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Washington Huskies vs Arizona Wildcats Basketball Preview

After a surprising win over the ASU Sun Devils Thursday night, the Huskies look to pull off another upset as they face the #1 Arizona Wildcats Saturday at the McKale center.

Christian Petersen

The Match Up: Washington Huskies at #1 Arizona Wildcats

Game Info: 1/4/13- 11 AM tip off at the McKale Center

TV Info: Pac-12 Networks Radio: Sports Radio KJR 950

Record: 2013-14: 14-0 2012-13: 25-7

Coach: The Wildcats are coached by Sean Miller, who is in his 5th year with Arizona. Miller coached at Xavier from 2004-2009, where he had four 20 win seasons and reached four consecutive NCAA tournaments. Miller has a career record of 230-90. As a player at the University of Pittsburgh, Miller played in three NCAA Tournaments and had the assist on the famous "Send it in Jerome!" dunk by Jerome Lane.

Series: Overall the Wildcats lead the all time series against the Huskies 28-46, but under Lorenzo Romar the UW is 13-12 against Arizona. Last season Arizona swept the season series against the Huskies.

Scouting Report

  • Heading into the season the Wildcats were the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 and so far have not disappointed. Arizona holds non conference wins against San Diego State, Duke, UNLV, and Michigan.
  • Arizona set a new McKale Center record by holding Washington State to just 25 points in a 60-25 win to open Pac-12 play on Thursday. The Cougars scored seven points in the first half and shot 9-45 from the field for the game.
  • UW is 1-1 against teams ranked #1 under Lorenzo Romar, with the one win coming on March 6, 2004 in a 75-62 upset over Stanford at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.  In 2006, the Huskies lost to #1 UCLA 96-74.
  • Arizona is the home of highly touted freshman Aaron Gordon, who had his list narrowed down to Oregon, Arizona, and Washington before picking the Wildcats. Gordon, a San Jose native, was ranked as a top 5 player for the class of 2013 by many recruiting services, won the MVP at the McDonald's All-American game, and has a highlight tape full of dunks that’s been viewed almost 2 million times on Youtube. Gordon is a do it all player currently averaging 12 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. Gordon will most likely be a top 10 pick when he decides to enter the NBA draft and has drawn comparisons ranging from Blake Griffin to Shawn Marion.

Players to Watch:

  • Nick Johnson- 6’3 shooting guard- Johnson is currently the Wildcats leading scorer at 15.4 PPG. Johnson is athletic scoring guard who can beat you off the dribble as well as score from the outside. Johnson is currently shooting 48% from the field, 81% from the free throw line, and 37% from three. A native of Gilbert, Arizona, Johnson played with Nigel Williams Goss at Findlay Prep for two seasons.
  • Brandon Ashley- 6’8 power forward- Another highly rated recruit out of Findlay Prep, the sophomore big man has shown improvements in many statistical categories this season, averaging 12.1 points and a team leading 7.1 rebounds per game. Ashley is shooting an impressive 53 % from the field, 72% from the free throw line, and has even shown some three point range, knocking down 8-20 (40%) on the season.
  • T.J. McConnell- 6’1 point guard- After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, McConnell has taken over as the Wildcats floor general, and is leading the team with 6.2 assists per game. McConnell is a pass first point guard, averaging just 6.6 PPG, but averages just 2 turnovers a game and is a solid defensive player. McConnell will face a size disadvantage against the bigger guards of UW, but will have no problem facing a challenge, as he earned Atlantic 10 first team all-defense with Duquesne in 2012.

The Huskies Win If...

They take care of the ball and limit Arizona to one shot per possession. In many games this season, most notably against SDSU and UConn, the Huskies found themselves in contention but shot themselves in the foot by giving away possessions. Arizona is too good of a team to be giving extra possessions so if the Huskies can control the ball and maximize their shots on offense, they can limit Arizona from getting easy buckets. Also, Arizona's giant front line will have a huge size advantage over the UW, so the Huskies most put an emphasis on boxing out and keeping the Wildcats off the offensive glass. With Arizona having decent but not great three point shooting I expect the Huskies to run some zone, so boxing out becomes even more important.  Arizona is a tenacious team that will take any opportunity they can get so if the Huskies don't finish defensive possessions after one shot, they will have no chance at beating the Wildcats.

The Huskies Win If...

They avoid lulls on offense. Arizona is a team whose offense starts with their defense, so if the Huskies find themselves going on dry spells, Arizona could build a big lead in a hurry. The Huskies will need to push the tempo and look to score easy baskets like they did against ASU, as well as use a balanced scoring attack. One of Arizona's few weaknesses is their lack of depth, so if they are able to push the tempo against their giant front line, they could wear the Wildcats down in the second half. Much like I said last game, a lot is going to have to go right for the Huskies to win, but I think they will need a big offensive night to have any chance.

Closing Comment:

After a surprising blowout win against ASU, the Arizona trip is already a success for UW, so the Huskies should have no fear facing the #1 ranked Wildcats. Everyone knows Arizona will be fired up to play in front of their home crowd, so if the Huskies can stay in it early on and take the crowd out of it, anything can happen. Regardless, Arizona is too good to pick against so I will take the Wildcats 80-62.

Leave your comments and prediction for the game in the comment section below. Go Dawgs!