Date: Thursday, 12/31/20
Tip-Off Time: 5:00 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: KJR 950 AM/KVI 570
Location: Seattle, Washington
Betting line: Washington +8.5
Arizona Wildcats 2020-21 Statistics:
Points For per Game: 78.4 ppg (57th)
Points Against per Game: 64.0 ppg (49th)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 110.6 (29th)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 94.2 (43rd)
Strength of Schedule: 213th
Arizona Key Players:
G- James Akinjo, Jr. 6’1, 185: 14.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 5.1 apg, 35.1% FG, 37.2% 3pt, 73.9% FT
The Georgetown transfer is still an atrocious finisher around the rim but has reverted back to his freshman year form when he hit 39% of 3-pt attempts compared to 24% as a sophomore. He’s been able to come in and immediately replace Nico Mannion’s stats albeit against a weaker non-conference schedule.
G- Jemarl Baker, Jr. 6’5, 195: 15.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, 48.9% FG, 43.8% 3pt, 83.3% FT
In his junior year Baker has made a giant leap and become more efficient while simultaneously shouldering a greater load. Baker’s % of shots taken while on the court has gone up from 19% to 26% and his offensive rating has increased from 107 to 129. That might not be sustainable for the former Kentucky wildcat but he has thrived so far.
F- Dalen Terry, Fr. 6’7, 195: 4.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 34.3% FG, 23.5% 3pt, 53.3% FT
The only non-international freshman for Arizona has been a role player so far for Arizona but is still seeing plenty of the court. The offensive struggles are legitimate but he has been a fantastic wing defender for them so far as he ranks in the top-20 in both block and steal percentage within the Pac-12.
F- Jordan Brown, So. 6’11, 235: 10.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 65.3 FG, 61.8% FT
It’s clear to see why Brown was a highly rated big man as he’s close to automatic when he gets the ball around the rim. Foul trouble putting him on the bench has been the biggest flaw but he should dominate Washington on the glass whenever he’s on the court.
F- Azuolas Tubelis, Fr. 6’11, 245: 7.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 45.2% FG, 28.6% 3pt, 62.9% FT
Similar to Terry, Tubelis is a freshman who has come in and is tied for the team lead in steal percentage and is 3rd for Arizona in block percentage. He has 3-pt range even if he’s not a fantastic shooter and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they put him in the middle of Washington’s zone as he should be able to easily get off those midrange jumpers at his height and is capable of making them.
Arizona 2020-21 Shot Chart
Yowza. That’s a lot of red which is bad for Washington. Of particular note is that they’ve been really good hitting that free throw line jumper which is the one place that can most easily bust open the Husky zone. 17 shots is still a pretty small sample size but the Arizona guards appear quite comfortable shooting runners and floaters in that area.
This should be the start of conference play but with the addition of 2 bonus conference games in December plus a pandemic-influenced decision to play Colorado as a non-con it means Washington is already 0-3 against Pac-12 opponents. If you’re looking for a bright spot it’s that after yesterday the Huskies can’t finish with the #12 seed in the Pac-12 tournament for the second consecutive year.
Arizona announced yesterday they are self-imposing a postseason ban which includes the Pac-12 tournament. What remains to be seen is how that’s going to affect the basketball team that otherwise is coming off a monumental win over Colorado.
That win over the Buffaloes (who we saw beating in UW’s brains the last time the Huskies took the court) is really the only accomplishment of note on Arizona’s resume. They played 0 teams with a KenPom ranking in the top-125 in the non-conference. 4 of their wins against teams ranked between 130-160 were at home and all but one of them came by single digits. Arizona is good but this isn’t a normal 7-1 Arizona team.
The Wildcats almost completely revamped their roster after last season as there is only one non-freshman on this roster that signed with Arizona coming out of high school (Ira Lee who is 9th in minutes). They’ve gone with a strict 9-man rotation and every single player has been above average on at least one end of the court.
Transfers are certainly responsible for much of the scoring punch as 47 points per game have been scored by the combination of Akinjo (Georgetown), Baker (Kentucky), Brown (Nevada), and Brown (Seattle). The latter of whom Husky fans have to be kicking themselves they weren’t able to acquire. After being a high volume scorer for Seattle, Brown has been one of the most efficient players in the country with a truly absurd 30-3 assist to turnover ratio while shooting 50% from 3-point range.
Outside of having the 6’1 Akinjo at point guard this is a really big team. You’ll often see 2 of the trio of 6’11 Brown, 6’11 Tubelis, and 7’1 Koloko on the court at the same time and that helps explain why the Wildcats are 17th nationally in offensive rebound percentage and 10th in free throw attempts per field goal attempt. Expect Arizona to try to get the ball down low as often as possible despite UW’s zone and give Nate Roberts and Riley Sorn a lot of problems.
On the defensive end they’ve had problems containing quicker guards on the perimeter so there will be opportunities for Quade Green to hit pull-up free throw jumpers which has been one of his go-to moves so far. There might not be many wide open layups with Arizona’s size but all of their big men are fairly foul prone so they can’t be afraid to wander into the trees. Washington’s best chance is getting those Arizona bigs to play hesitant and they have to challenge them early to see how the refs are calling contact down low.
Washington had a 10 day break before this game. The sincere hope is that they did some soul searching and worked their butts off during that time to figure some things out. This same Husky team came within one possession of beating Oregon at home who I think is better than this Arizona squad. An A+ UW effort is good enough to pull off an upset. The problem is that an A- effort might not do it and so until we see some sustained fight there’s no reason to expect it to happen.
Washington Huskies- 59, Arizona Wildcats- 74
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