Okay, it has been a disappointing start to the 2005-2006 season for the Arizona women’s basketball team. A shocking loss to Central Connecticut State and a close loss at home to Utah have left Arizona in a precarious position.
It would have been very easy to become discouraged on Saturday night, as one looked around McKale Center. The team had just lost its second-straight game, only 1,700 fans had shown up and all that lies ahead are games with really good teams such as Maryland, Stanford, UCLA, ASU ... and on and on! However, it is only November. One man from Utah’s traveling contingent said to me, “Don’t worry because last year at this time we had no idea what we were doing.” Well, the Utes finished with 26 wins and a berth in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It’s only November!
Why should I be encouraged about a team without a post player and very few bodies? I am encouraged for a few reasons:
1. This team is getting better. Yes they fell to CCSU, but they competed against No. 20 Utah and had a chance to win. They are improving.
2. Amina Njonkou, Arizona’s injured forward, will be back by late December. She will not be a savior but will add some depth at a very thin spot.
3. The Pac-10 could get as many as six teams in the NCAA Tournament. That means if Arizona can scrape out 10 conference wins, they may sneak in.
4. If Arizona can grab an NCAA Tournament bid, they will host the first two rounds. That gives them a realistic chance to at least advance to the second round.
5. What looked like an impossible non-conference schedule looks a little more doable. Arizona will win both games in their tournament this weekend and then hit the road for three games. Maryland is ranked No. 10 in the nation, but Fresno State and UC Santa Barbara look very beatable. Then, Arizona has a January date with Wisconsin Green Bay. If Arizona can win three of those four games, they would have seven non-conference wins. Ten Pac-10 victories gets them into the postseason.
I like the fight on this team and like the fact that they care. I like the fact that this team is coachable and every coach is on the same page. I like the fact that they competed against Utah and could have won. I think there is still time to turn things around.
There are better days ahead. I hope there will be better crowds ahead. After all, it’s only November!
See you on the radio!
*Each Wildcat women’s basketball game is broadcast live on AM 1330 KJLL.