Top 10 Arizona sports moments of 2013

2013 was not the kindest of years to Arizona sports fans.

For the first time since 2004, none of the Valley's big four professional sports teams qualified for the playoffs.

But that's not to say there weren't bright spots along the way for the Grand Canyon State's professional franchises – along with its two largest universities – that have fans across the state excited about 2014.

As 2013 comes to a close, here's a rundown of the 10 most memorable AZ sports moments of the year.

10. ASU football beats Wisconsin in odd ending (Sept. 14)

You won't see many football games conclude in more bizarre fashion than the early-season contest between the Sun Devils and No. 20 Badgers in Tempe did.

With his team trailing by two points, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave appeared to take a knee with under 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter to set up a game-winning field goal attempt. Instead, a Sun Devil player fell on what he believed was a live ball, confusion among the officiating crew ensued, and the game's final seconds ticked off the clock before the Badgers could run another play.

Final score: ASU 32, Wisconsin 30 – controversial or not, a marquee non-conference win and a preview of what would be a sensational season for the Devils.

9. Cardinals end Seahawks' home winning streak (Dec. 22)

This game would have been higher on the list had the Cards advanced to the playoffs. Nonetheless, their 17-10 win over the 12-2 Seahawks in the NFL's loudest stadium was quite a statement in the NFC West, not to mention the rest of the league.

Arizona trailed 10-9 in the fourth quarter until wide receiver Michael Floyd's touchdown catch from quarterback Carson Palmer put the Cardinals ahead with less than three minutes to play. Seconds later, a somewhat fluky interception by linebacker Karlos Dansby (that withstood a replay challenge) secured the Seahawks' first home loss in two seasons and, perhaps more importantly, avenged Arizona's 58-0 loss at CenturyLink Field a year earlier.

8. UA football upsets Oregon (Nov. 23)

The Wildcats are still a work in progress at the conclusion of Rich Rodriguez's second season as head coach – but they secured their fifth bowl bid in six seasons following an out-of-nowhere 42-16 win against No. 5 Oregon in their last home game of the season.

The game, which was the Ducks' most lopsided loss since 2008, featured a memorable first-quarter interception in which UA cornerback Shaquille Richardson saved an Oregon pass from going out of bounds and flipped the ball into the arms of linebacker Scooby Wright. Later in the game, running back Ka'Deem Carey broke Trung Canidate's all-time UA career rushing record.

7. Suns trade for Eric Bledsoe (July 2)

The overall significance of the move is yet to be determined, but through their first 30 games of 2013-14, it certainly seems as though the Suns got the best of a three-team trade that sent longtime Phoenix forward Jared Dudley to the Clippers in exchange for Bledsoe, a guard who currently leads the Suns in assists per game and is second in points per game this season.

Bledsoe may be the biggest on-court reason for the Suns' 19-11 record – a remarkable feat considering that many experts thought the Suns wouldn't win 19 games all season.

6. Goldschmidt ties, wins game with homers (Aug. 13)

While the Diamondbacks' 2013 season was as average as they come (they finished with an 81-81 record), first baseman Paul Goldschmidt established himself as a star in the desert.

The 26-year-old who led the National League in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage last season had arguably the D-Backs' most memorable 2013 moment at Chase Field when he hit a game-tying home run against the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning, then hit another homer in the 11 th inning to win the game.

Goldy's heroics were just one reason why he finished second in National League MVP voting in 2013 – and why many Valley fans believe he should've won the award.

5. UA men's basketball ranked No. 1 (Dec. 9)

UA's 63-58 home win over UNLV on Dec. 7, coupled with Michigan State's loss earlier that week, propelled the Wildcats to the No. 1 spot in both national polls for the first time since 2003, when current Phoenix Suns forward/center Channing Frye was on the team.

Thanks in part to a comeback win at No. 25 Michigan on Dec. 14, head coach Sean Miller's Wildcats head into 2014 ranked No. 1 for the fourth straight week, and they look set to contend for what would be their second-ever men's basketball championship.

4. Suns hire Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek (May 7 & 28)

To spearhead what appeared to be a lengthy rebuilding campaign, the Suns fired general manager Lance Blanks and replaced him with highly-touted Ryan McDonough, who had been an assistant GM with the Boston Celtics. The 33-year-old McDonough, who facilitated the Bledsoe trade, then brought in former Suns guard Jeff Hornacek to coach the team.

Like No. 7 on this list, the long-term results remain to be seen – but early returns suggest that the McDonough and Hornacek hirings could be an important turning point for a franchise that went 25-57 last season and appeared to be destined for mediocrity (or worse) for the foreseeable future.

3. Bruce Arians named Cardinals' head coach (Jan. 17)

After firing head coach Ken Whisenhunt following a 5-11 season, the Cardinals hired Arians, who got the NFL's attention after he went 9-3 as the interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, earning him Coach of the Year honors.

The Cards fell just short of reaching the playoffs in 2013, but under Arians' guidance, they won seven of their last nine games en route to just their second 10-win season since they moved to the Valley in 1988, leaving Birdgang members optimistic about the team's prospects for next year.

2. ASU football wins Pac-12 South (Nov. 23)

In Todd Graham's second season as ASU head coach, the Sun Devils clinched their first-ever Pac-12 South championship with a hard-fought 38-33 road win against two-time defending South champion UCLA.

While they lost their final two games and fell short of the coveted Rose Bowl bid, the Sun Devils won 10 games in a season for just the third time since 1996. What's more, one week after the win at UCLA, the Devils handed UA its most lopsided Territorial Cup defeat (58-21) since ‘96.

1. Coyotes' ownerless saga ends (July 3)

The Phoenix metro area remained one of just 12 in the country with an MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL team when the City of Glendale approved the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to Canadian businessmen Anthony LeBlanc and George Gosbee, ending a four-plus-year period in which the team was without an owner and often appeared likely to move out of Arizona.

Despite their predicament, the Coyotes, led by 2009-10 NHL Coach of the Year Dave Tippett, have made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, and they enjoyed their first-ever division championship and Western Conference Finals appearance in 2012. With a new ownership group finally secured, the sky now appears to be the limit for the Desert Dogs.

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