Arizona Daily Wildcat
assistant sports editor
Thursday, November 17, 2005
How deep will the men's basketball team go in the 2006 NCAA Tournament?
Karla Gonzalez: Final Four, baby (a girl can dream). Um, is this a trick question? I've never seen a more solid team at Arizona with so much promising depth at each position and hardly any walk-ons (one, actually). Let's face it, Bagga is no Brase, but the departure of No. 30 did bring us hope in the new No. 30, freshman J.P. Prince. This is my fantasy (if 'Staf can't get it together this season like we're all praying he will): This Prince is lifted into the starting point guard position and leads the Wildcats to Indianapolis a la Mike Bibby in 1997. Freshman point guard plus veteran scorer equals magic.
Shane Bacon: Final Four, baby! You can't imagine a team having the most heartbreaking Elite Eight collapse in tournament history and then eclipsing it with a Final Four appearance the next year, can you? Well, with extreme depth, some bangers inside that will split time, a superstar in the making jumping over opponents and an inspired Jawann McClellan, you could see these Wildcats giving the Dukies a run for their money. Caution for all opponents - beware Arizona's first 40 Minutes of Hell.
Michael Schwartz: Elite Eight. Because the NCAA Tournament is this team's birthright, and the Final Four is always a possibility, the Wildcats could reach the Big Dance's final weekend. My gut says the Wildcats fall the same place they have two of the past three years, one win short in the Elite Eight. No team can match Arizona's depth, but the Wildcats will not have enough superstars to make it to the Final Four.
How will the women's basketball team finish without Shawntinice Polk?
Karla Gonzalez: Fifth in the Pac-10. I feel a little sorry for the female hoopsters. Now that the essential spark of the team is missing, nobody has any faith in it. Granted, the horrendous showing against their practice squad in the Red-Blue Game didn't inspire a whole lot of faith, but they redeemed themselves a little with the exhibition games. When it comes down to it, they're playing for someone else this season. Unfortunately, with or without Polkey, this just wasn't going to be their year.
Shane Bacon: Eighth in the Pac-10. This question isn't fair because Polkey will be with that team more than anyone else actually on the court. The problem is there isn't just a hole in most players heart - there's a big hole in the middle of the court, with nobody really having the ability to pound inside like No. 00. The Wildcats will play inspired ball and will dedicate the season to Polk, but it is going to be a tough 2005-06 for Joan Bonvicini's squad.
Michael Schwartz: Second round of NCAA Tournament. On paper, the media's pick of seventh place in the Pac-10 sounds about right. However, you can't quantify the effect that Polk's memory will have on this team. After starting slow in the Red-Blue Game, this undersized team has forced many turnovers with its fast-paced style and full-court press. That will be enough to propel them to the NCAA Tournament, where they will score a first-round upset in McKale Center.
Who will be the men's team MVP?
Karla Gonzalez: Hassan Adams. Seniority rules. Plus, when you've got hops like Hassan, the sky is the limit.
Shane Bacon: Mustafa Shakur. Picking Hassan Adams for this question falls under the "no shit" policy I try to avoid as much as possible in my Staff Picks. Adams is the best player on the team, but the most valuable player at Point Guard U. is the fricking point guard. The fate of these Wildcats lies in the golden hands of Mustafa Shakur, and if he can average 12 points and eight assists a game, this team will go as far as Brad and Angelina did on that African vacation.
Michael Schwartz: Chris Rodgers. Talentwise, the choice is senior forward Hassan Adams, but the player most important to the team's success is senior guard Chris Rodgers. After underachieving his first three years, he's the team's best perimeter defender and long-range shooter. While the team has loads of depth on the wing, nobody brings together the total package that Rodgers does, as long as he keeps his head on straight.
Who will be the women's team MVP?
Karla Gonzalez: Jessica Arnold. Starting sophomore guard Jessica Arnold. She's holding that team together, and she brings a local edge and a general positivism that should inspire her teammates all season long.
Shane Bacon: Joan Bonvicini. Just imagine the situation this team is in. The face of your team, the heart of the team, the MVP of the team and probably the best player in the conference is no longer on the roster, and you have to continue to make this team gel. If that is the case, the only logical MVP would be the head of it all, the person in charge of keeping all the players focused. Would you want to be Joan Bonvicini right now?
Michael Schwartz: Ashley Whisonant. While guard Natalie Jones will be the senior leader, it's up to sophomore point guard Ashley Whisonant to make the team go. Whisonant takes over for star point guard Dee-Dee Wheeler and will also take on much of her scoring and playmaking responsibilities. Whisonant loves the fast-paced style that the team will play and has the athleticism to make it work.