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Courtside Conversations with Paul Johnson
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 06/22/2004
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Feb. 10, 2004

The state of Arizona has much to offer. The sun, warmth and beauty of its deserts have drawn millions to our state each year since the dawn of the 20th century. This is the place to come when one is feeling the stress of life, the aches of a cold climate, or the yearning to see beyond the next high-rise. Unfortunately, such is not the case for Pac-10 women's basketball teams. No longer are basketball arenas in Tucson and Tempe regarded as vacation destinations. Now, when a team packs for the Grand Canyon State, it had better include its finest arsenal, because to play the Arizona schools has become the most difficult weekend in the Pac-10.

The numbers don't lie, and they are staggering. Charli Turner Thorne has turned a bedraggled ASU program into one of the nation's elite, and to earn a win in Tempe is a rare thing indeed. This season, the Devils are 11-1 at home. ASU has won 16 of its last 18 home games, and in the last five seasons combined, the Sun Devils are 60-14 on their home floor.

Meanwhile, in the Wildcats have been offering even a bigger dish of home court hell. In the last seven seasons, Arizona is 110-22 at McKale Center and has won 34 of its last 41. The Wildcats are also riding a 25-game home court winning streak, besting the program's earlier top total of 15.

Stanford was the last Pac-10 team to earn a sweep in Arizona, and the Cardinal disaster last weekend proves my point. First, the mighty Cardinal came to Tucson, and the Cats won by five. On Saturday, ASU beat the seventh-ranked team in the nation by 20. Stanford said goodbye to first place in the Pac-10 and to a top-10 ranking.

So, is this now the toughest trip for Pacific-10 women's basketball teams? I say yes. Let's break it down. The Washington schools have faltered badly. The Huskies can still beat you, but Washington State is awful. In Oregon, the Ducks have fallen to the bottom of the conference standings, and Beavers aren't much better. Stanford is still the toughest stop on the Bay Area tour, but there is always good old California to make you feel better before your flight leaves for home. The Los Angeles weekend is a difficult one. Both USC and UCLA are good but not dominating. That leaves Arizona as the hardest place for any team to win two games, or one game for that matter.

It's tough for Arizona fans to cheer for ASU, and it's equally difficult for ASU fans to side with Arizona. However, the truth of the matter is that, when each team is a winner, it helps both programs. Not only do opponents have to prepare for two excellent teams, but these are also teams that play completely different styles. So, I say, "Go...A-S-... Go...A-..." OK, I can't say it, but you know what I mean.

Now, when a Pac-10 team travels through Arizona, a tan is replaced by a pale, worried look. That's because games at Arizona and Arizona State make for the most difficult weekend in the Pac-10!

See you on the radio!
Paul Johnson

All Arizona Women's Basketball Games are broadcast live on 1330 AM!

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