Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Closely called UA hoops games will mean more free throws, less fun for fans

This week, Star sports columnist Greg Hansen dishes on Pac-12 officiating, a former local hoops star making his mother happy at a D-I program, Mike Candrea's hard work, Andy Lopez's hard work and a UA cross country runner who willed herself across the finish line - and her team to a title. Catch it all in his Sunday Notebook.

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  • Sean Miller prefaced Friday’s opening game against Cal Poly by saying “it takes time. … it’s not always pretty.”

    He was talking about the long-range evolution of his young roster, but it applies more to the Pac-12’s new officiating structure.

    Arizona attempted 36 free throws in Friday’s victory over Cal Poly. Last year the UA averaged 20.6 foul shots a game, and never attempted more than 36.

    Worse, Utah shot 48 free throws Friday night, Oregon had 44, Arizona State 44 and Washington State 43. On the first night of regular-season play, involving 10 conference teams, the Pac-12 averaged 30.7 free throw attempts.

    Last year the average in conference games, per team, was 18.

    Ever vigilant, Miller hired officials to work eight Arizona workouts/scrimmages leading to Friday’s opener.

    “If you put your hands on a live dribbler, it’s not good for the game,” said Miller. “That’s what we’re trying to coach and teach.”

    If the season goes as it did on opening night, with Pac-12 teams averaging more than 30 foul shots per night, it’s going to be a cluttered and art-less product.

    Somewhere along the way, referees and players must adjust to one another, or games that now routinely take 2 hours 10 minutes, will go to almost 2½ hours.

    That can’t be good for anybody: fans or TV programmers.

    If I could change one thing in college basketball it would be to cut the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds. The game is at a 30-year scoring ebb and games are longer than ever.

    The last thing a guy sitting in Section C, or in front of his TV, wants to see is a plodding parade to the free throw line.

    After closely following Pac-12 basketball for more than 30 years, I don’t trust the officials, whether it be Ed Rush or Bobby Dibler at the top, to get the transition to a less physical game done without a season of turbulence.

    One major officiating note: Michael Irving, who called the infamous technical foul on Miller in last year’s UCLA-Arizona conference semifinal, didn’t lose his job. He called Friday’s Stanford-Bucknell game.

  • When Arizona posed for a celebratory video and interviews following its first-ever Pac-12 women’s cross-country championship last week, freshman Maria Larsson was nowhere in the picture.

    That’s because she was undergoing medical treatment after a remarkable finish in Louisville, Colo., decked by altitude sickness.

    Arizona won the team title 69-75, and Larsson, who had been running with the lead pack most of the race, collapsed about 50 yards from the finish. She was disoriented and weak.

    Had she remained on the ground for even 10 more seconds, enough runners would have passed her, and Arizona could not have won its first Pac-12 championship in 28 attempts.

    But Larsson struggled to her feet, wobbled, and somehow walked/jogged to the finish line, No. 24 overall at the 5,500-foot-elevation course.

    I watched the replay on the Pac-12 Networks; Larsson fully collapsed after she crossed the finish line.

    “She doesn’t necessarily remember the last 2k, but her body really shut down,’’ UA assistant coach Mo Huber told a reporter in Colorado. “She even said to me shortly after she got out of the emergency room that if it wasn’t for this team and what we wanted to accomplish, she would have dropped out.’’

    Yet somehow, the coveted freshman recruit from Sweden, was able to get to her feet and finish 24th in the NCAA’s most difficult distance-running conference.

    Amazing.

  • Palo Verde High grad Bryce Cotton began his senior season at Providence College on Friday by scoring 28 points in a Fox Sports 1 telecast of a victory over Boston College. The network selected him as the player of the game. It was especially nice for Cotton, whose mother, Yvonne, had flown from Tucson to watch the guard begin an attempt to be the Big East Conference Player of the Year.

  • In his first five NBA games that he saw action, Solomon Hill averaged 8.5 minutes and 1.8 points for the Indiana Pacers. He is generally the fourth man off the Pacers’ bench. No one said it would be easy.

  • Pima College men’s soccer coach David Cosgrove, who took the Aztecs to the Region semifinals this year, will be inducted into the NJCAA Men’s Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Nov. 16 in Tyler, Texas. It’s a select class; only 86 coaches/administrators have been voted to the hall. Well deserved. Cosgrove, co-founder of the Tucson Soccer Academy, has taken PCC to the region finals, or better, 10 times.

  • Sally Sancet Rowe, daughter of legendary UA baseball coach Frank Sancet, died last week in Tucson. She was 80. She was the last surviving child of Arizona’s baseball coach from 1950 to 1972.

  • Sidelined until January by heart surgery, UA baseball coach Andy Lopez is working ahead. Leading to Wednesday’s letter-of-intent day, Lopez got a recruiting commitment from elite infielder Shane Martinez of North High School in Riverside, Calif., who was a first-team all-conference player as a freshman in 2012. Martinez is just entering his junior season.

  • Although there is little historical perspective, and no known records, Catalina Foothills’ Rhett Rodriguez probably had the most productive season in Tucson history for a varsity freshman quarterback. The son of Arizona Wildcats football coach Rich Rodriguez finished with 1,480 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and a terrific .674 completion percentage. The Falcons went from 0-10 to 8-3 under first-year coach Jeff Scurran; the future is indeed promising.

  • Arizona-bound Cameron Denson established himself as a rare quintuple threat in Salpointe Catholic’s 11-0 streak leading into this week’s state quarterfinals. He has caught passes for 1,036 yards, rushed for 394 yards, returned punts for 171 yards, intercepted five passes for 240 yards and thrown passes for 103 yards. He has scored touchdowns in all five areas, 25 for the season. Who does that? And yet some say Denson’s top football skill is as a defensive back, where he has made 24 tackles this season.

  • Pac-12 Networks football analyst Glenn Parker, a UA grad who played in five Super Bowls as an offensive tackle, will watch proudly this week as his daughter Emily, a senior at Catalina Foothills, signs a letter-of-intent to play soccer (a full scholarship) at Oklahoma. His oldest daughter, Maddie, was a redshirt freshman on the New Mexico soccer team this season.

  • Eight of the 10 MLS teams to participate in “spring training” in Tucson in February reached the MLS playoffs this year, including all four Desert Diamond Cup participants. How’s that for representation?

  • Two-time Arizona golf All-American Annika Sorenstam announced last week that the NCAA’s female Golfer of the Year will henceforth be presented the “Annika Award” for the first time. It’ll be women college golf’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

  • In the lead-up to Wednesday’s letter-of-intent festivities for the Class of 2014, UA softball coach Mike Candrea appears to be ahead of the game. After visiting campus last week, Glendale High School left-hander Giselle “Juju” Juarez, committed to play for Arizona. She is in the Class of 2016, and, at this stage, probably as good as any pitching prospect in the country. In addition, Candrea has a commitment from Class of 2015 lefty pitcher Taylor McQuillin of Mission Viejo, Calif., who changed a pledge to Oklahoma State to accept an Arizona offer. Candrea recently received a commitment from Mission Viejo prospect Alyssa Palomino, the California Sophomore of the Year last spring, and the granddaughter of former boxing great Carlos Palomino. She hit a state-leading 18 home runs as a sophomore.

  • The Lanny Williams Gymnasium at CDO will be a busy place Wednesday morning at 8. That’s when four Dorados softball players — Sammy Nettling, Northwestern; Becca Ziegler, Penn State; Makenzie Sullivan, Boise State; and Nikki Gonzalez, Mount St. Mary’s — are expected to sign their scholarship papers. That’s almost a routine year for the softball-rich Dorados.

  • The AIA, which operates the state’s high school sports association, is charging $8 for adults and $6 for students for ongoing state playoffs. That’s way too much. It should be half that. If you take a family of four, and maybe a grandparent or an uncle to Scottsdale this weekend to watch Jay Campos’ Sabino football team in the state quarterfinals, including gasoline and food, it’s more than a $100 outing. It’s the same in the volleyball playoffs, too. It’s excessive. The Star’s Daniel Gaona last week reported that kind Ironwood Ridge High School parents helped to pay for some of the $6 student fees at the Nighthawks’ playoff game.

  • And then there is Arizona State, which last week announced the cheapest available ticket for the Nov. 30 Territorial Cup game is $65. I’m not calling it price gouging, but as recently as 2009, the Sun Devils could only draw 55,989 (that’s almost 16,000 empty seats) for the UA-ASU game.

  • The Pac-12 last week quietly announced that commissioner Larry Scott’s contract has been reworked and extended through 2017-18.

    His yearly compensation, estimated at about $3.1 million annually, is likely to grow. Scott probably isn’t going anywhere in the near future. As a baseball outsider, he isn’t a likely MLB commissioner candidate. And PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem recently signed a new deal.

    Having a high-profile commissioner isn’t inexpensive. The Pac-12 is moving its headquarters from Walnut Creek, Calif., to trendy and costly downtown San Francisco. Scott flies to league engagements in private jets and hires a car service rather than hop a rental car shuttle and drive himself. He is visible. He is a power hitter.

    Thanks to his $3 billion media rights deal, the once pennies-conscious Pac-10 has become a big spender and it starts at the top.

    The league’s image has been fully remade. Living large, right?

    Some of Scott’s initiatives, such as exploration of China and the Pacific Rim as a “footprint,” seem unnecessary.

    Live broadcasts of rarely-watched volleyball and soccer games seem excessive. The start-up costs of the Pac-12 Networks have been mind-boggling.

    But before the Arizona-Colorado game two weeks ago, Scott said “things are going exceedingly well.”

    In Colorado, Scott said that “by Year 3, we’ll be distributing some income” from the Pac-12 Networks and estimated that the league is No. 1 among all conferences in media rights.

    Can it really be this easy?

    League members, including Washington State, are spending like never before, with some of them, including Arizona, incurring in excess of $50 million debt service.

    Scott speaks in terms of “long-term initiatives” and mentioned that he “doesn’t see the time coming” that the standoff with DirecTV will end.

    “It took the NFL eight years to sign Time-Warner cable,” he said.

    The Pac-12 is in a money game like never before. But the fact that its presidents and chancellors moved quickly to extend Scott’s contract last week says, boldly, that they buy what he is selling.

    The guy sitting on his couch in Tucson, paying an extra $35 a month for the Pac-12 Networks, is picking up the tab.

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