Tag:Arizona Wildcats
Posted on: October 27, 2009 2:55 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2009 10:26 am

PAC-10 Preview

Despite the prognostications that the PAC-10 would have down years, six teams have received NCAA Tournament bids in each of the past two seasons, including three Sweet-16 finishes and one Final Four.

But thanks to a mass exodus of talent (27 NBA draftees in three seasons) has the four-season streak of 60% of the conference in the NCAA Tournament in jeopardy, and appears that the pundits prognostications will prove that the third time truly is a charm.

The biggest reason why the PAC-10 could have a down year is because of their youth and lack of quality veteran players. The PAC-10 lost ten players to the NBA draft in 2009, seven of which were first-round picks. If that’s not bad enough, only two players (Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle) from the All-Conference team will return for a 2010 encore. Don’t take a down-year for the PAC-10 to mean they won’t be competitive – after all, this isn’t C-USA.

With a large influx of young talent, including four Top-25 recruiting classes (UCLA, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon State) according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, the PAC-10 as a whole is staving off the rebuilding process.

In the conference only three teams can be considered to be on the rise compared to a year ago, three more remained stagnant, while four teams have taken a hit on the talent front and have no sure replacement for it.

If the player changes aren’t enough to cause some concern for a lull in the performance of the conference, the coaching changes should. The conference continues to get its coaching make-over with three new coaches taking the sidelines bringing the total to half the league in the past two years.

With all the changes occurring during the off-season, the conference will likely get off to a bumpy start, and fans every where will have to withhold judgment until the end of the season when the obstacles of coaching changes, and youth have all been overcome.

The biggest trend to be aware of is what team can get solid frontcourt play. If any team solid gets surprising dominance in their frontcourt they could have an fast-track to the top of the conference since there is but a select few quality big men in the conference.

Arizona – It was an unfortunate end to a well respected and endeared coach, but it had to happen sometime. Arizona improves their situation as they were finally able to go away from the interim coaches and bring in Sean Miller. They dodged more than one bullet in the process though.

Washington State – The final day for Bennett in Pullman was rumored to have been on the horizon for over a year before he finally left. The Cougars get a solid coach in Bone, but the transition will take a few years before the Cougars could become truly competitive.

USC – The biggest losers in all of the off-season changes were spared the changes at coach either. Scandal, or rumor of one at the very least, ran of Tim Floyd. To replace him they brought in the ever-wandering Kevin O’Neill who has had limited success any where he has gone.

Pre-Season Predictions
1. Cal (NCAA)
2. Washington (NCAA)
4. Arizona (NCAA)
5. Oregon (NIT)
6. Oregon State (NIT)
7. ASU
8. Washington State
9. USC
10. Stanford

Player of the Year: Jerome Randle
Freshman of the Year: Abdul Gaddy
First-Team All PAC-10:                       First All-Freshman Team:
*Chosen by position
PG - Patrick Christopher (CAL)             PG - Abdul Gaddy (UW)
SG - Jerome Randle (CAL)                  SG - Trent Lockett (ASU)
SF - Quincy Pondexter (UW)                SF - Tyler Honeycutt (UCLA)
PF - Joevan Catron (OU)                     PF - Reeves Nelson (UCLA)
C - Michael Dunigan (OU)                   C- Kyryl Natyazhko (UofA)
Team by Team:

Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats aren't the same team they were a year ago. They've lost Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill, and Lute Olson is now completley out of the picture. But new head coach Sean Miller has done a sensational recruiting job bringing in a Top 25 recruiting class with just under a month's worth of work.
The 'Cats are young and will be relying on freshman or returning role players for significant production, so expect a rough start to the season. But once PAC-10 play rolls around, expect the 'Cats to be ready to compete for a finish in the top half of the conference.

The Big Question: Can the 'Cats over-come the adjustment to their third coach in three seasons, and needing impact play from former role players and incoming freshman to make it to their 26th consecutive NCAA Tournament?
Key Departures: Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, Zane Johnson
Key Additions: Kyryl Natyazhko, Solomon Hill, Lamot "MoMo" Jones


Arizona State Sun Devils
The Sun Devils are the second team to lose their best two players, James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, to the draft, but they did little to compensate for it. The Sun Devils will return to their meticulous, slow-down offense hoping to grind opponents down with fundamental play.

The Big Question: Can the Sun Devils compesate for the loss of Harden and Pendergraph with a turnaround performance by Eric Boateng and a Freshman of the Year type performance from Trent Lockett?
Key Departures: James Harden, Jeff Pendergraph
Key Arrivals: SG Trent Lockett, SF Victor Rudd

California Golden Bears
With five seniors and two juniors, Cal is by far the most experienced team in the conference. Thanks to that, and returning All-Conference players Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle, the Golden Bears should be the odds-on favorite to win the conference.

The Big Question: With no major changes to their lineup, can the Golden Bears rely on their experience and depth to push them to the top of the conference in Mike Montgomerey's second year in Berkeley?
Key Departures: None
Key Arrivals: None

Oregon Ducks
The Ducks were a surprising disappointment in 2008-2009. Be sure to keep that in mind as they the Ducks have plenty of young talent on their roster, but simply failed to capitalize on it a year ago. The biggest improvement should come from center Michael Dunigan who was a non-factor for much of the year last year. With rumors swirling aobut Ernie Kent's job, the clock could be ticking.

The Big Question: Can Kent capitalize on the young talent he has to save his job?
Key Departures: Franz Dorsainvil
Key Additions: SF Jamil Wilson, SF E.J. Singler

Oregon State
Klay Thompson and the Beavers are good. They're not great, but they are good. With a weakened PAC-10 and a solid recruiting class for the Beavers, they could have etched a top 5 finish for the first time in decades. It won't be easy, but they could fight it out. You have to like the progress they've made in just one year under Craig Robinson, and because of that it makes you wonder how high their ceiling will be in years to come.

The Big Question: After making significant strides last year, can the Beavers continue to surprise in 2009-2010 by jumping into the top five of the with the additions of some solid recruits?
Key Departures: Rickey Claitt
Key Arrivals: Roberto Nelson, Jared Cunningham

Stanford Cardinal
Landry Fields is the star for the Cardinal who enter their second year under former Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins. The Cardinal are likely hurting the most after their off-season losses, especially since they relied on bringing in transfers and only one recruit to replace Kenny Brown, Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, and Mitch Johnson..

The Big Question:
Can the Cardinal take a step in the right direction despite losing 3 of their 5 starters and a key bench player or will they continue to suffer heavily for another year?
Key Departures: Kenny Brown, Anthony Goods, Lawrence Hill, Mitch Johnson
Key Additions: Gabriel Harris, Andrew Zimmerman

UCLA Bruins
The Bruins once again have reloaded in the off-season. And thanks to arguably the best recruiting class in the conference they look to be in the mix for conference champs come late February. The boys of Westwood are one of only a few teams that managed to stave off a huge drop in talent thanks to their recruiting.

The Big Question: Can the freshman and role players from the past two years turn the Bruins into a serious contender, or will they be like seven of the other teams looking for table scraps after Cal and Washington have cleared through?
Key Departures: Alfred Aboya, Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, Jrue Holiday, James Diefenbach
Key Arrivals: Tyler Honeycutt, Brendan Lane, Mike Moser, Nelson Reeves, Anthony Stover

USC Trojans
Scandal has been associated with USC for the past several years, but that was football … or so we thought. When Tim Floyd basically admitted to the major violation by stepping down, the entire program effectively went with him. The Trojans still have some talent, and a new coach in Kevin O’Neill who demands hard work out of his players, but its not enough. This will be their best year for a while, but they’ll still be in the bottom-half of the conference.

The Big Question: It's not really if, but how far will the Trojans fall without a premier freshman on the wing and no threat to speak of inside the paint.
Key Departures: Tim Floyd, DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett, Terence Green, Marcus Johnson, Keith WilkinsonTheir entire 2009 recruiting class.
Key Arrivals: Kevin O’Neill – wow, that’s SAD that he isn’t just a key arrival, but the only key arrival

Washington Huskies
The Huskies electrified people with their backcourt a season ago, and with the addition of Abdul Gaddy, they’ll look to do it again this year. The Huskies, however, are now without Jon Brockman and look to Matthew Bryan-Amaning to fill the void.

The Big Question: Can the Huskies get enough production out of their frontcourt to overcome the Golden Bears for top spot in the conference, or will the loss of Brockman be too much?
Key Departures: Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon, Artem Wallace
Key Additions: Abdul Gaddy, Charles Garcia, Clarence Trent, C.J. Wilcox

Washington State Cougars
The Cougars were successful the past few seasons thanks to “Bennett-ball.” The Cougars took another hit with the graduation of Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes and others that made that offense work. With all the departures, new head coach Ken Bone will give the Cougars a different look as he wants to push the ball and become an up-tempo team. Sure, they have Klay Thompson, but they don’t have the personnel across the lineup to make an up-tempo team work with the success they’ve come accustomed to in Pullman.

The big question: Can Ken Bone capitalize on players like Klay Thompson to make this team a viable running team and prevent the Cougars from falling into the 8-10 spots in the conference?
Key Departures: Tony Bennett, Aron Baynes, Caleb Forrest, Daven Harmeling, Taylor Rochestie
Key Additions: Xavier Thames, Anthony Brown, Reggie Moore

Posted on: July 4, 2009 9:30 am

A PAC-10 Look Ahead: Arizona Wildcats

Okay, so the season doesn't actually start for a little over four months from now and there is still the possibility that significant changes could still occur... but I doubt it. Last time I simply broke down the changes and roster movements for each of the teams. Now it's time for a bit more of a break down.

Arizona -

HC - Sean Miller
PG - Nic Wise. Bench: Lamont Jones - Wise is the key to this team, but it's nice to have a back-up and a guy to rest him this year.
SG - Kyle Fogg. Bench: Brendon Lavendar, Garland Judkins  - Even if Fogg doesn't become a continual offensive threat, his defensive prowess will keep him in the starting lineup.
SF - Solomon Hill. Bench: Kevn Parrom - Hill is the more athletic, more well rounded of the two recruits and should provide us with a more aggressive counter wingman than what we had with Budinger. Not better, mind you, just more aggressive.
PF - Jamelle Horne. Bench: Derrick Williams, Darnell Shumpert - Horne is once again forced into the low block because of Arizona's lack of depth in the frontcourt. But he'll see his fair share of time out on the wings as well. But please, no bone-headed mistakes this year, huh?
C - Kyryl Natyazhko. Bench: Alex Jacobson - Natyazhko is no Jordan Hill, but I don't think Jacobson will ever be anything but a role player - although he did show growth last year.

The Arizona fans who almost religiously follow the recruiting and changes of the program won't be surprised by anything said here at this point. But even until shortly after Sean Miller arrived in Tucson, if someone had pulled a Nostradamus and claimed Arizona would be this deep with talented wings and forwards, they'd be looked at as if they had three heads.

With such versatile guards and forwards, Arizona will be able to give teams two different small lineups - including time where there are two scoring PG's on the court - as well as some larger lineups with Horne, Hill, and Parrom all on the court simultaneously. I wouldn't expect to see either of those lineups too frequently, but the point is that Jones, Fogg, Lavendar, Hill, Parrom, and Horne can each play two or three different positions depending on current team needs. We haven't seen that in Arizona for some time.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: June 15, 2009 12:30 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2009 3:54 pm
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Posted on: December 30, 2008 12:06 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2008 12:12 pm

PAC-10: Contenders vs. Pretenders

As PAC-10 play has drawn closer, I've been taking a good look at the different teams and haven't been too startled by what I saw. The only exception to that has been the success of Stanford and their undefeated record after losing the Lopez Twins to the NBA. They are even receiving votes in the AP and the Coaches polls! So I started kicking around the teams trying to sift through the soft OOC schedules, and misleading stats trying to figure out who will challenge for the PAC-10 crown this year.

The obvious choice is going to be UCLA. Sure, they're down from the past two or three years, but they're still a potent team with stifling perimeter defense and the best backcourt in the conference. But I didn't want to just stick with "UCLA wins it... again," I wanted to really dig into the conference. So pretend that UCLA is out of the equation - they lose Collison to a knee injury or for whatever reason the team implodes costing them 5 or 6 games and effectively the conference title.


Now I'd love to pick my Arizona Wildcats, that would be a great farewell gift to Olson for putting this team together, and a nice reward for Pennell and Co. who stepped in to pick up the pieces in the wake of Olson's sudden retirement. However, they're a very inexperienced team that is relying on three main players and a supporting cast that is largely unknown and mostly unproven. So, to prevent the homer pick of Arizona, we'll pretend that Jordan Hill's strained calf muscle is a torn ligament and he can't play until next year.


Let's whittle down the options here by eliminating teams that even with just eight teams to choose from, still don't have a chance. First to go is clearly Oregon State. They are barely a .500 team against competition that is severely sub-par of PAC-10 caliber. With losses to Howard, Yale, Montana State to name a few, there is little hope of them picking up 2 wins this season.

Aron BaynesNext off the board has to be Washington State. I like their program and their deliberate style, but at some point when push comes to shove you need a guy that can get to the rim, and take over a big game. Their leading scorers (Aron Baynes 11.4 ppg, Klay Thompson 11.0 ppg, and Taylor Rochestie 10.2 ppg) are not players that can get terribly physical and have yet to show up against a quality team. All four of their losses have come against the only opponents on their schedule that could compete in the PAC-10. During these losses (Pitt, Baylor, Gonzaga, and LSU) their three leading scorers combined for an average of 26 points. If they want to compete, someone needs to step up.

Elimination next stops in Eugene, Oregon with the ducks. They lost a lot of talent gone to wasted efforts last year, and brought in a solid recruiting class. Their youth isn't coming along as quickly as Ernie Kent would probably like, and they've lost a couple ugly games because of it. If I were going strictly by record, they'd be off the board before WSU; However, they do have a good amount of talent and finally have a good inside presence with Michael Dunigan. Dunigan is a bad performance or two away from having been the Ducks' leading scorer to this point. The potential of this team far exceeds Washington State right now, and that's why Oregon gets a spot ahead of WSU.

Picking the middle of the remaining teams is almost like splitting hairs. Stanford is undefeated because of exceptional backcourt performances, and Washington has three losses, and no quality wins, but have a huge frontcourt advantage. So who's next? It has to be Stanford. I'm impressed with their 9-0 record after losing the Lopez Twins and all frontcourt presence. That is, I'm impressed until I look at who they've played. They’re only reasonably good win is Santa Clara, and only by 8 points. Guard play is extremely important, especially in the PAC-10. But with opposing guards like Harden, DeRozan, Rochestie,  Randle and Christopher to face off against, it's going to be difficult to outmatch any team in the backcourt. Stanford needs more inside presence if they want to win the conference this year.

Like I said, this is like splitting hairs. Stanford needs inside presence, but Washington needs another scorer. The frontcourt of Jon Brockman and Matthew Bryan-Amaning is the most formidable in the conference and the size advantage alone is what sets them ahead of Stanford. But the Huskies are still waiting for Quincy Pondexter to step up consistently and become the wingman he has the potential to be. Pondexter has only had three of those games this year with 21 points, 16 points, and 14 points, but not one of them against a good defensive team. If Washington wants the title they need a guard taller than 6' to step up.

The remaining three teams are clearly head and shoulders above the five I've already covered. And picking the gem amongst them is extremely difficult. I know that no matter what order I put them in, there is going to be debate and argument over it. Each team has a solid case for the best of the group, but ultimately I feel it comes down to who has the most rounded unit combined with coaching ability. Since coaching adjustments, team management, and when push comes to shove the coach is blamed if they fail, and only given a quiet congratulations if they succeed, the head coach has to be the distinguishing factor amongst these three teams.

For that reason, USC has to come off the board. Tim Floyd has done a good job with these kids. They play a very physical and aggressive style of basketball. Combined with four legitimate scorers and you've got a recipe for success. But my problem with this team comes back to Tim Floyd. It isn't their style or abilities that has me concerned. It's the fact that Floyd has permitted this program to become merely a stepping stone for players like Mayo and DeRozan to take until they are allowed to move on to the NBA. That type of individual play leads to turnovers (conference high 16.8 per game), and will ultimately cost them games against teams with better chemistry. It's Floyd's job to counter that, and I don't believe he's capable of it - after all, it was his recruiting that built that scenario.

So now we're down to Arizona State and CAL. An easy pick if you listen to the media, right? Wrong. Take a look at both teams stats. Statistically they are almost identical with the majority of their scoring coming from four players, and fewer than 5 point per game from the rest. The largest separation between the two teams, statistically, is opponents points per game. CAL is giving up 64.3 while ASU is only 58. So who do you take? I go with CAL.

First while Arizona State has gotten additional help from Rihards Kuksiks who has doubled his ppg production from a year ago up to 10.8 points per game, they still don't get consistent production from anyone except James Harden, and that's a problem. Arizona State is only as good as Harden performs within his team. Want proof? Look no further than the IUPUI and BYU games. Against IUPUI he didn't show up and was too busy talking with Amare Stoudemire behind the ASU bench to care. He tallied 9 points and ASU got lucky. The other problem is if he becomes selfish against a good team. Harden dropped 30 on a good BYU team, but ASU struggled to a controversial win. Harden can carry the Sun Devils far, but if they want to be best out of this group it's going to take a team effort.

Once again, it comes down to team chemistry and how well they play as a collective unit and how much faith I have in the coach. This CAL team has had the most talent in the conference, outside of UCLA, for the past couple of years, but hasn't been able to capitalize on it under Ben Braun. With the hiring of Mike Montgomery this team almost instantly became better. Montgomery has these kids playing hard, shooting well, and playing as a team. That's why I have CAL ahead of USC, ahead of ASU, and ahead of the other teams in this scenario. CAL is getting great production from all over the court. They have the size to compete with Brockman & Washington, and the guards to compete with anybody in the conference.

Posted on: December 28, 2008 10:39 pm

PAC-10 Power Rankings (Pre-Conference)

There are still a few non-conference games remaining for the PAC-10 before the conference action begins this weekend. But most of the games are quite insignificant, and likely won't have much bearing on my rankings anyhow. Without furture ado, here are my PAC-10 Power Rankings heading into conference play.

  1. UCLA: Despite early struggles, they are a solid team with Collison at the helm. That three-guard lineup of Collison, Shipp, and Holiday is the best in the conference and enough to give any team fits.
  2. Arizona : They have a few ugly losses, but they have the best win in the conference (over Gonzaga). The Big Three are carrying a lot of the load and they have been getting help from unexpected talent. The youth is a concern.
  3. CAL: I said before the season, they are a surprise team to watch out for. Montgomery almost has you forgetting that they lost Ryan Anderson to the NBA. They're a great shooting team with a lot of long-range weapons.
  4. ASU: They've only got one loss, but that's not indicative of their struggles against a soft schedule. Harden is a beast that will carry this team far, but he's going to need a lot more help against the PAC-10.
  5. USC: Their record is padded because of their OOC schedule. DeRozan has performed well, but he's not even scratching Mayo numbers yet. They've got a few scorers and an average defense.Look for a loss or two in the second week of conference play.
  6. Stanford: They played a light OOC schedule, only eight games, but they won them all. With one of the wins coming over Santa Clara, they have done enough to deserve this spot for now. Their lacking frontcourt will cost them this spot... soon.
  7. Washington: Brockman is finally getting some offensive help, and a bit more muscle down low as well. They'll be moderately successful in PAC-10 play because of their interior size alone. They still need Pondexter to step it up another notch.
  8. Washington State: They got blasted by a couple of top-tier programs in non-conference play. I understand that the deliberate offense reduces points, but to only have three guys in double-digits (and just barely) isn't good. They need someone to step up and be a scoring threat in the worst kind of way.
  9. Oregon: They are a young team without a signature win, and some ugly losses. Ernie Kent will be on the hot seat if he can't get his freshmen to perform and fast. Don't sleep on Oregon though, they have the talent, just lack experience - and that's a great recipe for a second-half surge.
  10. Oregon State: Any surprise that they are here? With losses to Howard, Nevada, Yale, Montana State, and Iowa State it's not looking good that they'll pick up a win any time soon. The new coach has a huge task in front of him, maybe his brother-in-law can use some of that Senate Seat Money to buy off a couple refs for him. Just kidding, but seriously - it looks like they may go two straight seasons without a conference win. That's BAD!
Posted on: December 26, 2008 2:11 am

Arizona vs. Weber State Preview

Arizona vs. Weber State

There have been a lot of teams with a frontcourt filled with squat thick bodies, but not many with the defensive or offensive capabilities to challeng Hill in Arizona's OOC schedule. Weber State is no exception to this rule. The tallest listed player for Weber State is 6-9 and tallies in at a whoppin 240 pounds.

Weber State is yet another guard-heavy team that looks to spread the floor with three-point shooting. Damian Lillard, Nick Hansen, Kyle Bullinger, Kellen McCoy, and Davilin Davis are all capable three-point shooters. Their offense will look to get the three-ball going as they are averaging over 17 attempts per game. Their hope is that they will be able to stretch the floor and get more isolated situations for their leading scorer Steve Panos.

While Weber State's shooting abilities are respectable, they are far from a polished team. Despite having 7 scholarship upper-classmen they are averaging 16.9 turnovers/game while only forcing 12.1. The disturbing thing about that is that they are averaging barely 10 assists/game leaving them with an a/to ratio of under 1.

Considering the youth on Arizona's squad, even if they are a better team with more individual talent, athleticism, and shooting prowess, Weber State has an opportunity, albeit a slim one, to make this more interesting than it should be. Arizona needs to prepare and come to play. This game is a proving ground for the Wildcats as it is the final game heading into PAC-10 play.

Keys to the Game:

1. Perimeter Defense: This is the biggest issue of this game. With nearly 40% of Weber State's shots coming from beyond the arc, defending it will effectively restrict and slow down nearly half their offensive game plan.
Lay the foundation (for a brick house): Contest the open threes, and limit opportunities. Force Weber State to shoot less than 35%.

2. Play Hard, play smart: Arizona has had some mental lapses following big games or big spurts during games. Arizona needs to treat Weber State like they're Gonzaga or Kansas and play hard every possession. Value each possession - both offensive and defensive.
Feel the Pressure: Force Weber State into 17 to while remaining under or around Arizona's average of 11.

3. Bench Support: This should be a nice, easy game for the 'Cats before PAC-10 play begins on January 2nd. Get your bench some extra playing time and your stars some extra rest.
Bag(ga) 'Em!: Limit the 'Big 3' to a max of 30 minutes each. Set yourself up for a position where David Bagga gets some PT!

Posted on: December 21, 2008 2:37 am
Edited on: December 22, 2008 10:52 am

Arizona's Greatest Non-Conference Rivalry

Wildcats vs. Jayhawks

So after folding in Vegas, Arizona turns past a rivalry that's trying to be rejuvinated - especially by a few moronic UNLV fans - to one of College Basketball's greatest non-conference rivalries. Both Arizona and Kansas have two days to prepare for the 2008 rendition of this PAC-10/Big-12 rivalry.

Arizona and Kansas have met up 8 times in the past 12 years, and four times the loser's season has ended when the final horn blew. In 1997 the fourth-seeded Wildcats upset the first-seeded Jayhawks 85-82. Two years later, Kansas returned the favor by bouncing the high-hoped 'Cats 78-75.

Currently Kansas holds a 5 game to 3 game edge over the 'Cats even though Kansas averages 80 points per contest, while Arizona averages 81. That one point differential is far more indicative as to the calibur of these games. There have been multiple games where the victor has come from behind 20+ points. Kansas' largest victory in this span has been 8, while Arizona's largest is 17. Kansas won the matchup last season 76-72 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks are starting over again this year following a National Championship and mass exodus of seniors graduating or stars making the jump to the NBA. Even though they are a long way off from the ability to defend their crown in the Final Four, Kansas is still potent and a border-line Top 25 team, despite the "down" year.

Arizona is a year removed from the Kevin O'Neill fiasco, and the absence of Lute Olson on the sidelines alters this rivalry significantly. The 'Cats are down further than the Jayhawks are, but have a great win over the then fourth-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. Both of the teams' chemistry, makeup, and reliance upon freshmen and sophomores taking on new roles means this should be yet another great matchup.

Led by Junior Poing Guard Sherron Collins, the Jayhaks will return to Arizona for the first time since December of '01, when they won 105-97. Collins is a dynamic point guard who is leading the team in assists (4.8) and points (17.9). Kansas runs a 3 guard lineup with Tyshawn Taylor and sharp shooting Brady Morningstar on the wings. Meanwhile  they have plenty of depth in the frontcourt with Cole Aldrich averaging a double-double, and Marcus Morris an Markieff Morris slammin bodies around down low.

As a unit Kansas is very good. Offensively they are averaging just over 80 points a game with good shooting and great ball movement. Their turnovers are a bit high, but have done a nice job of forcing their opponents into +2.5 topg. Kansas also holds a 9.9 rebounding edge as the team as a unit goes after missed shots. Make no mistake about it, Kansas is good, but they have a lot of inexperienced and unproven players as well.

Nic Wise and the front court are going to have their hands full again with Collins - who did not play against the 'Cats last season - and the versatility of Kansas' guards. This should be a great game, hopefully Arizona's Jekyll and Hyde season will show us Jekyll come Tuesday.

Keys to the Game:

1. Budinger's Revenge: Last year K.O failed to draw up an effective last-second play for Budinger at the end of regulation, and despite his 27 points on the night, Kansas walked away with the win.
Budinger: 25+ points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 or fewer turnovers

2. Stand Tall: Jordan Hill absolutely must stay out of foul trouble in this game. Last year he played 24 minutes and scored 5 points because of foul trouble. Kansas' front court is big and strong, Hill has to play smart.
Hill: 15+ points, 14+ rebounds, 35+ minutes

3. Key Stat - A/TO: Kansas is forcing teams into over 16 turnovers a game, whereas Arizona opponents are only turning it over around 11 times. This stat line could very well be the biggest indicator for who wins the game.
Protection Program: Tally 15+ assists while holding a -4 turnover differential.

4. Use that booty!: Kansas holds a 9.9 rebounding advantage over their opponents this season. Jordan Hill, Jamelle Horne, and everyone else is going to have to crash the boards hard and get their butt into people when the shot goes up.
Windex Men: Outrebound Kansas by 4 or more.

5. Redemption: After beating Gonzaga a week ago, Arizona looks past UNLV to the Kansas game and loses ugly. They need another big win to redeem themselves and keep on track for an at-large bid. There is no stat line to measure here, but Pennell has to have these kids focused and ready to play from tip-off to final horn. He has to make the right adjustments at the right time, and keep from making coaching mistakes against Bill Self.

Posted on: December 7, 2008 11:02 am

Week Preview: San Diego State

Arizona performed as expected this past week with a decisive win over Loyola-Marymount at home followed by a close loss on the road to a good Texas A&M team. The 'Cats have to feel a little stung after their one-point loss to the Aggies after controlling 39:40 seconds of the game. Arizona is showing that they are putting the pieces together and are getting some hard lessons for the freshmen early and often. Despite the progress there are still quite a few holes to patch up.  The two biggest holes, turnovers and perimeter defense, will get a tough test this Wednesday against San Diego State in Arizona's lone game for the week.

Arizona  vs. San Diego State

The Aztecs are a veteran team that relies on the three-point shot for 30% of their scoring and hustles for every loose ball. They are a smaller team than Arizona, but have plenty of guys in the 6'4"-6'7" range with only two guys under 6'3" and two over 6'8" that may see any sort of minutes. Despite their lack of frontcourt height the Aztecs average 38.3 rebounds a game, with 13 offensive rebounds per game. So while this isn't the deepest team, the most talented team, or the best anything kind of team, they require you to bring a solid effort otherwise they will outhustle you all game long.

San Diego State's Kyle Spain and D.J. Gay are the primary 3-point threats, and both have a quick release. Spain is shooting over 45% from beyond the arc while Gay is shooting nearly 48%. Even though they've played a cup-cake schedule so far with soft defenses, those numbers are significant. Arizona is going to have to step out a little further and contest those shots any time the ball is on it's way to them. The Aztecs also like to shoot the three off an on-ball screen out on the wing, so Arizona will have to step out and try to trap like they did against LMU and TX A&M otherwise they'll drill that shot into the 'Cats all night long.

The Aztecs frontcourt tops off at 6'8" with the bench only providing another inch. While the Aztecs lack a true center, don't let their undersized power forwards deceive you. They have great post moves and can get to the rim and finish. But Jordan Hill is the best post player they have faced all year and will likely struggle to muscle around him or shoot over him. For the Aztecs this game is about guard play and three-point shooting.

The "Wild Card" in this game has to be Lorenzo Wade. Wade is coming off a two-month suspension for allegedly stealing a stereo from a woman's house. Wade has been reinstated to the team since the charges have been dismissed in court, but he is yet to play. He was rumored to be ready for playing time on Saturday against San Diego, but that proved to be false. Now the same source is preaching Wade's return will be against Arizona off the bench. Despite Wade being a First-Team All-Mountain Conference selection a year ago, chances are that he will be largely ineffective in his first game back. With two months away from the team, the senior small forward is sure to have lost a little conditioning as well as chemistry with the team.

Keys to the Game:

  • Perimeter Pressure: Limit the Aztecs, Spain and Gay particularly, to under 35% from beyond the arc.
  • Hustle, Hustle, Hustle: Arizona needs to box out and secure the defensive glass and fight for every loose ball. Arizona needs to hold a rebounding edge of at least 5.
  • Make a Hill into a Mountain: Jordan Hill has a solid 2" height advantage over the SDSU starters, make Hill the go-to-guy in this game. Hill needs to lead the 'Cats in scoring and have a game high rebounds.
  • Protection Program: Arizona needs to limit the turnovers, the game killer against Texas A&M, as the Aztecs average over 7 steals a game. Bottom line, Arizona needs to have no more than 3 more turnovers than the AZTECS. The lower the better.
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