Category Archives: Arizona

arizona mile run

The Journey of Unfinished Business

This year it was section 106 of the Staples Center. My brother and I swapped seats in that section’s sixteenth row and Arizona outscored Xavier en route to their second consecutive Elite Eight. It was our second annual (but really billionth) seat swap instigating a Sweet Sixteen comeback. Previously I’d called it sorcery. We even tried it again on Saturday but the only sorcery inside the Staples Center that night was exacted by Sam Dekker. The Sheboygan Sorcerer.

And isn’t it all silly?

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Miller Tunnel

Unfinished Business

“Unfinished business.”

Four times Kaleb Tarczewski sad these words as he declared his return to Arizona. He doesn’t’ say much so the repeated phrase presumably meant a lot. I know it resonated with me. After all, we were just weeks removed from a devastating outcome in cursed Anaheim. Kaleb, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would join TJ McConnell in finishing the 2014 deed. And that’s how this season began: with the expectations of 2014. Continue reading

TJMcConnell

TJ McConnell As The Consummate Point Guard

On November 9, 2011, the sixteenth ranked Arizona Wildcats committed 21 turnovers. They would win that basketball game, 67-59, despite their starting backcourt combining for 2 assists and 8 turnovers. Including guard efforts off the bench, the backcourt numbers balloon to 5 and 11. That was the last game TJ McConnell would lose in the McKale Center. He was a sophomore guard for the Duquesne Dukes and six months later he would transfer to the University of Arizona. Continue reading

TJMcConnell

T.J. McConnell: Unassisted Jump Shots & Steady Improvement

My high school baseball coach used to tell us that each day we either got better or worse. We never stayed the same. If that were the case, then we were expected to steadily improve. The goal to get better each day.

So maybe it’s OK that TJ McConnell struggled out of the gate. He was playing at a historically low offensive rate and Arizona didn’t look its presumed dominant self. His shooting percentages through the season’s first five games was flirting with devastation (31%). Everyone who proclaimed Arizona to be shooting inept was validated in their concern.

Steady improvement. Continue reading

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 12.42.47 AM

Q&A with Connor Pelton: Oregon State is paying a return visit

Connor Pelton is a long time friend of the program. I use the term colloquially because I don’t really know how long he’s befriended PacHoops. What I do know, however, is that Connor is a helluva Rush the Court contributor, a House of Sparky staple, and a lifelong Beaver. So with the latter (lattermost?) of Connor’s areas of expertise headed to the McKale Center, I thought we’d let CP scratch the curiosity itch.

My questions. Connor’s answers:

What is Oregon State missing in Victor Robbins?

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010310_SPT_U-M vs. OSU_MRM

Q&A with Dylan Burkhardt: Michigan comes to Tucson

When these teams squared off a season ago, Michigan was unranked and playing with a broken Mitch McGary. Four months later they had no Mitch McGary and were outfight B1G champs albeit the unfortunate carnage of the Harrison family in the Elite Eight (doesn’t losing in the Elite Eight suck?). The Michigan Wolverines are a real deal basketball program and losing to the New Jersey Institute of Technology is not indicative of really anything. So strike that from your memories.

Of course these two schools are now forever-ish linked by the career of Rich Rodriguez. Arizona still hasn’t been to a Rose Bowl and Michigan doesn’t have a football coach. This is basketball season.

And so, for the final edition of this home-and-home series, I’m asking the hard question of UM Hoops blogger, Dylan Burkhardt, umhoops.com. The game is Saturday. The lesson starts now.

(here are the Q’s he asked me if you’re interested)

My questions. His answers. Continue reading

AZ Cartoons

Arizona Wildcats Basketball Preview: The World According to You

I couldn’t do it. I’ve previewed eleven of the twelve teams in this conference but I knew that I couldn’t preview the Arizona Wildcats without egregious, alienating amounts of bias. I mean, I could do it, I’m just not sure you’d want me to. In a season like this I had to step back for fear of alienating you, my friends. So I asked – well – my friends to preview the Wildcats for us! Section by section, fellow interneters and real-life friends preview the 2014-15 Arizona Wildcats. The World According to You:

Wildcat Intro (Ben Burrows, Rumblin’ Buff)

What exactly is a Giant Death Robot?  Well, it’s the apex predator of the Civilization word of Sid Meier, a hulking killing machine noted for being ‘a towering mass of guns, rockets and futuristic death-rays.’  It’s also my pet name for the 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats.  Considering how badly they thrashed my Buffs in three meetings, I’m possibly biased by circumstance, but that bunch certainly was a writhing machine of death for many of their opponents.  The whole melange of destruction was based on a ferocious defense that stood as one of the best I’ve ever witnessed in person.  They would expel all their energy by the Elite Eight, falling in overtime to Wisconsin, but I don’t necessarily hold that against them.  Last season’s Tournament was especially bonkers, and Frank Kaminsky was born to give them fits. C’est la vie.

The trick then becomes, how does Sean Miller and crew reform the GDR after losing probably their two best players in consensus All-American Nick Johnson and athletic wunderkind Aaron Gordon? *laughs* Just kidding, there’s no trick, it’s just the typical tango of some elite returners and a top-5 recruiting class.  I guess that’s life at the top…

Why Brad Loves Them (friend of the program):

I’ll leave that to Stanley Johnson:

“I love to win; that’s why I came to school here. I thought we have the tools to win and the people that are here love to win as well. I think winning is an attribute. It’s a mentality and it comes with competitiveness.”

He’s right. For his part, Johnson is the reigning California Mr. Basketball (succeeding Aaron Gordon) and has won 70 straight high school games. As for “the people that are here,” they won 33 games last year and lost just 5 – by a combined 12 points. Maybe a coincidence, but they didn’t lose a game until they they lost Brandon Ashley to injury – he was averaging 12 points a game. Arizona is starting three McDonald’s All-Americans. The other two have seven years of experience and 13 feet between them. Of those one was a Cousy Award finalist (best collegiate PG) as a junior, and the other is a 7-foot center who averaged 9 and 6 last year (in just 28 minutes). For depth, Arizona will sprinkle in a bench with another seven footer, a 39% 3-point shooter (and another one that might be better), a five-star PG, and the top JuCo player in the country.  So, why do I love them? Because they’re climbin’ a ladder in Lucas Oil. Besides, I’m not the only one:

Why Connor Hates Them (House of Sparky):

So, obviously there is a lot to like about this team. But my job isn’t to tell you why the Wildcats are so good. Adam can do that, or any number of the preseason publications can. I have been called upon to nitpick this team, and so I will direct you to their backcourt. Sure, it is a talented one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is one of the top groups of guards in the country towards the end of the year. But there are also a lot of fresh faces, and I’m not sure if the group will gel enough in time to perform at peak potential early on in the season when Arizona has to play against teams like Gonzaga, Michigan, or any number of the quality opponents out at the Maui Invitational. To be honest, I would rather have a duo of Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson to navigate my team through that challenging non-conference slate. That combo is the elite, experienced mix of players I want running my offense.

Of course, with that being said, games in November and December are needed for newcomers to get their feet wet. I’m sure Sean Miller wouldn’t trade guys like Stanley Johnson and Kadeem Allen, because you know that come tournament time, they will be drawing oohhs and aahhs from fans around the country as Arizona marches from Portland to Los Angeles to Indianapolis. I just don’t think they are “elite” enough to garner a preseason top five ranking. And if that’s the biggest problem I can find with this team, they’ll surely be fine.
 Jason’s Stat You Must Know (All Buffs):
41
This is Stanley Johnson’s retired number at Mater Dei High School. At MDHS we won four consecutive state titles and the 2014 National Championship. He lost just 7 games as a Monarch. Other notable Monarchs to have their numbers retired include: [field, blank]. A school that has produced Miles Simon, Reggie Geary, The Wear Family, Jamal Sampson, DJ Strawberry, and Mike Hopkins has retired just one jersey. #41. Stanley.
Top-5 Stanley’s According to Luc (The Stoop Kids)
  1. Yelnats
  2. Flat
  3. Johnson
  4. Kubrick
  5. “Tookie” Williams

Here is where I make my triumphant return to preview. I wanted to keep it brief and poignant. It’s me again.

Mountain High (best possible season):

Win their last six games and finish ninth in the Western Conference, 1.5 games out of the eight seed.

Rock Bottom (worst possible season):

Los Angeles.

Andre and Nick

Nick Johnson Declares for the NBA Draft

I put all my eggs into the narrative basket and lost.

In November, I managed to get 5 minutes and 37 seconds with Nick Johnson. I asked him questions and he answered. Together, we came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter what the name of the sandwich he got at beyond bread was, but only that he enjoyed it.

When we pivoted to basketball, he had glowing things to say about the progress of Gabe York and the contributions – to his career – of Kyle Fogg. Nick is a bright and thoughtful kid. I thought I had a nice article brewing. And then I asked him about goals.

I like goals. I’ve played sports my whole life and we used to set them there. I have a job and we set them there. I have a life and I set them there. Goals, as it were, have a tendency to help us achieve things. Sometimes we don’t always reach them, but so long as we try – we try real hard – we can’t soon be called a loser.

That Thursday afternoon, when I asked Nick Johnson what his personal goals were, he told  me, “Defensive player of the year.” Immediately I wanted to text my brother. Holy hell! If Johnson was to be the best defender, then Arizona was surely to be the best defenders, and my goodness were they going to be good. Mid-interview, as a professional courtesy, I didn’t text my brother.

But my excitement surrounding his remarks got me  thinking that maybe I was sitting on something bigger than just a nice preview.

I followed the personal goals question by inquiring as to the team goals. “We want to win the Pac-12 regular season. And then on to the tournament, the Pac-12 tournament and eventually get to a Final Four. And then after…” Here’s where he briefly paused. Then smirked. I think I was sitting calmly in my seat, if memory serves me correctly, but I cannot, confirm this. One can only hope that Johnson didn’t notice the fandom oozing out my pores.

He was wearing a gray Nike Jumpsuit. It was simple, with navy shouldering, the block A, a swoosh, and a patch:

NickPatch

You can kind of see it, another A and another swoosh. But also on there was a year, 1997 to be exact, noted on the sleeve patch. That’s the last and only time Arizona won a national title. After noting that his team was trying to get to a Final Four, I had an opportunity to jump back into the conversation.

My interjection, “You wanna put another patch on that jacket, don’t you?”

He smiled again, the consummate team guy, and told me, “Everything will take care of itself.” I thanked him for his time, we parted ways, and I texted every Wildcat fan in my phone.

But I never wrote the story. Like I said, I put this egg in the narrative basket, gambling everything would take care of itself, and it didn’t. Or at least not the way that I had imagined it. Arizona never made that Final Four. They didn’t even win the Pac-12 tournament. Nick Johnson was not your Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

He was the Player of the Year. The conference’s best player on their best team. He became an All-American and Wooden Award Finalist. I had asked Nick Johnson what his goal was and then I got to watch this kid obliterate that goal. That’s just great.

And yesterday he declared for the NBA draft.

It’s a decision I don’t necessarily agree with but that’s the opinion of the same guy who nearly texted everyone who knew while interviewing Johnson. A totally rational move (sarcasm font). We talked about his goals and he exceeded some with flying colors! He had about as complete a season as a college basketball player could have.

But similar to how it all changed on 2/1, Johnson’s decision leaves us with a lot of ‘what ifs’ that will ultimately A) not be answered until at least November, and B) perhaps never be answered. Indubitably, Arizona would have had one of its most talented rosters the school has ever rolled out had Johnson stayed.

As it were, he’s projected as the 20th PG or SG taken (second round) and the sixth Pac-12 player picked. Also to note, that same projection has seniors Shabazz Napier (1st round) and Russ Smith (2d round) picked ahead of Johnson.

Of course, there’s this:

The kid could come back. This was a very tough decisions. But if we’re going to premise this whole thing on goals, I think Nick sees his: the NBA. I also won’t soon assume to know what back room conversations were had or promises made. I won’t assume to know his rationale or decision making process.

What I can tell you is that I asked a kid about what he wanted to accomplish and then he bested that. Color me impressed. But that’s nothing knew with how I’ve long perceived Nick Johnson.

And I guess this is that strange, beautiful, awkward part of college sports. We know these players enter for a finite tenure. Nick Johnson isn’t leaving to take Steinbrenner money. He isn’t taking his talents to a superfriendship and breaking our hearts in Akron. Nick Johnson has had a goal to play at the highest level of the game he loves. How much can we really begrudge him this departure?

Yeah I selfishly want to see more of him in cardinal and navy. His presence would bring Stanley Johnson off the Wildcats’ 2015 bench. Maybe he’s leaving to be fair to everyone else? Like I said, I think there was more for him to accomplish in Tucson. And I wanted to cheer it, fulfill the narrative I had hoped would manifest.

But there’s even more for him to accomplish outside of Tucson. He’s off to do that.

Here’s to hoping Nick Johnson keeps exceeding his goals.

And Arizona puts another patch on that jacket.

Team Enters

BB: Our 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats

I’m always pretty honest here. I don’t love ASU and, despite being 6’5″, I’ve only dunked a handful of times. Fastballs don’t translate into verticals. And so to get my mind around, and my heart into, re-examining this season – if not that game – I needed some time. A passage of moments to absorb everything that was our (my) last five months. Because my team didn’t win and because they were supposed to. Because I watched a season, five months, rest confidently in the hands of Nick Johnson. And then the season didn’t quite make it out of his hands. To tell you that I didn’t hurt sitting in section 407, row B, seat 4, alongside my brother, would be a Badger faced lie. I hurt, alongside a fan base starving to be in North Texas, watching the most exciting iteration of their team – our Wildcats – fall one point short. Pain.

And in this afternoon there will be departures and returns. Perhaps some coaching changes down the line. New developments that might further dictate our feelings about those five months.

But for now, take a walk with me. Certainly not a run because a run might not let us appreciate things, the actual path. By running, we might get stuck with a singular memory of a ball, in hand, with a backlit backboard, and the wrong score. A run would neglect to recall how we got to Anaheim. So let’s walk. Walk to appreciate how we got there and because sometimes it helps to slow things down, make sure that this blog post doesn’t become one big :(. Also, my middle name is Walker. Fun fact.

Like any walk, I suppose we’d have to begin by getting off the couch. Of course that’s where it all began for me. I was amongst the more than 18,000 streaming a basketball scrimmage on a Saturday afternoon in October. On that day, TJ McConnell played defense. Yes, I was ecstatic to watch a 6’1” Pittsburgher play practice defense. A skill he’d assert 39 more times for my viewing pleasure.

But that was just a practice. We needed, craved, the real thing. And soon thereafter, by a convergence of love, convenience, and coincidence, I celebrated the first two games of the season and my dear friend’s wedding. In Tucson. God bless Sunday weddings in November.

Of course the Cal Poly game left something to be desired. The Mustangs (who would eventually win one NCAA tournament game) made eleven three-pointers and raised questions about whether or not the 2012-13 three-point defense was an anomaly or a trend. The Wildcats would go on to allow the 12th lowest percentage of threes in the nation. Opponents would make just 32% of whatever they got.

But Gabe York started, Kaleb Tarczewski grabbed zero rebounds, Jordin Mayes played 4 minutes to turn the ball over 3 times, and the team shot 56% from the line. Was this game foretelling? No, the next game was. An assertion of strength, execution, and we-are-better-than-you up and down the McKale floor.

The tone was set. Arizona would be the most exciting, defense oriented, pace conscious team there could be. At least that’s what we wanted. But their mettle was yet to be tested. Not even a win in San Diego meant enough. A stage, The World’s Most Famous Arena, was the only place to do it. So they went to Madison Square Garden, forced Jabari Parker into what would be the second worst offensive performance of his collegiate career (by ORtg), and left their scent all over the right coast. Early the following week, Carolina would win in East Lansing.

Four days later, Arizona was the number one team in the country. Back.

What do you think of our walk so far? Months of speculation about whether these Wildcats could shoot, lead, or get over their youthful hump had manifested into the nation’s top team. And it was fun. Validation of the previous tribulations that had seemingly set the program back. Number one again.

But this was December. Who cares about rankings – let alone college basketball – in December? The Wildcats had yet to take their toughest trip of the season, a frigid journey to Ann Arbor. I would join them. It become the upset dujour that weekend and perhaps deservedly so. Michigan was a talented squad playing at home. They’d go on to win the B1G and finish a dagger away from their second straight Final Four. Against Arizona, they led for more than 32 minutes. But Arizona won, Brandon Ashley was the best player on the floor during a game featuring countless NBA bound talent, and shit got real. Jim Nantz told me he’d see me in Dallas. I’m serious. The questions weren’t about whether the roster could do this or that, tt became, “Are they the best Arizona team, ever?” Jim fucking Nantz, you guys! And oh was it fun.

There were these:

aaron-gordon-vs-ucla-b

And this:

Rondae Dunk

And more:

aaron-gordon-double-clutch-reverseThere was a game that Washington State scored 7 points in an entire half. They scored just 0.46 points on each of their 54 possessions; twenty-five collective points from a high-major, Division-1 basketball team. That’s what Arizona was going to do to you.

And then these guys came up to see me. My team! Their first trip to the Bay Area in two years and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. My brother was going to be in town! The Wildcats! What a weekend.

But then it all changed.

The prohibitive favorites, winners of 21 straight and the top team in the land for eight straight weeks (a school record), lost in Berkeley. Sure the score read 58-60 and the court was preemptively rushed. How can an Arizona fan get pissed about that? Irrelevant. It all changed on February 1st when Brandon Ashley broke his foot. At the time, we couldn’t really speak of it. The foot failed but the team would not. Adjustments had to be made because there was still season to be played and we had to see Jim in Dallas. We’re on a walk here, right? Brandon couldn’t walk. It all changed.

And I buried that change, still absorbed by the narrative of January 31st, not February 2nd. Prohibitive favorites and now who knows what? Somberly, we left Haas that night with what felt like a season in flux. A proverbial tipping point. But the season couldn’t be buried in one podiatric misfortune. Onward the Wildcats would go. The feeling was buried. The season endured.

Exhibit A was a two-point home win over Oregon. Exhibit B was a hohum dismissal of the Beavers. The next two games would see the Wildcats in three overtimes, escaping with just one win. They lost in Tempe.

It all changed on 2/1 and whatever we buried was soon to bubble up. The aforementioned post-Ashley exhibits were less than encouraging and Colorado’s Keg was looming. Arizona had never won in Boulder as members of the Pac-12. Regardless, my buried feelings and tempered expectations flew to Boulder. With a busy mind, it wasn’t clear to me what would happen. I should have known better:aaron-gordon-dunk-gifColorado didn’t record a field goal for the game’s first ten minutes and Arizona won by 27. And then they won by 28 and then 13 and again we could believe. We could slip back into Goliath’s slippers and feel good in them.

There was a forgettable trip to Oregon before a defensive tour d’force through the MGM Grand Arena. Utah was throttled and Xavier Johnson – who once noted that the Wildcats “weren’t that good” – would make just 5 of 21 shots against the Wildcats after that January remark. And this:

Aaron Gordon BlockThen the Pac-12 championship game – Arizona and UCLA – was every bit the heavy weight battle it was supposed to be. The Pac-12 deserved and needed it. The Bruins punched first, taking it to Arizona’s top rated defense like no other team all season. The Wildcats, however, shot back. Raining from beyond the arc before settling into their more typical defensive effort. But when push came to shove – and it did – Jordan Adams hit the biggest shot. UCLA was your 2014 Pac-12 Tournament Champions. He didn’t touch the ball.

To this point I haven’t mentioned the walk we were on. It had a title, or at least I had one for it, “The Road to Dallas.” But this is the hardest part of the walk. The path narrows and the way more treacherous. Sudden death is a possibility. Sudden death is a reality. This is the NCAA tournament. You know all of this and when Arizona’s name was called on Sunday, you contemplated how you’d get to San Diego, Anaheim, and Dallas. I did. We toed the waters but never hesitated to jump in. Bring on the challenge.

And a challenge it is. Littered with hyperbolic prose surrounding its uncertainty and glass slippers. Goliaths enter and one exits. But you – we of the red shirts – were behind Goliath. The Wildcats were going to win this whole fucking thing.

And then they didn’t.

I had charged down Interstate-5 with my buddy, Jamie – a lifelong Badger, brilliant hoops mind, sports enthusiast, and beer drinker – for Thursday’s games. My brother was flying into LA to join. Jamie and I crashed at a friend’s Wednesday night, worked from Westwood the morning of, and then invaded the Honda Center. For Jamie, the early game was a breeze. Wisconsin was on to Saturday’s game faster than you could say ‘On Wisconsin.’

The Wildcats then took Thursday’s court and Nick Johnson scored 15 points in the games final 2:45. He made all of the free throws everyone thought the Wildcats would miss to send them packing from this tournament. The dismissal of SDSU evoked little sympathy. Self inflated with a brotastic following dripping with little brotherdom, I couldn’t have ushered them out any faster. And they were removed from the game’s hallowed event by the right  team. The Aztecs gave the West coast a go and the big kids will take it from here. Kthanksbye.

Which of course brings us to Saturday and me next to my brother at the tops of our chairs and lungs. The game itself could be dissected; examined for the minutiae of +/- data, offensive and defensive efficiencies, and probability charts. Ultimately, on the grandest stage where only one advances by any means possible – survival – the Badgers bettered the Wildcats. By one point. It needn’t be pretty, you just need to have the extra point.

For Arizona, they didn’t have the extra point. That’s the hurt stuff.

The kind of stuff that doesn’t let you appreciate an Aaron Gordon overtime three-pointer. He of the comically broken shot stepped into a three in the biggest game of his life. Onions. All the game long nothing would fall for the superfrosh. So naturally he grabbed 18 rebounds – nearly a quarter of all available boards in the game – and stuck that three.

It hurts and you maybe don’t get to remember when all seemed wrong, when the Arizona offense was operating at a second grade level, why not Jordin Mayes? He was there for the offensive rebound and the lay-in with sixty seconds left. In the three years of data I can access (hoop-math), it’s Jordin’s only career putback.

That immediate pain might not allow the opportunity to appreciate a moment like TJ McConnell and Nick Johnson hugging at mid-court. I can’t finger the exact situation but into a timeout, deep in the contest with the outcome in the balances and punches being thrown back and forth, the Wildcat backcourt embraced in the middle of the Honda Center. It was the kind of scene you expect to see with a Luther Vandross backdrop. Shit, I thought it meant they weren’t going to lose.

SPOILER: They did.

I’m late on all of this but I needed to get away from the suddenness of zeros and no more games. As noted I’m honest on here and the flurry of “UCONN!?!?!?!?! REALLY!?!?!?!?” texts into and out of my phone was…abundant? Ubiquitous? Fiery? And all of that heat was promptly followed by an outpouring of everything we couldn’t discuss after 2/1. A date we won’t forget and can’t neglect in reviewing, even appreciating, this season. Goliath down a peg.

Which is the end of our walk. A saunter through five of the most exciting and unique months of fandom I can recall. We felt promising optimism and crippling defeat. I saw triumphant revenge, fierce confidence, and assertions force. We hoped, believed, and hurt. We did it together and that’s the overarching importance of sport. 2013-14 was section 407 with my brother; the living room with my best friends;  a bar with countless strangers; every arena I entered. In taking this walk, it’s my hope that you remember where you were and who you were with for each of the shining moments that were this season.

Those illuminated flashes that define our favorite game are brief because they’re shared. If 68 enter and only one leaves, then we have to believe in those shining moments. We can share those and remember when.

The first games begin in November with the promise of a whole season with anticipation for the unexpected and hopeful before us. And then we get caught in a sprint. Running to March in search of the shining moments that just might not come. Everything changed on 2/1 and maybe that’s OK? Maybe it’s not. It’s OK to remember, just don’t get stuck in Haas.

And remember this walk, and all the fun you had watching the 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats Men’s Basketball team.Team Enters

arizona-elite-eight

Arizona’s Elite Meeting with Wisconsin

Amongst travel and remote activity, I’ve managed to learn so much about the Wisconsin Badgers. Granted, it helps that my road trip-mate is a born and raised Milwaukeean and lives and breaths Bob Uecker, cheese, Lambeau Field, believes Ryan Braun really did have herpes, and nearly died when he saw this photo:

ArodBoryanI mean, if you’re a Wisconsin boy does it get much better than that? There is, of course, this side of the reality coin:

Anyhow, with that sort of travel companion, I was bound to learn a lot about the Badgers. This is what I’ve got: They. Are. Disciplined. And they’ve been to the Rose Bowl. Arizona has not.

It’s a Bo Ryan team and they cherish possessions like you cherished that Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card when you were eight. In eleven seasons, Wisconsin hasn’t ranked outside the top 10 in offensive TO% but twice. And in those two campaigns they were still top-20. This game will not become the Gonzaga game.

But in some regards it could. The Badgers take lots  of three pointers. About 40% of their shots are from deep. When they miss – and they don’t often, making them at a 37.6% rate, 51st in the nation – it results in long rebounds which can turn in to run outs. Otherwise read as transition offense. Otherwise read as Christ Air (if you’re reading with Wildcat eyes). Against San Diego State (good riddance) the ‘Cats struggled to get out and move and you may have noticed their offense was less than explosive. They worked for those 70 points but two of the biggest plays of the game and momentum swings came on transition buckets like the one at the head of this post. Wisconsin, with their long misses, ranks 308th in percentage of shots coming in transition (23.6%); or, right about what Arizona has averaged since Brandon Ashley’s departure. Opportunity, Wildcats.

One point to keep an eye on – as the Badgers love them some possessions – would be the offensive glass. I’m not entirely sure it’s a strong suit of Arizona 2.0BASHLEY but it certainly isn’t a weak point. Wisco hits the defensive glass at the 10th highest rate in the nation. This ensures their opponents don’t get extra opportunities to score.

At it’s simplest form, this is a match up of an elite offense and an elite defense. It’s also just an exciting match up, period. Let’s run down the lineups:

AZWiscoYou and I both know that the above means very little. But it’s still a pretty interesting glimpse into the similarities – personnel-wise – that these two are running. It also interestingly highlights that you can have similar outputs and accomplish those outputs in very different ways.

The Badgers are going to try and shoot their way to Dallas. Not quite at the level of Michigan, but those aforementioned three-pointers are going to be what gets them to North Texas or sends them home. They make 40% in wins and 30% in losses. In either scenario they are taking about 20 three point-jumpers per game. For context, Oregon was shooting nearly 26 threes in losses and just 18 in wins. Did I mention Wisconsin is disciplined?

And how, you might ask, does Arizona defend the three? Sean Miller’s pack line has allowed the 11th lowest percentage of shots to come from deep – just 26.5% of opponent shots. This does not bode well for Wisconsin. But the converse could hold true. Wisconsin, as we’ve noted, is good at making these shots and one way to beat the pack line is to shoot out of it. Ask Oregon who became just the 7th team to make 10-or-more three pointers against Arizona since Sean Miller became coach.

Moving inside the arc, when the Badgers do lose, it’s because someone attacked. Teams that beat UW have gone at them and taken the ball to the rim. It also hasn’t hurt that what few threes those teams took (average 12), they made (average 6). When Wisconsin wins, the opposition’s three-pointers look more like 4-15. They’re not going to let you take or make many threes, we’ve established this. So when life gives you lanes, make layups. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson certainly has, of late.

There will be one elite offense and one elite defense in one elite game.

Maybe we call this one net cutting practice?