By Rich Ruben
Today was like no other Pac-12 Tournament day, and tomorrow will be much stranger. There was no announcement in the arena about the rest of the tournament games being closed to the public until near the tip-off of the final game. I overheard an arena official telling someone between sessions that there were 10,000 fans in the arena for at least one of the two afternoon games. In reality, I’m not sure there were 5000, and the evening session had half as many, if that. I was literally able to pick a seat for both sessions almost anywhere and sat in the fourth row at mid court. I wondered why a few people were in the far corners of the upper deck.
Different schools handled the band and cheer squads differently. Cal and Stanford brought neither. All four schools in the afternoon session brought their cheer squads, though the Utah band was not present. CU had both the band and cheer squad and WSU brought only their band. Although there were far fewer fans in the evening, OSU’s Tres Tinkle’s sister was here; she was easy to spot (actually, easy to hear).
The SC coaching staff watched the Arizona game from the end of the scorers’ table. Andy stayed for only part of the game, but the three assistants didn’t leave until only a few minutes were left.
In the early session about 2/3 of the fans were Arizona supporters, and the usual UofA chant was belted out way too many times. In the closing minutes of Cal’s upset over Stanford, a California fan shouted out “Let’s get up and yell, all 17 of us.” His exaggerated a bit; there may have been 150 Cal fans. At the end of the game, the same fan began a chant directed to Stanford: “N- I-T”. Harsh, but likely true.
I am in the same hotel with the ASU, CU, and WSU teams. This morning Bobby Hurley got in an elevator with me and half dozen Buffs’ players. He looked around and said: “Looks like I’m outnumbered,”. He quickly switched to a play in a recent game between the two teams and commented about a “tough call” from the referee. Nice to know Hurley never turns it off.
Two stats explained Arizona’s win. The Cats were 9-24 from three and the Huskies were 3-23 (13%). And UW committed 6 more turnovers. The shooting percentages were even, and UW had 9 more rebounds.
An interesting stat from the final game: with six minutes left, Washington State had 15 assists and Colorado had two. That was unimaginable before the game, with McKinley Wright playing the point for the Buffs.
Before the final game, the PA announcer made an unexpected announcement: “Thank you for being here. The PAC 12 Tournament would not be anything without you.” What does the say about the next three days?
The Trojans get their chance tomorrow against Arizona. With Stanford and Colorado both knocked out, the Trojans have the most difficult matchup by far. It will undoubtedly be a very different experience for the players; the game could be decided by whichever team adjusts to the empty arena better. It might be a bigger adjustment for Arizona. They are use to the very loud “UofA”, and the Trojans are use to playing in a pretty quiet arena.
After the win today, Arizona’s senior guard Dylan Smith was asked about the possibility of playing in an empty arena. He said it would be very different, and that he felt bad for the families of all of the players who would otherwise be at the game. That seemed to sum it up.