Pride of Arizona
Drew Eary is the drum major of the raucous band of the baddest team in the land, and he knows it, and they know it.
The Arizona pep band was a bit peppier Wednesday night at McKale Center as the Wildcats played their first game as the No. 1-ranked team in college basketball since March 2003.
Maybe it was the ugly sweaters that the band donned or maybe it was simply the bravado of a top ranking, but there was a certain volume to Wednesday’s performance that brought the most out of the packed crowd.
“This is crazy,” Eary said. “We always love playing for the Cats; we always have pride. But the fact that they’re No. 1 makes it even better.”
The horns were blown that much harder, the tuba wielded that much sturdier, the cymbals clashed that much louder.
After all, the Wildcats weren’t the only ones on display.
“With the No. 1 team, there’s always those shots of the pep band there,” Eary said. “There’s a sense of pride and a sense of moment for us as well.”
A senior music education major, Eary said the energy for the team is palpable and that the ranking has only intensified the excitement.
“Because the basketball team is having such a good year, there’s definitely a sense of pride,” Eary said. “Especially with finals and everything, with everyone so stressed about school, it’s nice to have a distraction like the basketball team. It’s definitely a main pillar of the University of Arizona to know we have this team.
“Everyone can truly claim it as their own.”
Some of Arizona’s opponents have dipped over the pond for talent, but none as much as New Mexico State.
The Aggies boast players from Paris (Remi Barry), Johannesburg, (Tshilidzi Nephawe) and Zagreb, Croatia, (Matej Buovac).
And that’s not even counting the Toronto Quartet.
Sim Bhullar, Tanveer Bhullar, Daniel Mullings and Renaldo Dixon all hail from the Canadian metropolis.
It’s been a little under 10 years since Arizona was ranked No. 1 in the country. Here are some ways the world has changed:
• Defending Super Bowl Champion: Then — Tampa Bay Buccaneers (great defense, mediocre quarterback); now — Baltimore Ravens (great defense, mediocre quarterback)
• No. 1 movie: Then — “Bringing Down the House” (Steve Martin, Queen Latifah); Now — “Frozen” (Animated children, reindeer)
• No. 1 song: Then — 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”; Now — Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” (she was 10 the last time Arizona was No. 1)
89 In inches, the height of New Mexico State’s massive center Sim Bhullar. The Toronto-born incredible hulk barely needed to leave his feet to grab a rebound over Brandon Ashley and block an Aaron Gordon shot. He finished with three points and seven rebounds.
Top play candidates
The Wildcats had two legit contenders for Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays on Wednesday night.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s baseline, one-handed throwdown late in the first half posterized almost the entire New Mexico State lineup. But that may be second-fiddle to Nick Johnson’s breakaway 360 jam that brought the crowd to its feet.
Tweet of the night
“Only thing uglier than the Christmas sweaters ZonaZoo is wearing was that nasty dunk by Rondae!!!” — @Vanilla1ck7 (Arizona QB B.J. Denker)