The Huskies overcame a slow first half to knock off the Arizona State Sun Devils 95-83 in overtime on Thursday. Now the Huskies turn their attention to Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats, who come into the game 18-5, ranked 23rd in the country and fourth in the Pac-12 conference. The Wildcats turned a close game into a blowout rather quickly in Tuscon in the team's first matchup. At the time, the Wildcats showed that the young Huskies, while incredibly talented and successful, had a long way to go. Today's game will give the Lorenzo Romar's team to show just how far they have come since that game.
And with that, let's take a look at the Arizona Wildcats for a second time.
Arizona at glance: 18-5, 6-4 in conference, T-4th, National rank: 23 RPI: 35
For most teams, a 6-4 conference record and a tie for fourth place in the conference would be acceptable. However, this is Arizona, where Pac-12 titles are expected year in and year out. Sean Miller has not been afraid to be critical of his team this year, as he has characterized them as the worst defensive team he has had since he has been at Arizona and has also questioned his team's chemistry and "togetherness. " Still, the Wildcats are a team that, while they might be slightly underachieving in comparison to pre-season projections, they are still a near lock to make the NCAA tournament again this March and are still within striking distance of first place in the conference.
Top story-line: The return of Allonzo Trier
The freshman wing returns to the Wildcats for the first time since breaking his hand against USC on January 9th. Trier returns in time to play in his home town (he is a Seattle native) and the Wildcats will certainly benefit from his return. While the Wildcats have fared fairly well without Trier they have gone 5-2 in his absence he is the purest scorer on Sean Miller's roster. He does a great job of creating his own shots , and has a very impressive mid-range game, he can also finish at the rim. While he is only a 35 percent three-point shooter, he has the ability to get hot from behind the arc. When he is knocking down threes consistently, he is all the harder to stop. Fans may argue that the Wildcats have played better team basketball in his absence and while he does have a tendency to dominate the ball, the fact remains that he is the player the Wildcats will go to down the stretch of a close game, and the freshman usually delivers.
Two Wildcats to keep an eye on: Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski
There were a few different ways I could've gone here, senior guard Gabe York is averaging 14.5 points per contest and put together a 12 point, six rebounds and four assists performance against the Huskies in the two team's first match-up. Similarly, guard Kadeem Allen scored 13 points on a perfect four for four from the field and also pitched in four assists as well.
However, the main story-line of the destruction in the desert was Tarczewski's and Anderson's dominance of the Huskies down low. Anderson nearly notched a double-double, as he scored 21 points on seven for ten from the field,(and seven for nine from the free-throw line) while also pulling down nine rebounds. Tarczewski, for his part, scored 16 points on five for nine from the field (and six for eight from the charity stripe) while also grabbing 13 rebounds.
Anderson and Tarczewski also forced Noah Dickerson and Marquese Chriss into foul trouble. While they both held their own on the offensive end (the two combined for 13-20 on the offensive end) Dickerson ended the game with four fouls, while Chriss fouled out. If the Arizona's big man duo can force the young Huskies front court into foul trouble once again, there is a good chance they replicate the performances the two had in Tuscon.
I'll be honest, I just don't like this match up for the Huskies. Anderson, Tarczewksi and back-up center Dusan Ristic all pose match up issues for the Dawgs. I fear that the Huskies young back court will struggle with fouls once again, and that Arizona's big men will be able to assert their wills while one (or both) of the Huskies big men are on the bench. Also, Noah Dickerson has clearly been hobbled by his ankle injury as of late and that may be a problem for the Dawgs as well.
However, I expect the electric atmosphere of Hec-Ed to propel the Huskies early and that the game will be much closer than the two team's first meeting. I expect this one to be close until the last four minutes of the game, but ultimately believe that the size of the Wildcats, along with the return of Trier to be too much for the Dawgs to over-come.
Final score: Arizona 94 Washington: 85
Now, go prove me wrong, Dawgs.