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Arizona Wildcats Open Thread

The Huskies look to reach 10-0 in Pac-12 play and extend their winning streak

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Thursday, 2/7/19

Tip-Off Time: 6:00 pm PT



Radio: KOMO 1000 AM/97.7 FM and TuneIn

Location: Tucson, Arizona

EDIT: The line has swung from from UW -1 early this morning to UW +1.5 by 11a. My guess is that someone in Vegas has found out that Noah isn’t playing even if that’s not public yet but maybe there have just been a lot of Zona backers betting this morning.

Arizona 2018-19 Statistics

Record: 14-8 (5-4)

Points For per Game: 73.7 (133rd)

Points Against per Game: 69.0 (107th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 107 (110th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.2 (55th)

Strength of Schedule: +5.8 (47th)

Arizona Key Players

C- Chase Jeter, Jr. 6’10, 230: 12.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 60.8% FG, 64.7% FT

The Duke transfer missed both games during the L.A road trip and Arizona went 0-2 by a combined 44 points which speaks to his value to this team. Jeter is by far their best low post scorer and Sam Timmins and Hameir Wright will have their hands full working against him in the paint.

F- Ryan Luther, Sr. 6’9, 225: 7.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 43.8% FG, 37.1% 3pt, 76.9% FT

Luther’s playing time increased following Emmanuel Akot’s transfer last month and he’s close to the same player he was last year at Pittsburgh. Playing alongside Jeter has hurt his rebounding percentages but Luther has compensated by working on his outside shooting and making 37% on 3+ attempts per game.

G- Dylan Smith, Jr. 6’5, 170: 6.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 32.8% FG, 36.6% 3pt, 67.7% FT

Smith had a terrible start to the season but has seen a David Crisp-like renaissance in conference play. He shot just 29% on 3-pointers in the non-conference but has turned it around and made nearly 46% in Pac-12 play. That’s good for Arizona as his offensive game is entirely predicated on shooting 3’s although he’s also a solid rebounder for a 6’5 wing. The former UNC-Asheville recruit is shooting just 26%(!!!) on 2-pointers so the Huskies don’t have to worry about him except for behind the arc.

G- Brandon Randolph, So. 6’6, 175: 15.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 40.6% FG, 32.7% 3pt, 85% FT

No player in the Pac-12 has seen their points per game rise as much as Randolph’s. That shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise as his playing time has tripled and he’s taking 10% more of Arizona’s shots when he’s on the floor this year with all 5 starters from 2018 gone. He’s a lanky wing that fits the definition of a volume scorer as he shoots average percentages from every part of the court and doesn’t really pass the ball. But he doesn’t turn it over either as he leads the Pac-12 in turnover % and has just 4 total in 9 conference games.

G- Justin Coleman, Sr. 5’10, 170: 9.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 41.6% FG, 40.3% 3pt, 81.5% FT

The Samford grad transfer completes a quartet of transfers in Arizona’s starting lineup while taking the place of the injured Brandon Williams. He’s the Wildcats’ best 3-pt shooter but surprisingly has only taken one all season from the corners so he’ll mostly shoot from the wing or straight away. Coleman’s assist numbers are way down from last season as he has shared primary ball handling duties but he’s had at least 4 assists now in 6 of his last 7 games including 9 at ASU (albeit in OT playing 44 minutes).

Arizona Shot Chart

The Wildcats bizarrely are shooting 45% from one corner and 27% from the other. Fortunately, their worst shooting side is the one that Jaylen Nowell is normally defending who has the shortest wingspan for closing out of any Husky playing the corners. Otherwise, this is a fairly mediocre offensive shooting team from everywhere else on the court.

Synergy Sports

The Outlook

This has not been a good start to the week for the Arizona basketball program. First they announced that PG Brandon Williams would miss both games this week. He is their starting point guard and was averaging 12 points and 3.7 assists per game. As the team leader in assists and second in field goal attempts he’s a major piece of the rotation and will be greatly missed. Then it came out that the NCAA was beginning an official investigation related to the FBI investigation and Arizona’s top assistant was suspended with the intention of being terminated because of his involvement in a fraudulent online course for top prospect Shareef O’Neal who ended up going to UCLA anyways. And now hopefully they’ll also be dealing with a 4-game losing streak.

Because the current 3-game skid corresponds with the toughest 2 weeks on Arizona’s calendar. The Wildcats traveled to the L.A schools without center Chase Jeter and were blown out by 20+ points in both games. They got Jeter back going to rival Arizona State but lost PG Brandon Williams and ended up falling in overtime 95-88. Now they get to come back home but are going up against the best team in the conference.

It will be an interesting battle when Arizona has the ball against the Washington zone. In general, the Wildcats have been a very poor offensive team against the zone. They rank in the 14th percentile nationally per Synergy Sports against zones and UW’s is among the best zones in the country. I posted their overall shot chart above but their shot chart against the zone is even more pathetic:

2018-19 Arizona Shot Chart against Zone Defenses
Synergy Sports

There are only two stats where the overall Arizona offense has been far above average this season. The first is in taking care of the ball. They’re 14th nationally in steal percentage, getting the ball stolen on only 7% of possessions. Meanwhile, the Huskies are 4th in the country at getting steals at 12.9%. If Washington is able to get the possession advantage through turnovers then the Wildcats have no shot. The 2nd area is FT percentage as every rotation player shoots at least 65% from the line. If Arizona gets a home whistle and are constantly at the line then they’ll make UW pay.

The big wildcard on Washington’s side is the status of Noah Dickerson. As of now he’s listed as questionable but if I had to guess I’d say that he doesn’t suit up. And if he does he likely won’t be 100%. That’s big because Arizona is last in Pac-12 play in opponent’s free throw rate meaning they send their opponents to the line a ton. And Noah leads the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. If he’s able to go and is effective then we will likely see UW taking 20+ free throws.

Otherwise, the big emphasis for Arizona defensively appears to be eliminating the corner 3-pointer. Opponents are shooting just 13 of 58 (22%) on what is generally the most efficient shot in basketball. But those wild closeouts mean there’s space to drive and Arizona is below average guarding both at the rim and around the free throw line. Jaylen Nowell could have a field day in this one if he stays aggressive.

This will just always be a thing to note from now on but Arizona has only gone full court press on 2.5% of their defensive possessions this year. But it wouldn’t surprise me if they consistently give it a try with the amount UW has struggled with it.

This feels like a good matchup for Washington. I’m less concerned about a potential Noah Dickerson absence from what it means for the Husky offense as for what it does to UW’s front court depth. Coach Hopkins was non-committal this week when asked whether Bryan Penn-Johnson would play again this year and I think ideally the team would like to try to redshirt him at this point (yes, he has appeared in a few games this year but he has played 15 total minutes. Tres Tinkle had played 209 minutes in the season for which he was ultimately granted a medical redshirt so I think BPJ has a good shot at being granted one if he doesn’t play again). That means Hameir Wright and Sam Timmins will need to hold up all game. If the refs are calling touch fouls then Chase Jeter has a chance to dominate on the boards and single-handedly keep Arizona in the game.

The Zona Zoo will be loud and motivated coming off last year’s game and given UW’s status as the conference frontrunner. And Arizona is an astounding 95-5 in their last 100 home games. However, this Arizona tam is much worse than any Tucson team since 2012 when they went 12-6 in the conference but ended up in the NIT so that stat doesn’t mean as much as it used to. It makes sense then that tonight is the first time since that same 2012 season when Arizona was a home underdog. This UW team has shown resiliency on the road recently and I see it continuing.

The Prediction

Washington Huskies- 72, Arizona Wildcats- 63


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