Date: Thursday, 1/30/20
Tip-Off Time: 6:00 pm PT
Radio: KOMO 1000
Location: Seattle, Washington
Betting line: Washington +2.5
Arizona 2019-20 Statistics:
Record: 13-6 (3-3)
Points For per Game: 80.7 ppg (6th)
Points Against per Game: 65.7 ppg (79th)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 115.0 (11th)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 93.3 (31st)
Strength of Schedule: 44th overall
Arizona Key Players:
C- Chase Jeter, Sr. 6’10, 240: 8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.6 bpg, 57.3% FG, 59.3% FT
Jeter has missed the past 3 games for Arizona with a back injury and it’s unclear whether he’ll be back on the court against UW although he returned to practice last week.
F- Zeke Nnaji, Fr. 6’11, 240: 16.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 65.3% FG, 79.3% FT
Nnaji has been nearly the equal of UW’s Isaiah Stewart this season and has scored at least 16 points in 14 of Arizona’s 19 games. He has had some struggles against teams with elite defensive centers such as Oregon and Colorado so there’s a chance he has a relative down night against UW. But a down night for Nnaji means something along the order of 12 points and 8 rebounds so he’ll be a major factor all night.
F- Josh Green, Fr. 6’6, 210: 12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, 42.0% FG, 30.2% 3pt, 79.1% FT
Green was a 5-star recruit coming into the year and he’s been good but not quite the scorer he was advertised to be. But he’s been adept at forcing turnovers on the defensive end of the floor and leads Arizona’s in steals as their primary wing defender. While Green hasn’t been all-conference at any one thing he’s at least average at essentially everything which has a lot of value.
G- Dylan Smith Sr. 6’5, 185: 8.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 42.7% FG, 42.3% 3pt, 74.2% FT
Smith shot between 33% and 35% in each of his first 3 seasons but has stepped up his game as a senior and is now a deadly 3-point sniper. He still struggles mightily to convert shots driving to the hoop and against the Husky zone will almost certainly be called upon solely to knock down open jumpers and play good defense.
G- Nico Mannion, Fr. 6’3, 190: 14.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.8 apg, 42.3% FG, 34.8% 3pt, 85.7% FT
Mannion has been just about as advertised as one of the best PG recruits in the country and is capable of shifting his game to match the situation. Expect Mannion to have the ball in his hands a ton as he probes the Husky zone for opportunities to get the ball down low to Nnaji or Jeter while the UW defense is out of position.
2019-20 Arizona Shot Chart
Not exactly a lot of weaknesses for this Arizona offense. The only place you could suggest they struggle is on those midrange shots from the wings and baseline and that’s what the Husky zone will give them until they prove they can make it.
You might think that no loss could top Washington’s collapse against Oregon but Arizona in their previous outing blew a 22 point lead against in-state rival Arizona State to fall to 3-3 in the conference. It’s not surprising that both schools rank among the bottom 30 schools nationally in KenPom’s “luck” metric which shows the discrepancy between a team’s point differential and their overall record.
Arizona’s woes have not just been in holding onto leads but also about winning games on the road. So far this season the Wildcats are 0-4 in true road games and 3-5 away from home overall. That’s likely more about their opponents than it is about the narrative of a young team that doesn’t know how to win games away from home. Arizona’s road losses have come to Baylor and Oregon (two ranked teams) as well as Arizona State and Oregon State who at the very least are decent power conference teams. Still, Washington has to hope that the Arizona players will be overthinking things in the final few minutes if it’s close or even if it’s not.
It’s no surprise that Arizona is sporting one of the best offenses in the sport. Their vaunted freshman trio of Mannion, Green, and Nnaji are shooting a combined 55% from 2 and 33% from 3 while leading the team in shot attempts. They give Arizona deadly threats from all 3 levels: ball handler, wing, and big. Surrounding them is a supporting cast filled with 3-point shooters (Smith 42%, Baker 41%, Hazzard, 39%, and Gettings 47%) as well as low post scorers (Jeter and Lee). It’s a well rounded team that has the pieces to mix and match against any opponent.
Given that it’s not surprising to see that the Wildcats don’t really have a weakness. They’re middle the road in unforced errors but make up for it by not giving up live ball turnovers. Since Pac-12 play started they’ve struggled to draw fouls which is likely because Chase Jeter has been out injured. But they’ve made up for it by hitting a scalding 38.2% of 3-pointers going to a smaller guard based lineup.
Arizona’s still a very good defensive team but compared to their offense it stands out as an achilles heel. With Nnaji and Jeter protecting the rim they try to discourage opponents from getting the ball down low to their big men and are effective at taking away those shots. The Wildcats are a little bit foul happy so driving/penetrating guards can get to the free throw line a lot. If only the Huskies still had one of those... This might be a game where Naz Carter has to put the team on his back and play one of his best games for Washington to pull it out.
On top of all of the regular matchup concerns there’s also the completely unknowable situation of how the team has reacted to the usage of Jaden McDaniels in the Colorado game. If he takes it as a wake up call and plays up to his team basketball at his talent level rather than forcing up 18 foot pull up jump shots every time he touches the ball then it would help immensely. If he goes the other way and sulks then who knows what that does to the team chemistry.
I’m absolutely not dismissing the possibility that Washington starts to turn things around with a massive win over Arizona tonight. At some point the Huskies have to catch a break or two, right? I certainly hope so. But right now it’s just hope.
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