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#9 Arizona Game Preview/Open Thread

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The Huskies welcome back Lorenzo Romar in a pivotal matchup

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Saturday, 2/3/18

Tip-Off Time: 7:30pm PST

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: KOMO 1000

Location: Seattle, Washington

Betting Line: Arizona -6

Arizona 2017-18 Statistics:

Record: 19-4 (9-1)

Points For per Game: 82.5 ppg (26th)

Points Against per Game: 71.5 ppg (136th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 119.6 (8th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 100.4 (99th)

Strength of Schedule: 60th

Arizona Key Players:

C- Dusan Ristic, Sr. 7’0, 245: 11.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.9 apg, 57.5% FG, 79.6% FT

Ristic has inherited from Kaleb Tarczewski the role of the skilled 7-footer in the Wildcat lineup. He has an extremely polished post game and is a good rebounder but isn’t much of a shot blocker.

C- Deandre Ayton, Fr. 7’1, 260: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 63.2% FG, 34.6% 3pt, 74.4% FT

Ayton is the slam dunk player and freshman of the year in the conference and has a great shot at going #1 in the 2018 NBA draft. He can score from anywhere on the floor and has the agility to guard on the perimeter as well as inside. He’ll cause problems everywhere for the Huskies.

F- Rawle Alkins, So. 6’5, 220: 14.7ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.7apg, 50% FG, 40.9% 3pt, 75.5% FT

Alkins is recovering from a foot injury which caused him to miss 3 of 4 games before returning to score 16 points in 16 minutes against Wazzu. When healthy, Alkins is a do everything player who is an effective shooter, driver, and offensive rebounder.

G- Allonzo Trier, Jr. 6’5, 205: 19.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.2 apg, 54.4% FG, 42.1% 3pt, 84.8% FT

The Seattle-area alumni spurned the NBA last season to try to win a title and while the Wildcats haven’t quite lived up to top-3 billing, Trier has ensured they’re pretty darn good. Trier is one of the most efficient players in the country, ranking 5th in offensive efficiency for players taking as many shots as he does (and Ayton is 4th).

G- Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Sr. 5’11, 170: 7.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 5.0 apg, 41.7% FG, 44.6% 3pt, 77.1% FT

PG is the biggest weakness for Arizona as PJC’s assist numbers are inflated by virtue of playing with so many amazing offensive players. He takes about 60% of his shots from beyond the arc where he’s a lights out shooter.

The Outlook

The Huskies are hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself tonight. On 2/6/16, Arizona entered Hec-Ed as a top-20 team to face a surprisingly upstart UW team that had began conference play 7-3. The game was tied with 10 minutes left but Arizona pulled away to win by 4. The loss started a streak during which Washington lost 5 of 6 and their dreams of an NCAA berth died. Those Huskies were of course coached by Lorenzo Romar who makes his return to Montlake as an assistant for Sean Miller.

The Wildcats may not be living up to preseason expectations but they’re still the best team in the conference by a sizable margin. The offense is ridiculously efficient as they rank in the top-30 nationally in 2-pt%, 3-pt%, and FT%. While they shoot a high percentage from deep, they aren’t reliant on the 3-point shot to score points. They prefer to work it inside with the twin towers of Ayton and Ristic and kick out for shots beyond the arc only when they’re open. I expect the Huskies to pack the paint in their zone more than they normally do and force Arizona to beat them from outside.

The reason that Arizona hasn’t been blowing teams out is because of their defensive struggles. They like to play their 7-footers together and that leaves them vulnerable on the perimeter. Ayton has fantastic agility for a man his size but still struggles to keep up with smaller guards on switches. Washington’s best chance is to set screens with Dickerson and Timmins, then drive and kick to open shooters. They’ve won two conference games shooting below 30% from 3-point range. That won’t cut it tonight. Matisse Thybulle and Dominic Green are going to have to combine for something like 6-10 from deep for UW to keep up.

It’s not hard to see the common thread in UW’s last 4 losses. Gonzaga: 13th in effective height. UCLA: 5th in effective height. Stanford: 25th in effective height but with 5 capable bigs at 6’8 or taller to rotate through. Utah: 4 capable bigs at 6’8 or taller. Now Arizona comes along with a pair of 7-footers and 9th in effective height. In all of those games the Huskies got killed on the offensive glass and carved up inside. I don’t love UW’s chances if Ristic and Ayton are able to consistently get the ball in the high post.

Washington’s defense is now the best in the conference whether you look at just Pac-12 games or season long which is incredible for anyone who watched even one game last year. You have to have faith that they’ll do enough to keep Washington in the game. But this offense still has flaws and Arizona’s strengths exacerbate them. I hope to God I’m wrong but just like UW couldn’t capitalize against Gonzaga following the Kansas win, I don’t see them getting it done after ASU on Thursday.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 61, Arizona Wildcats- 72

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