How to Watch (and bet)
Date: Monday, 1/3/21
Tip-Off Time: 5:00 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: Huskies Gameday App
Location: Tucson, Arizona
DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies +25
Arizona 2021-22 Statistics:
Points For per Game: 89.5 ppg (1st)
Points Against per Game: 64.0 ppg (62nd)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 113.8 (15th)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 88,8 (11th)
Strength of Schedule: 145th
Arizona Wildcats Key Players:
G- Kerr Kriisa, Fr. 6’3, 180: 11.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.2 apg, 39.2% FG, 34.4% 3pt, 71.4% FT
Last season Kriisa played entirely off the ball with James Akinjo and Terrell Brown Jr. on the roster. Now as the starting point guard he has become transformed. His assist rate has nearly doubled, his turnover rate has been cut in half and his steal rate has tripled. We’ll see which of those keep up once conference play starts but he has been a wonderful distributor for Arizona. Last year 90% of his shots were 3-pointers and this year it’s 80% so he still doesn’t like to drive to the basket.
G- Dalen Terry, Fr. 6’7, 195: 6.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.8 apg, 44.9% FG, 23.8% 3pt, 80.0% FT
Similar story for Terry who was viewed as a tall point guard prospect coming out of high school and instead was a wing under Miller. Just like Kriisa his assist rate has doubled and his turnover rate has been cut in half and he also has cut way down on his 3-pt attempts (from 45% of his shots to 30%). He still doesn’t shoot a lot but he’s been a winning basketball player who keeps the ball moving and doesn’t hurt an offense.
G- Benedict Mathurin, Fr. 6’6. 210: 13.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.1 apg, 49.4% FG, 37.8% 3pt, 79.6% FT
There was speculation Mathurin would be a one and done after last year but he decided to come back and has looked like one of the best wings in the country over the last month. He can hurt you in a lot of ways and some of his closest player comps on KenPom include Khris Middleton and Allonzo Trier.
F- Azuolas Tubelis, Fr. 6’11, 245: 15.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, 58.3% FG, 22.2% 3pt, 66.1% FT
It was immediately evident last year that Tubelis was an incredibly skilled big who could do just about everything as a true freshman. That hasn’t changed as he has seemingly leveled up and become even more dominant in the paint. He’s shooting 65% on 2-pointers while drawing 6 fouls per 40 minutes. He hasn’t done it as much this year but he can also step out and shoot the 3 at a solid but not spectacular level.
C- Christian Koloko, So. 7'1, 230: 12.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.3 bpg, 62.5% FG, 73.9% FT
Perhaps the biggest reason for Arizona’s early success has been the transformation of Koloko. Last season he was basically Aziz N’Diaye. A 7-footer who could dunk it but didn’t show much in the way of post moves while serving as an adequate shot blocker. His numbers have dipped in the last month with 3 games with 6 or fewer points in the last 5 games but he looked like an All-American center in the first month of the year.
Until this game actually happens I won’t believe that it actually has. This will be the 4th potential Pac-12 opener for Washington this season and somewhat interestingly it was the intended first one as well. Almost exactly one month ago the Huskies were supposed to play at Tucson before the Huskies became almost the first program in the country to have a COVID-19 outbreak this season before it became the norm. That outbreak caused the next game against UCLA to be canceled and finally Wazzu had an outbreak postponing last week’s game in Pullman. This certainly isn’t going to be an easy one for Washington.
The play of Arizona so far under new coach Tommy Lloyd shows how ridiculous it was Sean Miller had a job even if you ignore the numerous recruiting violations. True, the Arizona roster is a year older but he is still taking a team that is 355th in experience and 185th in minutes continuity and upgraded it from a solid Pac-12 team to a potential Final 4 contender (KenPom’s experience ranking is based on eligibility not actual years played so they would rank better in that metric if not for the mulligan year).
Arizona ranks top-15 in the country in multiple key metrics so far this year. Let’s start on the defensive end. The Wildcats are #1 in opponent 2-point percentage. Christian Koloko has become a dominant rim protector and teams haven’t been able to get anything done in the paint against him. 7’0 center Oumar Ballo who came over from Gonzaga hasn’t been quite the shot blocker but would be 1st on the team in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate if he played enough minutes to qualify.
You might say to yourself “okay then there will be open shots on the perimeter, right?” Wrong. Teams are shooting just 31.5% from 3-pt range against Arizona. Koloko has been able to shut off the interior all by himself which means that a Wildcats team that ranks 2nd in the country in average height can use all their 6’3 to 6’7 wings to hound teams hunting for open shots.
You can see that Tommy Lloyd has brought over Gonzaga’s offensive system and been able to implement it with similar raw talent. Arizona ranks 3rd in the country by assisting on 65.3% of their made baskets. Coming into this season the lack of point guard was seemingly their biggest weakness. However Kerr Kriisa has been a breakout player and the team as a whole shares the ball and doesn’t rely on isolation play.
Arizona doesn’t shoot it great from the perimeter so if Washington has a choice in this game it’s going to be better for them to give up open 3’s than just allow Koloko and Tubelis to do whatever they want 1v1 in the paint. But Hopkins hasn’t shown much willingness to double team or prevent opposing squads from posting up whenever they want this year. And when Arizona does miss a shot they’re 11th in offensive rebounding rate so they should get all the 2nd chances they want against Washington.
It’s hard to imagine a team that is a worse matchup for the Huskies (except for maybe Gonzaga). There are times when Washington’s defense is scrappy but Arizona should be able to completely pick them apart. On the other end UW has major problems scoring and relies on getting into the paint and getting fouled. Arizona has one of the best rim protecting units in the country. And on top of everything else it’s a true road game at the Zona Zoo (although classes aren’t in session which may help). I would love to be wrong but I can’t imagine how this goes well for the Dawgs and see an emphatic 0-1 start to conference play.
Washington Huskies- 59, Arizona Wildcats- 89
(We did an Opponent Q&A with AZ Desert Swarm back before the teams were supposed to play the first time in case you’re interested what their thoughts were back then)