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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Wildcats have more fun than Sun Devils

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Rebecca Noble

ESPN sportscaster Jay Williams declares the Arizona men’s basketball team his choice to win the 2015 NCAA championship with hundreds of Arizona fans during the ESPN College GameDay broadcast from McKale Center on Saturday. Williams orchestrated the ending segment where he stood on the score table and ripped open his shirt to reveal his own #BEAR DOWN 4 INDY shirt.

They say timing is everything, and The State Press just didn’t have it. ASU’s student newspaper — or, I guess, ex-newspaper that’s just a website now — published a column last week with the headline “ASU basketball’s fan base balances the scale with rival Arizona.” It said ASU makes up for its lack of wins with “off-court intangibles,” and Arizona basketball isn’t fun.

Unfortunately for The State Press, this came out the same week the Wildcats retired Jason Terry’s jersey, College GameDay came to town and Nike made special uniforms for Arizona.

In a press conference on Friday, ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg said GameDay could be anywhere but chose Arizona.

Next weekend’s UA at Utah game was slated to be a matchup of top-10 teams, but College GameDay passed on it. It knows that at a good party, you can’t just let anyone come — like an ASU student.

“There are only eight College GameDays; Arizona got one of them,” Greenberg said. “It’s a full-day informercial for your university, your athletic department and your program.”

ASU did actually have some excitement last week: It retired James Harden’s jersey, but the fact that the Sun Devils have retired six other jerseys diminishes that significance. The UA only retires jerseys for National Player of the Year winners.

You could argue that last week was one of the greatest weeks in Arizona basketball this century with College GameDay and Terry’s jersey being retired.

“I think it’s great,” ESPN analyst Jay Williams said. “I’ve known J.T. for a long time, and I’m really proud of him. I think it’s a big week for Arizona basketball.”

The only other real impetus for saying ASU basketball is fun at all is its “Curtain of Distraction,” where Sun Devil fans act goofy and try to distract the other team’s foul shooters. While it’s gained national media attention, it’s nothing new, just an old tactic.

The Curtain of Distraction has been so effective, it has distracted the media from ASU’s embarrassing fans. Members of the 942 Crew spit on Oregon staff members last year and threw a big-head cutout at UA players.

ASU fans are, of course, infamous for making fun of Steve Kerr’s dead father.

ASU averages 6,048 fans per game in the 10,754-seat Wells Fargo Arena. That’s from its website, so who knows how inflated that statistic is.

The only game the Sun Devils usually sell out featured hundreds — maybe a thousand — empty seats this season, and yet, they said the attendance of the UA/ASU game at Wells Fargo Arena was 10,876. That’s with a lot of UA fans.

Meanwhile, Arizona averages 14,655 for home games against conference opponents. The current capacity of McKale Center? 14,655. You don’t have to go to an elite university like ASU — with its 88.9 percent acceptance rate — to realize that’s a good average.

Obviously, ASU’s attendance is sad. It reduced the capacity at Wells Fargo Arena and Sun Devil Stadium recently, but even its student section is pretty bad.

ASU’s 942 Crew has 942 seats. The ZonaZoo has 2,290 seats, which are hotly contested.

Because of a major freeway accident, the Daily Wildcat got to Wells Fargo Arena right before the UA/ASU game started, and  saw a couple of curtain distractors rolling in at the same time. In the ZonaZoo, you have to camp out to get elite seats like that.

According to Wildcat reporter Ezra Amacher, fans started camping out in the parking garage for College GameDay at 1 a.m., four hours earlier than the UA was allowing and six hours before the doors opened for the 8 a.m. show.

College GameDay was amazing. But, honestly, other than being at 8 a.m. and seeing students sitting courtside, it felt more like a regular UA game, just without the players. It’s definitely a circus, but Arizona basketball is so fun, it feels like a year-round carnival.

“The buzz is real,” Greenberg said. “It’s a little different, because in this program, every single game, here especially, is an event, and this just adds to the carnival — like we’re like the circus that’s coming to town.”

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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