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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?

T+J+McConnell+Arizona+v+Michigan+3g0ON-Gbffzl

Where They Affect the Game: TJ McConnell

It should be obvious that this is going to center around the rim. It’s my favorite. But what sets TJ McConnell apart from the other guys we’ve discussed (Anderson and Wright), is that we”ll wind up talking about the guys around him. After all, he’s got an NBA front court to dish to.

And dish he does. McConnell is fourth in the conference in assist rate and third in assists per game. Further, and I apologize for being unable to contextualize, he’s collecting these dimes just 27.6% of the time in transition. That’s the lowest number (aside from Justin Cobbs) amongst Pac-12 point guards that I glanced at. This is a significant number because no matter how often you want to get in transition, the majority of your offense is going to come in a half court setting. As the offense’s facilitator and someone collecting as many assists as he does, McConnell’s ability to facilitate offense for his friends is impressive. It’s a tribute to his understanding and execution of the team’s principles and the talented pieces around him.

When crunching all of the rim success numbers, it was McConnell that lead the conference (amongst the players I studied) in success at the rim:

Player % poss resulting in rim score % poss resulting in play at rim Success % at Rim
TJ McConnell 44.25 49.84 88.79
Nick Johnson 28.04 32.18 87.13
Delon Wright 50.65 61.23 82.71
Kyle Anderson 33.57 41.64 80.63
CJ Wilcox 21.80 27.25 80.00
Pe’Shon Howard 38.34 48.54 78.99
Nigel Williams-Goss 26.17 35.09 74.59
Askia Booker 29.00 38.95 74.45
Justin Cobbs 29.93 40.62 73.68
Brett Comer (2013) 51.18 72.47 70.63
Roberto Nelson 26.96 40.43 66.67
Chasson Randle 20.96 33.14 63.25
Jahii Carson 24.86 40.06 62.05

Nearly 90% of McConnell’s possessions at the rim are successful. He was making the third most assists at the rim per game (2.72) despite having the fewest possessions (8.59) per game. Aside from the ridiculous Delon Wright, McConnell accounted for the highest percentage of rim scores. I love that. Kaleb Tarczewski, Aaron Gordon, and every other Wildcat loves that. Arizona, in fact, is second in the nation in FG% at the rim (74.1%). They don’t take the most shots there (31.6% of the offense is good for 300th in the nation) but when they do, they’re making it:

See what I mean? The word facilitate means to “make something easier” and so it appears TJ McConnell makes scoring easier for his sometimes scoring inept team.

Now look at Arizona’s last two offensive explosions. In those two games, McConnell has assisted 16 times and turned the ball over just once. The above tells us that his team easily scored when he passed them the ball. The turnovers suggest the other team isn’t getting an opportunity to easily score, forcing teams into a half court setting against the Wildcats in which they have the second best non-transition defensive eFG%. Good luck. In a moment of inspiration and wanting-to-copy-cat-a-great-mind, I saw Luke Winn’s power rankings in which he notes Fred VanVleet’s protection services. He notes VanVleet’s propensity to not turn the ball over and a few wildly impressive 5 game stretches (most notably a 30:1 A:T ratio in late December to early Jan). Wichita State’s facilitator protects the ball and dishes to his playmakers and they haven’t lost. Which – for a Pac-12 blogger – begs the question: Do TJ McConnell and other Pac-12 points offer similar protective services?Assisters

This is a pretty interesting graph in that everyone seems to have taken a pretty significant dip as they began to face off against one another in conference play. Look at the downward trend beginning right around games 10-13.

And then there’s McConnell. The lead man at Point Guard U with a violent uptick as we head into the game’s most critical month. Is it a sign of things to come? As that’s a rolling five game average, it would suggest so.

In the meantime:

wane

WANE: Echoing Through the Rockies

Spencer and I are going to Boulder. It’s our second annual appearance there and we will be breaking bread and beverage with Ben Burrows and Jason G upon arrival. How fun is that? So fun that we had them on WANE to discuss. These two are Colorado connoisseurs and flex that Buff muscle at Rumblin Buff and All Buffs. I even flex my own Buff for the latter. But enough physiology puns and full apologies for the echoes.

 

The Table:

0:55: A few too many mentions of cream rising

2:10: Let’s get the Arizona @ ASU loss out of the way

5:00: Don’t be fooled, both games in Boulder weekend are sexy

6:00: Bigger game this weekend for Colorado, ASU or UA?

8:04 Anyone here a regular Percy Allen of the Seattle Times reader? No? Ok, well…..

8:45: A debate of who should have the #1 Power Ranking spot.

10:00: philosophical debate of what a “power ranking” is. Conclusion: Tinder.

13:20: Big-X backing up his big talk

16:30: We talk post-Dinwiddie Colorado basketball

24:20: Podcast remote location Power Rankings

26:15: Spencer makes an unintentional back handed complement. Apologies to all those offended.

27:30: Anyone got a ticket for Saturday

27:40: Don’t let the Coors product line fool you, Colorado is NOT the “Keystone State”. Recreation ensues in Colo.

ASU v UA basketball

The Valentine State’s Valentines Day

On this day of St. Valentine I have neither brilliance or wit for you. I’m simply going to rampage through bullet points of facts surrounding tonight’s Arizona- Arizona State game. Hooray love because I espouse lots of it in the subsequent bullets (a fitting organizational tool for such a game):

  • 95/110, 98/115 – These are the offensive efficiency numbers for Carrick Felix and Jermaine Marshall in their season without then with Jahii Carson
  • 2/14/1912 – Arizona becomes a state! The belief is that the name Arizona was derived from the O’odaham name alĭ ṣonak which meant “little spring.” This subsequently was Major League Baseball’s rationale for moving Spring Training to the Valentine State.
  • 36%/4.6/4.3/0/3 – That is Jordan Bachynski’s FG%, ppg, rpg, apg, and bpg against Kaleb Tarczewski. His normal numbers in the last two seasons? 59%, 10.7ppg, 7.2rpg, 0.3apg, 3.8bpg. Kaleb might own somebody?
  • Local Talent – Both Nick Johnson and Jahii Carson are from Phoenix. They grew up playing there together. They’ve faced off just once in Tempe. Johnson scored 19 points, Carson scored 22, and the Wildcats won by 17.
  • +55 – Point differential in Arizona’s favor across the last three Territorial Cup games
  • 2-7 - Herb Sendek’s record against Arizona since Sean Miller became the coach in Tucson
  • 13 vs 9 - ASU has more all-time tournament wins (13) than Arizona has Sweet-16 wins (9).
  • This -

guys

Andre and Nick

#1 Arizona Wins at Maples: How and Why

Dwight Powell’s six-foot-ten-inch frame had just taken the ball baseline for a reverse layup in a fashion few other six-foot-ten-inch men can do. The score was tied with less than one minute remaining. Crunch time, as it were, and Maples Pavilion had the acoustics of Y2K. Tiger Woods wasn’t there but Andre Iguodala was. Johnny Dawkins was more this, than this.

And if you haven’t been paying attention, here’s a quick breakdown of what Arizona does really well, their brand:

  • Defensive eFG% – #1 in the nation
  • Defensive efficiency – #2 in the nation
  • Offensive rebound % – #11 in the nation
  • Nick Johnson

These are the things that Arizona does so well and what they’ve ridden to an unblemished mark. Knock them off of these pillars and you have a good chance to win. Here is what Stanford did up until the game’s 9:58 point (more on that later, or rather, everything on that later):

  • 46% shooting – would’ve been third highest against AZ this season – to the 9:58 mark
  • 38% free throw rate and more stats that suggest Arizona’s defensive efficiency was threatened but it’s a wildly complex stat so I can’t really provide you context. Know that no other team has out-rebounded Arizona this season and Stanford did.
  • 2 offensive boards. That’s how many Stanford allowed Arizona to get up until the 9:58 mark. Arizona averages 13/game. The Cardinal’s work was roughly the equivalent of just one Belieber passing out at a Bieber show.
  • 9 points for Nick Johnson. He averages 17.

As I’ve often said before, Arizona does a phenomenal job of disregarding an opponent and playing their own brand of basketball. A brand defined by the former set of bullet points and a brand not being upheld as evidence of the latter set. Kudos Stanford on their first 30 minutes and 2 seconds of work.

So with Stanford’s effort as our backdrop, let’s look at that final 9:58, the final minutes, and how Arizona played Arizona basketball.

Powell’s bucket was Stanford’s first FG since the 9:58 mark. They were 1-9 during that 8:37 dry spell. They closed the game 1-10. We could include Powell’s two missed free throws in that window, too; but I learned in second grade that if the numerator is zero the answer is zero no matter the denominator. It’s not worth our while to include Powell’s free throws. They made just the herculean, NBA-esque Powell layup and two free throws Arizona intentionally made Chasson Randle shoot.

Defensive eFG%? Check.

Across roughly fifteen possessions, the Cardinal managed just the Powell layup on their sixteenth. Arizona forced two turnovers and had two blocks. They committed just the one foul and allowed just one offensive rebound.

Defensive efficiency? Check.

The play initially wound up in the hands of Brandon Ashley who had previously broke the back of the Wolverines. But he missed; and for all the aforementioned defensive success of the Wildcats, they were not matching it on offense. They were 3-13 in the same 8:37 window of Cardinal ineptitude plus one turnover. From 9:58 to end, Arizona grabbed four offensive boards. And so up went Ashley’s shot with seemingly a 77% chance of missing. It did and the live ball was grabbed by Kaleb Tarczewski.

Offensive rebounding? Check.

Yup, tied and ear splitting, we had a ball game. The giant, Polish, New Hampshite (?) had procured an offensive rebound which Arizona does at an elite level because they miss shots pretty regularly. Darwinism. Out the ball went and Nick Johnson squared up to his fourth three-point shot of the night – a fresh :35 be damned. This shot, like two of the three prior, went in. 58-55, Arizona. Johnson would grab the ensuing rebound on Chasson Randle’s eleventh miss of the night (Johnson, while we’re on it, guarded Randle the whole game and forced him into 3-15 shooting, 20%. Randle’s average game is 6.0-12.5, 48%). He’d sink two more free throws (we’re ignoring the one-and-one front he missed because I have a narrative to fill), head to the lockers with 16 points (game high), 5 boards, 4 assists (game high), zero turnovers, Arizona’s final 7 points, and get love from gold medalist, Iguodala. Arizona wins.

Nick Johnson? Check.

P12 Colorado Arizona Basketball

Q & A with Colorado Buffaloes. No Reviews.

The Colorado Buffaloes will be returning to the unfriendly confines of the McKale Center. They haven’t been there since last January when Sabatino’s perfect hair hit an imperfect buzzer beater. And that’s the last of our monitor mentions (not). But ultimately that just adds to the lore of this budding rivalry. Did you know that the average score – since both were Pac-12 teams – is 69-66, Arizona? They’ve split all six meetings. This, is a rivalry whether you want to admit it or not.

And therefore I go to the enemy – once again – to gain insights into the program that plays its games in a Keg and encourages its fans to blackout. Here is the roll call:

  • Jason Gilligan – Here is your new barometer for statistical analysis. I don’t write anything about an advanced stat before running it past JG (contributes to All Buffs)
  • James Lucas – Admin at All Buffs and resident oil connoisseur. But oil is irrelevant to the fact that he is, first and foremost, a Colorado Basketball fan (aka, football didn’t lure him into the black and gold). Not a lot of those.
  • Ben Burrows – Author, editor, brilliant mind behind Rumblin’ Buff – The Rumblings of Deranged Buffalo. He knows all about Buffs and Beer.

I always appreciate these guys’ insights and know you will, too. What’s more, I can’t wait to absorb the 2/22 tilt in Boulder with these guys. While my family and some of my best friends go to my ex-girlfriends’ wedding, I’ll be in The Keg.

Just try, give me something, about Spencer Dinwiddie and then we’ll drop it because otherwise it’s detrimental.

Jason: I miss him and I hope I never see him in a CU uniform again.  I hope he gets healthy quickly, gets drafted in the first round and fulfills his childhood dream of playing in the NBA.

James: There are no words for how bad I feel for that kid. Well, not in English. They may have one in German, but the loose translation of it to English is “fastidious burrow”.

Ben: There are no words, at least ones worth putting to paper, that can adequately describe my feelings when I saw Spencer Dinwiddie collapse in Seattle.  I was stunned into numbness.  It struck me to my very core.  Surely, much of that is borne out of, what you termed, the ‘selfish joy’ of getting to watch the young man ply his trade on the hardwood, but it goes deeper than that. I feel for him.  It’s genuine heartbreak.  With the understanding that Dinwiddie is an honestly good kid who worked extremely hard to get where he is today, to see him reduced to tears for playing the game he loves… it’s hard to comprehend. With the diagnosis now official, at least there’s finally some direction to the story.  Spencer is done for the year, and, now after a successful surgery, will be able to focus on his recovery.  As with all things in life, the narrative doesn’t end, it just transforms.  He will be back, and we will all get to share in that ‘selfish joy’ once again, whether here or in the NBA.

Most important player: Askia Booker, Josh Scott, other?

Jason: Booker, CU needs Booker to play well to win; he has the ability to shoot CU out of games.  Scott is clearly the best player on the team right now, but Ski is more important in my opinion because of the way he can negatively impact the game.

James: Gotta be Ski. Josh is our best player now, but Ski is the heart of the team. And watching him the last two games has been incredible. Re-enforces the belief that some had that a lot of his “wildness” on the court was due to the fact that he had Spencer to keep it calm. Now that Spencer’s gone and Ski runs the team, he’s been an efficiency machine. As Ski goes, so go the Buffs. Meanwhile, Josh just dropped another 19 & 8.

Ben: Tough one. Both are vital to the Buffs without Dinwiddie, and both have stepped up in his absence (Scott – 39 points, 16 rebounds last weekend; Booker – 34/8/8; combined – 61% from the field).  Both are team leaders, and a quiet night from either severely limits Colorado’s ceiling. In reality, the answer is Scott, if only because there are few players in the conference that can actually guard him.  He demands a double-team on the block, which opens up opportunities for others, and his 15-18 foot jumpers make him a very difficult assignment. Askia’s transition into a more efficient player will be very important, but the offense (and, to an extent, defense) now runs through Jelly. It must be said, however, that they can’t do it alone.  Just look at last Thursday’s game against UCLA.  The pair had a fantastic game (40 points combined), but CU rarely threatened in the second half.  The culprit was the 16 point, 13 turnover, 22% shooting effort from the rest of the roster.  Whether it be Xavier Johnson, Jaron Hopkins, or the rare assertive offensive night from Wes Gordon, someone else has to contribute for CU to compete.

Last season, when Colorado was outdueling Arizona, they shot exceptionally well from deep. This season the Buffs once again aren’t the greatest three point shooting team (31% ranking 287th nationally, 11th in the conference). Are there any deep threats or does Colorado really just need to cross its fingers when it’s time for bombs away?

Jason: Booker is always a threat to shoot a lot, but not necessarily to make them, but CU’s got to hope for the best, there are no “shooters” on this team.  It is interesting though that CU took 15% more than their average amount of shots from mid-range against USC; maybe they were just prepping for Arizona, because Arizona limits shots at the rim and from 3 and makes opponents shoot mid-range jumpers.

James: Do we count Beau Gamble who’s lighting teams up at a 40% clip? No? OK. Then no, we don’t have anyone and it’s prayer time. There’s always the hope that Ski gets hot from behind the arc, but we’re not going to be a bombs away squad.

Ben: Ski’s gonna Ski, and, while the erstwhile John McClane of the basketball world has calmed a bit in the wake of Spencer’s injury, he’s always weapons free from beyond the arc. Beyond Booker, however, three-point shooting is significantly less promising and consistent. ‘Big X’ Xavier Johnson is fantastic as a set-shooter, and, if he doesn’t have to move, can lob bombs from the top of the arc with accuracy.  The problem is, he’s fallen in love with moving into his shot as of late, and he isn’t nearly as accurate off the dribble, or even just stepping into his attempt.  As a result, he has lost 12 points off of his percentage from a year ago, making him decidedly less dangerous. I like ‘Little X’ Xavier Talton from range, but the numbers won’t help me.  He’s got a compact, calm, repeatable mechanic that seems destined to become lethal.  To date, however, he isn’t nearly consistent enough (7-32), which is very surprising.  He should be more productive. Freshman (and Arizona local), Jaron Hopkins has made a couple of big shots this season, but is more of the spray-and-pray type.  Sometimes I think he’d be better off closing his eyes when he heaves.  If he’s making threes against you, just shrug your shoulders and move on.

But offense was never necessarily the way Colorado would won this game. Defense, as it were, is the crux of Tad Boyle’s success. Let’s start at the rim (I love analyzing shooting at the rim). Boyle made a point of protecting the rim and you, Jason, broke down Colorado’s rim protection. To note, the Buffs allow just a 51.9% FG% at the rim. Thirty-sixth best in the nation. How does Colorado do this? (NOTE: Arizona has the 3rd highest FG% at the rim: 76.7%)

Jason: CU doesn’t gamble on defense, they don’t deny passing lanes, they don’t deny the post, they just play solid man defense.  So they don’t give up a lot of layups due to lobs into the post nor do they give up a lot of backdoor cuts (I see you Oregon).  Guys are rarely out of position which makes protecting the rim much easier because there are actually guys between the ball and the rim…..

James: We don’t gamble. I wish we were a little more adventurous at times, but Tad has pretty much made it obvious that his plan is to line up against our opponents and say “we think our guys are better on D than yours are on O”.

Ben: Coach Boyle has instilled a paranoia in the team as regards to rim defense.  They’d much rather give up numerous open and semi-open perimeter looks than give up even one layup attempt.  As a result, the pack-line is well defended, and there are few opportunities for easy looks outside of transition. I should also mention that Coach Boyle’s recruiting philosophy plays a large part in this.  He loves the ‘tweener’ athlete build, so if you’re 6-6 with good length and strong defensive habits, expect a call from Coach.  The effect is that almost anyone in black and gold is comfortable defending in the post.  

Tell me about the strengths of this front court. UNLV successfully used their front court strength to get the Wildcats uncomfortable and open some things up for shooters. The Rebels didn’t win but they got damn close. How might the CU collective do similarly?

Jason: I was cautiously optimistic about this game a couple of weeks ago, Arizona really only goes 7 guys deep and Spencer and Scott are two of the best in the Pac12 at drawing fouls and getting to the line.  I think that’s a key to this game, if CU has any shot, they’ve got to get Scott the ball where he can hopefully be efficient and get the Arizona bigs into foul trouble. 

James: We need Josh Scott to go beast mode. If he can get all 9 of your big men in foul trouble, we may have a chance on this one.

Ben: I cannot emphasize how good Josh Scott is becoming. Ask USC, eschewing a double-team of the Colorado Springs native is done at your own peril.  The weight he put on over the offseason has paid off, allowing him to take more shots at the rim (20 points higher than his freshman campaign), and play more of a factor on defense and the boards. Compounding the issue, he’s becoming more comfortable with that 15-18 foot jumper, making him lethal from all areas of the court.  Oh, and he also hits his free throws at a 83% clip.  There’s a reason, after all, that he’s only finished two games with a sub-100 offensive rating this season.  College defenders just don’t see a player of his skill set that often. Wes Gordon compliments him very well. He’s still very raw, but his defense alone makes him a worthwhile addition in the paint.  He’s got hands of stone, but he gets those rocks on plenty of loose balls.  Not much of an offensive piece yet, but he has shown flashes (13 points against Washington). Combined, they play very good defense around the rim, stretch would-be defenders to guard outside of their comfort zone, and rarely foul (both in the national top-500 in fouls called per 40 minutes). If Josh has a monster game, and Wes does his damage without the ball, CU could be alright.

Furthermore, Arizona crushes the offensive glass (9th best nationally). How much of a concern is that for the Buffaloes considering they’re the 4th best defensive rebounding team in the country?

Jason:  I want Arizona to crash the boards; this is the only way CU has a chance to pull off something improbable.  CU’s defensive rebounding numbers are largely inflated because teams (USCB, Wyoming and Harvard) didn’t even try to go after offensive boards, instead sending defenders back on defense in order to keep CU out of transition.  If Arizona goes after offensive boards, that means CU’s getting opportunities to get out on the break where they take the 17th most amount of initial FGA’s in transition (34.2%), please go after offensive boards.

James: Big concern. Our defensive numbers are slightly inflated because no one crashes the boards against us because they don’t want us to run. Arizona can crash and still get back. It’s going to be interesting to see how Sean handles this.

Ben: I’ll admit that some of CUs defensive rebounding numbers are skewed by non-conference games against teams who abandoned the glass almost entirely to cut off the Buffs in transition, but the Buffs are a very good rebounding team, even better than they were last season. ‘But, how can that be so,’ you ask, ‘didn’t they have the super-human rebounding machine, Andre Roberson, in ‘12-’13?’  Yes, ‘Dre was a monster with the ball in the air, but his brilliance allowed his teammates to sit back and enjoy the show.  This year, it’s a team effort, and the rate is up about five points, as a result. Certainly, the Wildcats will be a challenge heretofore unseen on the glass.  CU rebounded just fine against Kansas (another strong offensive rebounding team, held them to 8 offensive rebounds), however, giving me hope that the Buffs can continue to hold their own.

Did Askia Booker just take a jump shot? Sorry, I couldn’t tell. Maybe I’ll just check the monitors.

Jason: People lie whey they say “You’re not too bad for an Arizona fan”

James: “Hate” is a strong word. It also applies here.

Ben: You know, I’m honestly over the ‘Chen’ incident.  We got our pound of flesh between the Valentine’s Day Massacre, Ed Rush getting fired, and Askia’s Miracle.  It’s a sexy layer to the rivalry, but that’s all at this point.

What concerns you the most about this Wildcat team?

Jason: Arizona’s defense only allows 16.4% of shots in the half-court to come at the rim, CU takes 40.3% of their shots at the rim in the half-court offense.  As I stated before, CU’s strength isn’t exactly its shooting, if CU can’t get to the rim it could be a very long night.

James: Everything. They’re #1 for a reason.

Ben: Defense. The Buffs can frequently struggle in the halfcourt, and when I see defensive numbers like a 41% eFG and an absurdly-low 18% of shots at the rim, I’m smelling a rough night for Colorado. If the threes don’t fall, and if CU gets nothing in transition, it will be a long night, regardless of what Ski and Josh manage.

And the big one: How does this game play out?

Jason: CU covers the spread and keeps it around 10 points in a game that was never as close as the final score indicates (largely b/c Miller feels sorry that CU’s missing Dinwiddie)

James: When Spencer went down, I said that you can’t really count the next 4 games and that our season starts over on 2/1 against Utah. Too many unknowns, players in roles they aren’t familiar with, uncertainty everywhere. I stand by that. Combine that with the fact that Arizona knows they’re on national TV and I don’t see them letting up. Zona rolls – in a game that will hopefully lay the groundwork for CU to get their revenge on 2/22.

Ben: Wallowing in the despair of the 40 hours between the UCLA and USC games last week, I feared that CU would struggle to crack 45 against the UofA and their vaunted defense. After the sunshine of the USC game cleared my mind of such depressive thoughts, I’ve since re-evaluated. Colorado’s offense isn’t broken, it’s just a re-work in progress.  Sure, playing the #1 team in the land at their place isn’t the best time to further the educational process, but I no longer fear the epicly unwatchable. I still don’t see any chance that Colorado can steal away with a win, but I do expect them to push Arizona for stretches.  The Buffs are their ‘kryptonite,’ after all. In the end, however, CU’s struggles in the half-court, the home crowd, and the still-developing rotation take their toll, and Colorado slips in the second half. UofA 70 – CU 55

Arizona v Colorado

One Final Post on UCLA and Arizona. Victory Edition.

I wanted to know everything about that game so I spent my week scouring the numbers. I knew what UCLA would try to do. I knew what Arizona would try to do. I knew that Pauley Pavilion was going to be loud which Bryce Alford did not:

“I did not know it could get so loud in here. My teammates couldn’t hear me. I couldn’t hear myself. It was crazy.”

The point here is that teams have a definitive fingerprint. They try to do specific things that either demonstrate their strengths or expose an opponent’s weaknesses. When you can exact that strategy, in theory, you stand to be successful. You play your brand of basketball to not let them play theirs. Coaches make money for this stuff. They also get fired.

So Thursday’s game was fascinating as I threw up all over the stats trying to figure out who was going to do what to win. These two teams match up in such a way that it truly was going to boil down to execution. Who could do what they do, just better?

Arizona.

Defensively, as I told you yesterday, the Wildcats force this:

AZ Season DAnd then on Thursday they did this:

AZ UCLA DNot the same graph twice, I swear. Sure, UCLA got a touch more to the rim – a tribute to their very good ability to get in transition and force turnovers – but Arizona played their defensive game. Meaning UCLA did not play their offensive game. Against Arizona, teams are shooting an eFG% of just 40.9% – third best in the nation. UCLA meanwhile  has the ninth best eFG% in the nation (57.1%). I bet you can guess what I’m about to tell you. 43.1%. Some say like a boss. I’ll say like #1. Tomato, tomato (that idiom doesn’t play out so well in print, does it?).

But we already knew defense was Arizona’s bread and butter. That’s their strong suit. It’s their flaunted strength to get you out of your effective strategy. Whatever it may be.

But what would they do on the offensive end? UCLA was going to force Arizona to shoot threes in that zone of theirs and so Arizona went ahead and took half of their shots at the rim. Yes, the Wildcats took 26 of their 52 shots at the cylinder. I could go on – and on, and on – but if a picture’s worth 1000 words, then an Instagram video is worth $1B:

And I’m not really sure of the value of a GIF. But here’s one anyway:

AG DUNK

By the way, full credit to UCLA.