The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth and other items admissible as pure Madness:
ITEM I: No Pac-12 basketball or football team permits reporters in its locker room, a regular-season policy that began to evolve from open to shut about 15 years ago.
But once Arizona reached the postseason, the Pac-12 and NCAA decreed that the Wildcats locker room be open for media interviews for 30 minutes after each game. Now, after about 2½ hours of Q’s & A’s the last two weeks, freshman forward Rawle Alkins has been discovered.
He is all personality. He is what Steve Kerr and Jason Terry were to interviewers in Tucson’s previous college basketball generations.
Each time I entered the UA locker room in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, the largest crowds were those in front of Alkins’ stall. He’s neither silly nor boastful, but rather direct, honest and he doesn’t seem to have the cliché’ gene in his body.
After breaking the index finger on his shooting hand early in Saturday’s victory over Saint Mary’s, Alkins now famously returned to rally his team from a 10-point deficit.
“He’s a warrior,” said UA assistant coach Book Richardson, who recruited Alkins from Queens, New York. “His mom raised him the right way. He’s just a classy young man you want to have on your team.”
Alkins’ ability to play through the pain might endure as a long-told story at Arizona, an equivalent of Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s bloody sock in a World Series game. It isn’t that Alkins was used to playing through pain. He told me the worst pain he previously experienced was a cramp.
Beast mode, for sure.
ITEM II: In the middle of the Madness, outgoing UA President Ann Weaver Hart quietly proposed an athletic fee that will probably mean about $3.5 million annually to the Arizona athletic department in a few years.
Talk about good timing. A general giddiness that accompanies a deep run in the NCAA Tournament prevails over a tax on the kids who walk the campus.
“It’s still early, but Dr. Hart has been very supportive,” UA interim athletic director Erika Barnes said. “Now the proposal, for $100 per student per year, will go to the Board of Regents in early April.”
In Arizona’s first attempt at implementing a student fee, it planned to ask for $200 per student. That was met with predictable opposition.
In the big-money world of the Power 5 Conference sports, an annual fee that raises $3 million to $4 million doesn’t turn a lot of heads. But most years at Arizona, a $3 million donation to the athletic department would be its largest gift; the donor’s name would be put on the wall of a building.
So isn’t it about time to change the name of generic Arizona Stadium to Bear Down Field? It would be instantly identifiable, a tribute to the tens of thousands of students who are likely to throw $100 a year into the athletic department budget into the foreseeable future.
That’s got to be better than Vivint Smart Home Arena, where Arizona chopped down North Dakota and Saint Mary’s last week, and it is certainly more tasteful than the SAP Center, site of Arizona’s Sweet 16 game in San Jose later this week.
ITEM III: When Arizona and Xavier met in the 2015 Sweet 16 in Los Angeles, the 33-4 Wildcats were 10-point favorites over the 23-13 Musketeers. But the game was a grind, not unlike Saturday’s scuffle with Saint Mary’s.
Xavier led 53-49 with 7½ minutes remaining. Arizona didn’t take its first second-half lead until the final 5½ minutes. It took a late 3-ball from T.J. McConnell to give Arizona a cushion to win, 68-60.
Even though the Musketeers lost six consecutive games between Feb. 11 and March 1, even though their star player, point guard Edmond Sumner is lost for the season with a torn ACL, don’t expect a rout.
In Arizona’s 17 career Sweet 16 appearances, with 2,678 total points, the average score is 79-78.
ITEM IV: At the NCAA women’s swimming championships over the weekend, Arizona finished 16th. The Wildcats scored 89 points.
It seems like a misprint, but it is the new reality of what for 15 years, from 1997-2011, was probably the most dominating sport at Arizona, or at least a close challenger to Mike Candrea’s softball program.
The Wildcats finished behind non-traditional swimming schools Minnesota, Missouri and Virginia.
In a period from 2004-10, Arizona scored the following point totals in the NCAA women’s swimming finals: 369, 440, 415, 477, 484, 389 and 395.
It won the national championship in 2008 and finished either second, third or fourth all other seasons.
It is a sad testament to what happened when Hall of Fame coach Frank Busch was hired to run USA Swimming’s national teams.
ITEM LAST: John Daly opted out of the Tucson Conquistadores Classic over the weekend, choosing to use a sponsor’s exemption in the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. He missed the cut by five strokes, shooting 74-77.
I’m not sure Big John was missed.
This was one time the Champions Tour had a more powerful viewing optic. Four of the top five finishers on the final leaderboard — Ryder Cup veterans Steve Stricker, Tom Lehman, Bernard Langer and Fred Couples — have a combined 48 wins on the PGA Tour and a combined $98 million in PGA Tour earnings.
That’s as good as it gets on the Champions Tour.
By comparison, the top four on Sunday’s final Palmer Invitational leaderboard — Marc Leishman, Kevin Kisner, Charley Hoffman and Rory McIlroy — have 20 PGA Tour wins and a combined $82 million in earnings.
Advantage, old guys.