky band, take note. Hec-Ed would rock with a Fender Precision bass thundering through four 12” cabs. And maybe a few Led Zeppelin tunes wouldn’t hurt. The bald guy that took off two different pairs of shorts and two different t-shirts that got the crowd to do the “U-of-A” chants when he’d point to that particular side of the arena was very energetic as well. The crowd loved him. He kind of looked like Parnell Roberts (See “Trapper John, MD) dressed as Waldo in red and white stripes. He was energetic, fun, and a very good use of a time out. The band gladly deferred one of their spots to him.
6) One thing I’ll say negative about the McKale Center – it needs those hustle boards like they have at Hec-Ed. At a Husky home game, you can tell which team is shooting better percentage, which team is out-rebounding the other, and who has the hot hand. At Arizona, you have to wait until the stat sheet arrives to know these things. Other than that, it is an amazing place to cover a hoops game. I’m hoping for something close to this on Saturday night at Wells Fargo.