Tag Archives: Gabe York

Session 3 Preview: Wildcats, Utes, Bears, Buffs

Moving forward, we shall call three-pointers made in the final minute Dakari Ices. Fading jumpers at the horn are still – and always will be – Cobbsicles. Back to the action. Because the real action begins today. I mean no offense to the games played already, they’ve been great. There has been a lead change in the second half of each and the first session was as March as it gets. Byron Wesley had a fair look at his own version of a frozen treat. It rimmed out.

But the real drama – games with Big Dance implications – begin today. We’re about to run through the lineup – some previews – but just take inventory for yourself. What are you doing for lunch? How can you find the Pac-12 Networks? Have you called Doug at Hooters San Bruno and heard him lament his DirecTV? I have. Today is the kind of four game slate that had me polling the g-chat brain trust whether naming my price on round trip airfare and bailing on two days of work like an obsessed super fan was rational. It’s not. So I’ll preview and stream, head to John’s – local deli with P12N – for lunch. Like an adult. I hate it.

Arizona vs. Utah – Noon PST
The Trifecta Game

Arizona swept the Utes this season which means about as much as a Frank Underwood hand written letter. Completing such a trifecta is rare and difficult [insert the number of times it’s happened because mining three seasons of conference data isn’t in the cards tonight]. UCLA managed to pull the trifecta on Arizona last year; and it cost their coach his job! So clearly the stakes are high.

But diving into the match ups, Utah is a terrible match up for the Wildcats. They have the size to force Arizona into two things they don’t like to do: shoot and not rebound. Apologies for the double negative and now let’s address the former. In Tucson, the Cats walked away with what looked like a relatively cozy win – 65 to 56 – but Arizona shot a sub-par 40%. The Utes forced more than 80% of the Wildcat offense away from the rim. Comparatively, Arizona usually takes 31% of their shots there. Utah forced the Wildcats to shoot and they missed. But they also rebounded, offensively (pun intended). In that game, Arizona grabbed 50% of the available offensive rebounds and subsequently turned those efforts into a win. Utah managed to flip the script in SLC, limiting the Wildcats to a minuscule 31% OR% (compared to their normal 38%). That game saw the Wildcats take 25% of their shots at the rim (better) and shoot the ball better (42% from distance).

ArizonaUtah

But ultimately, that game came down to two teams matching wills, a game the Utes had all but locked up. Until they didn’t. Should this game follow the aforementioned suit, TJ McConnell – for all of his facilitating glory – will need to hit some shots. Notice all that red space on the right pie? McConnell leads the team in FG% on 2-point jumpers. Utah is daring him to beat them. It’s obvious that All-American Nick Johnson (I like saying that) will need score, too. But the X-factor (and it was the case in Salt Lake and the guy we’ve kept an eye on all season) is Gabe York. The sharp shooter took his spot for the first time post-Ashley against Utah and promptly scored 15 points. Arizona would need every one of them to win in overtime and they’ll need every one of them again to advance.

To fulfill the Utah narrative, what would a win here mean? In short: lots. Larry Krystkowiak said his team would win this tournament. He has a terrific back court (everyone’s favorite and the most critical in March) and that aforementioned front line that has the ability to limit what Arizona does, offensively. Utah came out of the gates like a sorority girl out of a breakup: destroying cupcakes. They led us to believe, in pounding the second worst non-conference SOS in the nation, that their offense was their strong suit. They were scoring more than 80 points per game and lead the nation in 2pt FG% (I see you, Delon). But enter conference play and we saw the Utes’ true colors: the under-talented-but-hard-playing team Larry K told us they’d be in November. They’re the third best defense in the Pac-12 and the 29th best in the nation. How do they do it? To be honest, nothing particularly stands out about them. Statistically speaking that is. But they seem to do everything pretty damn well which, in my estimation, further fulfills the playing hard narrative K kicked all of this off with.

But do we really need to be discussing this much defense? Maybe the question is not so much can the Utes stop the Wildcats but rather outscore them? Probably not considering they’re the top defense in the land. But let’s just say this thing remains a scoreless battle (average 0.94 points per possession which is about equal to the offensive output of 7-23 Rice University). Where does Utah stand a chance in scoring? Delon Wright gets to the rim – in case I’d never mentioned it – but Arizona protects that space as well as anyone. Raising the topic Tony Jones and I discussed on the Twitter: spot up shooting. It’s a nice thing to have (Arizona doesn’t really) and a great thing to have with a creator like Wright. Brandon Taylor has filled that role effectively (40% on threes) but if he’s the only shooting threat on the floor (Loveridge 30%, Wright 25%) then it’s not terribly effective. But Dakari Tucker (Dakari Ice) can stroke it (38%). He doesn’t get the most tick (50.4% minutes) but he poses a threat perhaps otherwise unknown from Utah. And you saw Jason Calliste shoot Arizona out of Eugene coming off the bench. And you saw Dakari Ice do it to Washington yesterday. There’s a precedence for making hitting threes to beating Arizona. Is Tucker the answer? And because we discussed 2-point jumpers so much already, it’s worth noting that Arizona forces the highest percentage of 2-point jumpers in the country (51.7%) and Utah doesn’t want to take that shot. They rank 204th in percentage of 2-point jumpers taken and 133rd in FG% from there. Utes offense comes at the rim. Like their defense, they don’t overwhelm in one area of their offense, but when they do get to the basket, they’re making it – fifth nationally in FG% at the rim. Arizona, on the other hand, protects the rim as well as any team in the conference country.

Look, I tried to paint a positive picture of offense but it just might not be there. Does Utah have the size (again) and the shooting (first time for everything) to avoid the trifecta? Could we see some Swoop magic as Jordan Loveridge and Dakari Ice get hot from deep? Trifecta averted?

Or will Arizona just go on being the tournament’s odds on favorite?

Colorado vs Cal – 2:30pm PST
The Golden Goal Game

Let’s get this out of the way early because I’m not the type to live in conjecture or bracketology. This game is for Cal’s NCAA tournament-lives. They lose this game and they don’t deserve to be in the tournament, resume be damned. By no means is losing to Colorado a blemish but they’re just 7-8 since late January and you can only cling to beating Arizona for so long. This game ultimately embodies all of the drama of March considering these two couldn’t have played each other any closer than they did last week. Look at this roller coaster:Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 11.06.21 PM

This was played into free basketball with fourth place or eighth place on the line for the Bears. Playing Colorado with significant ramifications is nothing new to Cal. But the same can be said for Colorado facing Cal. In 2011 – when all of the #RollTad got rolling in Boulder – Colorado defeated Cal twice in the course of two weeks en route to winning the inaugural Pac-12 tournament. Is it time for Cal to return the must-win favor? Or will this confidence shine through:

The Buffs – confident as it were – are pretty comfortably in the NCAA tournament. I’m not entirely sure what that means for them beyond the fact that they just played about even with the worst team in the Pac-12. But if we’ve learned anything about the Buffs, it’s a propensity to play to their opponent. We can take a Vegas theme to this and note that they’re 17-14 against the spread. Certainly they’re above .500 but not by much. They play right about to expectations. Nothing wrong with that so long as the left column is the one you’re filling up. Of course, per KenPom, Colorado is expected to win this game by just one point suggesting we’re in for a good one.

But not worthy here is the seniority factor. This, above all of our other four previews, is the one I lean the least on for statistical analysis. Neither team is easy to figure out and each has plenty going for and against them. Which leads me to Cobbs and Solomon. They’re the only contributing seniors on the floor in this game. The only affecters to be potentially playing their final game. That means something in March. It means something that Cobbs has scored 19 or more points in four of Cal’s last five wins including 21 points and 4 assists (0 TO) in beating Colorado last week. Richard Solomon added a double-double in that must-win for the bears. And once again these seniors are faced with a must win. Pay attention.

On Last Night’s Monster Pac-12 Slate

The games were large in significance but then it all seemingly went chalk and whoa UCLA is playing well. I absorbed 25% of it through a billion of monitors inside the Pac-12’s production truck outside Haas and the remaining 12.5% via DVR on my couch. None of it was comfortable but here’s a jog through it all:

Arizona 67, Utah 63 OT – Have you guys heard of Fantex Holdings? It’s a company that’s creating value out of an athlete’s earning potential and allowing you to buy stock in that potential. The athlete makes money, you make money. It’s literally stock in an indvidual. Now somewhere in there I’ve violated an NCAA rule but if I’m buying futures on a program I’m buying up some Utah. They’re a year away from really shaking things up but that’s discredit to what they’re capable of doing right now. I could go into the Luck thing again but we’re all sick of that at this point (though I did find it WILDLY ironic – or probably coincidental, sue me – that the Utah band was playing Daft Punk’s Lucky out of one of the closing timeouts). That’s a tough team and a more talented team than Larry K had initially given them credit for. They were getting the best possible shot Arizona has in them at this point for 30 minutes, fouled Aaron Gordon out of the game and used all that momentum to have a free throw for a lead in the last minute. They missed it. Meanwhile, this game was a distinct reminder as to why I’m so sad balls about Brandon Ashley’s injury. Arizona seems to have a bit of that certain intangible. They’ll bend but they don’t break (not a foot pun). They’re tough in all the right places and perhaps, most importantly, between the ears. Additionally, who doesn’t like patting themselves on the back? Before the game I said this:


And then he did this:

York's nightThe sense – and maybe because we’ve seen 21 games with him not starting – but Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is great off the bench. The aforementioned success of York assuages concerns about a talent drop off and allows York to play a completely different role. I’m not a basketball coach but I get the sense that there are some parallels to being the fifth or seventh man. There’s a semblance of rotation and predictability in those roles. York has started two games and scored 27 points in those games. Meanwhile – and this is where I’m really working off of feel and perception – the sixth man plays the role of GO FIX IT. Rondae can fix things. He’s not afraid to get dirty and if you watched overtime last night (I did), you know Arizona doesn’t win without his skinned knees and elbows. Six points and two offensive rebounds in extra time. Let it rain, Gabe, and all you can muster is a puddle, well then go clean it up, Rondae.

UCLA All of the Points, Cal Many Fewer Regulation – As noted, I watched this from the production booth and for the first 25 minutes of the game I was lost. I didn’t know what was live and what was replay or what was a highlight. I saw football on one screen at a certain point and was convinced Myles Jack really could play everything. I’m working on that piece for Pacific Takes and will be sure to link you up. But with regards to the game, UCLA is good no matter what Kyle Anderson is doing. That’s to say, whether he’s scoring or facilitating, he’s the centerpiece of that monster. Yet when he’s facilitating and Jordan Adams is slashing and shooting, is there a better twosome in the nation? Honestly. I don’t follow the national scene as closely as our western dozen but those two are about as good as it gets. And last night was about as good as they get. Anderson: 11/9/7 on 4-8 shooting. Adams: 28/6/5 on 12-19 with 5 steals. We talk all about what a heady and versatile talent Anderson is. But watch Adams. He’s not the best athlete out there (no that’s Zach LaVine who from floor level I watched do multiple dunks in the layup line so I can first hand confirm he’s the ridiculous athlete). But he understands the flow of the game. Where’s the ball going and he gets in there. He’s incredibly resourceful and it serves him, and his team, quite well. As for Cal? I dunno, mix in some defense. Woof.

Oregon…,  – Here’s the deal. I write this as no knock on Washington. They are a team in the midst of a tough season in which they’ll maybe garner an invitation to a tournament certainly not on CBS. That’s why I’m going to ignore them (I don’t love game recaps). But the Ducks. Ahhh, the Ducks. It hasn’t even been a topsy turvy season for them. It’s more Drop Tower than Roller Coaster. But they are still being discussed as a team on the bubble and last night they won. This is the time of year when only winning matters. From what I can gather from the box score, this was the quintessential Washington-Oregon game. Oregon played great offense. Washington showed up. The Ducks were outrebounded, gave up 1.08ppp (UW’s highest ppp since playing Oregon State, 1/25), gave up 14 offensive rebounds, and coughed up 13 turnovers (not that bad but I just accounted for 27 extra possessions for UW). What business did Oregon have winning? Well they play offense and that alone. Dana’s boys shot 57% afield and garnered 1.18 ppp. Like I said, just winning is all that matters at this point. The Ducks are who they are, they’ll just need to ride that gravy train into the Dance, if possible.

Colorado obviously beat ASU – I’ll spend plenty of time on you Buffs in the coming days but wanted to note, while I’ve got ASU here, that in the past two years, Arizona has lost 10 games. In the game immediately following their defeat of the Wildcats, teams are 3-7.

WANE: On Cats, Wildcats, and Arizona Post-Ashley

A good friend of mine, who unfortunately does not get mentioned in this WANE, is both a Broncos fan and an Arizona basketball fan. He also lives in New York and went to the Super Bowl. Needless to say, Matt felt this was the worst sports weekend ever.

In this WANE we discuss how Arizona adjusts moving forward and Spencer has something of a pep talk at the tail end of it all. The Wildcats are going to be fine, don’t read message boards or ESPN comments, listen to WANE:

 

The Table:

0:00 – First musical intro. Thoughts?

0:54 – Spencer inadvertently admits that we recorded another WANE prior to this one.

0:58 – Positivity! “Let’s talk about things going forward!” And then Spencer shows some East Bay love to Elliot Pitts.

1:59 – Adam’s debut in this WANE and he drops the term “macro” and discusses Arizona’s program and Miller’s body of work. Also a complete WANE moment when he dives into Big 12 hoops. Big mistake. But who drops “macro” outside of a corporate office. Comeonman.

4:00 – A weird noise occurs.

4:20 – Aaron Gordon’s role seemingly moves from the three to the four where many think he’s best suited. He moves closer to the basket which could help him considering he’s 9-37 over the past three games.

5:25 – TJ McConnell the scorer?

6:40 – Some effusing on Brandon and how good he is and what a bummer not getting to play is including some awkward talk about things that get Adam sad.

8:45 – Team chemistry conversation. It’s referenced, but don’t go watch the Kevin Ware video.

10:19 – Adam egregiously butchers the names of two different Jewish sports journalists. It’s really effing brutal.

11:33 – A budding conversation on how Arizona is still the conference favorite. But different.

12:07 – Is Arizona still a national title contending team? (hint: Yes.)

14:07 – What direction do the Wildcats take from here? A discussion of Matt Korcheck.

15:20 – SHOUT OUT TO TUCSON’S SABINO HIGH SCHOOL (who I once beat, 7-2, with 10Ks)

15:56 – Are the reserves reserves because they’re not good, they’re just not as good, or what? They’re going to play now.

16:56 – Grant Jerrett?

17:29 – McDonald’s AA bragging.

17:49 – Smaller Cats: what’s that like and more Elliott Pitts, East Bay love.

19:04  – Another weird noise…

19:25 – Was the panic button tickled? An eventual PSA from WANE to not read the comments. Plus, Spencer with a phenomenal pop-culture analogy.

20:14 – The first mention of an actual game in the post-Ashley era. Adam wishes the Ducks good luck

22:36 – A STAT!

24:19 – ANOTHER AWESOME STAT!

24:47 – Spencer forgets his last point then goes on again about Pitts

25:26 – Public Service Announcement

25:29 – THE SPENCER B SMITH PEP TALK TO WILDCAT NATION!

Fourteen Things to Watch in Pac-12 Conference Play

Conference play will tip tonight. That’s a fun fact to let sink and now’s a good time to let your loved ones know that Thursdays and Saturdays are booked (and the occasional Wednesday. And the occasional Friday. And the occasional Sunday. And all of March). I love conference play because it means something. A “good win” doesn’t just carry a nice perception, it moves you up the ladder. And we know that college basketball is all about getting to the top of ladders. With scissors.

Fourteen things to watch in this 2014 Pac-12 season:

  1. The Games and Stories – An elementary opening point for a ‘must watch’ list, but as we head into this most anticipated of Pac-12 conference seasons, I am acutely aware that I don’t want to watch Southern University play a ton of games. I’m not that stoked on seeing Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Weber State, or Evergreen State (St. Katherine, for that matter). And I mean no offense. I just don’t know them from Adam and I want the drama. I don’t care if UW and WSU rate outside the top-100 on KenPom. That’s the damn Apple Cup. USC is the 4th worst team remaining on UCLA’s schedule. BUT THEY’RE THE ONLY SCHOOL YAPPING AT UCLA. Suddenly we’re privy to subtext that wasn’t there when the opponents were [Directional] State Tech. Arizona is the top team, but Spencer Dinwiddie has already said he thinks his team is the cream of the crop. I have running bets about Arizona V. Oregon and I love the Arizona-Washington rivalry. Last time Cal and Stanford faced off, STANFORD’S ENTIRE ASSISTANT COACHING STAFF WAS EJECTED. Prior to last season, there hadn’t been an in-conference matchup of ranked teams since 2011. This year we’ve already got one in the first week (#10 Oregon @ #20 Colorado)…with more to follow! It’s conference time.
  2. Ben Carter – He has just three games under his belt (flipping shoe swag) and really just one of consequence. In that game – against BYU – he managed 4 points, 4 boards, 3 assists. Not quite Arsalan Kazemi yet not even close, either. But he’s long been considered a budding piece of what Dana Altman is trying to accomplish. And now’s the time. From a personnel standpoint, the Ducks can’t quite hit the boards the way they used to. Or rather, the way Tony Woods and Kazemi did. They’ve shifted from a top 10 defense to a top 10 offense. The best offensive team Dana Altman has ever coached. As we move forward, the emergence of a Robin to Mike Moser’s Batman could greatly benefit the Ducks.
  3. DaVonte Lacy – There aren’t going to be many reasons to watch Washington State so I present this guy:
  4. Washington’s Front Court… amongst so many other things in Seattle – Maybe there isn’t much to watch here as this team has become decimated through recruiting failures and injury (RIP Jernard Jarreau). Perris Blackwell is a fine player, but he’s one man. This is Romar’s worst defensive team since – well it’s literally the worst defense he’s ever coached. They rank 287th in defensive efficiency giving up 1.09 points per possession. Woof. Teams are shooting a 54% eFG against them, otherwise known as 318th best nationally. Double Woof. And that front court that doesn’t necessarily exist? Allowing 70% shooting at the rim. Teams are shooting 56% from 2-point range and I could go on but I won’t because as the Dawgs allow more and more points it raises more and more questions I don’t want to discuss about the health of Husky Hoops. So why watch? Because it could be something of a last hoorah.
  5. Oregon’s SOS – It has to improve. Or perhaps better said: it’s going to. They’ll play all of Arizona (State and the good guys) and UCLA twice while only escaping a visit from Colorado. Amongst KenPom’s top-25 teams, the Ducks have the 5th easiest schedule. Completely to their credit, they’ve handled that schedule. But as the going gets tough we’ll get to see whether or not this team will Win the Day.
  6. Cal’s Injury Bug – First they dropped two tough games without Richard Solomon in the lineup at the Maui Invitational. Then Kreklow and Bird sustained injuries and it’s pretty wide open as to when either of these two is coming back. You don’t need me to tell you that’s not good. I love Bird’s skill set and he carried the Bears through a few games earlier this year. They’ll now rely even more heavily on seniors Cobbs and Solomon as well as soph Ty Wallace and junior David Kravish. That’s a nice foursome, but nothing close to what this team is with Ricky and Jabari. Will their absence cost the Bears a chance to dance?
  7. The POY Race – I wrote really early in the year about this because why not? This is going to shake out to be a really great race because there are so many players that will be worthy of the title for so many different reasons. From Joseph Young who gets points like a Fuel Band to Kyle Anderson who does everything like a Swiss Knife,  how will voters (Pac-12 coaches) evaluate? Value (Nick Johnson, Anderson, Delon Wright, Mike Moser)? Skill (Young, Jahii Carson, Jordan Adams)? Whatever the case, it’s not going to be Jorge Gutierrez.
  8. Arizona’s Depth – Or lack thereof. They’re a damn talented team who then ranks 312th in percentage of bench minutes. The Pac-12 season is a grind and getting into the Yorks, Pitts’, and Korcheks of this lineup could help alleviate some of stress on the core-six. But it’s a really good core-six. One thing I’ve long been interested in – ever since he started the first game of the year – is the development of Gabe York. He wasn’t expected to be getting much tick – his defense a liability and a thorn in Miller’s side. But he’s shown some ability to defend but it’s his shooting ability (42% 3FG%) that I believe could make Arizona the hands down favorite to win this whole damn thing. But he’s not quite there yet. Conference play will be his chance to cut his teeth in some big games.
  9. Hot Seats – I hate this topic but it’s going to come up and as a given team maybe does worse than we might expect, there could be some seats warming up all over the conference. The influx of coaching talent across both football and basketball in the past 3 years has been impressive and if you’re not keeping up with the Joneses then you’re just losing sporting events. There are going to be a few ADs with tough decisions in the coming months. You already know which ones they are and so do they.
  10. Dunks
  11. Delon Wright and the Scorin’ Utes – Larry K’s team has exceeded the 120-point mark twice this season and they’re third in the nation in points per game (87.4). They’ve also played nothing short of a middle school schedule but that’s a whole different topic. Delon Wright has been an incredible addition to this team. He’s doing almost everything for them: 15/7/6, 138.3 ORtg. The obvious here is that I’m intrigued to see how he fairs against better competition; which begins tonight as he and the Utes host #10 Oregon and all of the guard talent in the world. The other thing to note about Utah here is that they have the fifth highest eFG% in the nation. Again, the schedule stuff, but at a certain point we have to appreciate that what Larry K’s team is doing is simply efficient. Excited to see how it translates. They’re 11-1.
  12. Jahii Carson – Because he’s Jahii Carson.
  13. #20 Colorado – The lede here is that they’re ranked and Tad’s making a name of this program and Spencer Dinwiddie is likely league-bound and then something else about Askia Booker putting up shots like a Tri-Delt. It’s all true. But let’s take a moment to think about Josh “Jelly” Scott as we head to conference play. The guard play in this conference is obscene. The Arizona bigs have been getting their love but how about Scott? Here are his numbers in Colorado’s last four games: 15 points and 11 boards. That’s a lot of everything you’d want from your big. He takes just 7 shots per game to get his points, which is grossly efficient. And this is the point in the blurb that I mention his free throw rate: 88.2. That’s a 147% increase over last season’s FTRate. He’s drawing greater than 6 fouls per forty minutes. Once perceived as soft, he’s banging his way to the free throw line and offensive success. Such a post asset is going to bode well for the Buffs as we make our way towards March.
  14. Vegas – Things happen there that should stay there. You know this and I know this and the Vegas travel bureau markets that. Certain things should stay there including the Pac-12 tournament. This will be year two of the three year contract that I fully expect to be renewed. But I don’t expect many teams to be sticking around Vegas. What I mean is I think there’s going to be a hearty number (seven) of Pac-12 teams leaving Vegas for the big dance. I also think this Pac-12 tourney is going to be as fun as it gets. Hoops on basketball on baskethoops.

Getting to know Arizona: For one reason

Sean Miller sat at a table next to Jim Livengood, his wife, and his three children. Set up in the middle of the McKale floor, the former AD spoke effusively about his newest hire before turning the mic over to the native Pennsylvanian. Miller thanked Coach Olson before saying anything to anyone about anything else. He too would speak effusively about the program he was inheriting and the legacy he would work to carry on. Hours earlier, at a similar press conference with a less celebratory mood, Miller was asked about his decision to become the next head coach at the University of Arizona, “I would never leave Xavier unless it was a place that I really felt you could win a national championship.” He’d go on to lead his first Wildcat team to a 16-15 record. The first Arizona team since 1984 not invited to the NCAA tournament. Xavier would attend their third consecutive sweet sixteen. That was 2009 and this is 2013. Four years removed from that press table on the McKale floor, Sean Miller will unveil his best team yet. His best chance yet to affirm that April 7th decision.

Why I love them: Arizona is going to be so outrageously good. It’s wild that Gordon gets the majority of eyeballs (yet understandable) and if you’re writing a 1000 word column on the Cats, he’s taking up 40% of it. Respect. But in a singular blurb entitled “Why I love my favorite team of all-time on my own blog so you’re going to have to deal with all of my biases and Kool Aid drinking because it’s mine all mine” I’ll gladly talk about the other kids:

  • Brandon Ashley was AG before AG.
  • TJ McConnell was a top five theft before bailing on small ball for the big boys. A defense and pass first PG in a SM system? Yes please. Did you know a former coach said TJ was the best player on Arizona’s practice floor last year? Do you know who that former coach was? Luther Olson.
  • Nick Johnson made exponential improvements from FR to SO season. That’s a somewhat expected improvement; a standard time to leap ahead. But the greatest leap he made was fully understanding and embracing his role as a lock down defender. You see what he did down the stretch? Dinwiddie, LD2, Ian Clark, Wesley Saunders, Craft? Zipperhead nada. Lock down. And now he’s got a partner in crime (see above) (and below)
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson compares more favorably to Andre Iguodala than AG compares to Blake Griffin. 6’7″ with a 7’1″ wingspan, when translated into hoop, means: NIET. As in NIET anyone is getting by him. StealsOnblocksOndeflections.

Quick break here because I’m exhausted and can’t even wrap my mind around who to write about next. I literally have an elevated heart rate right now because I got anxious I’d forget to mention someone.

  • Kaleb Tarczewski is a seven footer who dropped 6/6 a season ago. Kinda meh, ho hum, but if you were privy to the report my boy James whipped up a year ago regarding top-50 big men recruits, it’s about par for the course. You know where the majority of those top-50 big men who average about 6/6 in their freshman campaign wind up? Lotteries.
  • Once there was this frail point guard I interviewed. He went on to surprise people as a freshmen and disappoint them in the subsequent two years. But he’s a senior now. He’s seen this and he’s experience that (and by that I mean an elite eight, ever been?). He’s Jordin Mayes and he’s going to surprise you because iced veins were meant for March.

And that’ll cover it for now. I didn’t get to the defensive collective of this group or the possibility of instant offense from a guy like Gabe York. Zach Peters is like a Wear twin who won’t ever have to be featured (that’s what the Wears were supposed to be). Yet the Wildcats aren’t even allowing Peters to play. Just try and come at me with the shooting stuff.

Oh, and there’s that Miller guy.

Why I hate them: I don’t. Can’t. Won’t ever. Bear down.

Stat you need to know:

35.8

Percentage from three point distance opponents shot against the Wildcats last season, the second highest such percentage a Sean Miller team has ever yielded. Aside from his first ever season, no other SM team allowed opponents to shoot better than 33%. His worst ever ranking (the bookends aside) was 85th. My point here is that last year appears to be a statistical anomaly in which his defense was lead by not-TJ McConnell. Last season’s eight losses saw AZ opponents shoot 46% from distance. In my book, How to Lose Basketball Games, chapter three is titled “Allow Your Opponent to Shoot >40% from 3FG: And other ways to lose from beyond the arc.”

In their words: Ezra covers Arizona hoops for PointguardU and is a great twitter follow. Do you like sports? Follow Ezra.

There are no more excuses.

With TJ McConnell running the show, an improved and polished front court at his disposal, and Aaron Gordon doing basketball things that only Aaron Gordon can do, justifications will not manage if Arizona does not reach the Promised Land. The talent is too strong and the road to Jerry World is too forthright.

Now that’s not to say the task won’t be daunting. The Wildcats have one of the more challenging out-of-conference schedules in the country – a potential Madison Square Garden match-up with Duke overshadows a trip to Ann Arbor to play the national runner-ups.

And despite being the runaway pick to win the conference, the Pac-12 won’t be a cakewalk as Oregon, UCLA, Cal, and even The School Up North could provide legitimate challenges.
But come March, when Sean Miller’s teams traditionally peak, this one should peak a little bit higher. By then, the chemistry between McConnell and his teammates should be uniquely strong and Arizona will have an inherent advantage against most opponents because its front-court size and talent.

Furthermore, if the Wildcats earn a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, their path to the Final Four will presumably never stray from the comforts of Southern California and its rich base of UofA alums.

It’s year five of the Sean Miller Era and patience is becoming less of a virtue and more of a commodity It’s time for expectations to become reality.

Quotable:

“They’ve got about 75 pros on their team.” – Lorenzo Romar on why Arizona is the Pac-12 favorite

“But who in their right mind would think that Gordon will bring the ball up against Duke in the Final Four, cross over Jabari Parker, spin off of Rodney Hood, and dunk so hard on Rasheed Sulaimon that Sulaimon gets a concussion? (Arizona fans just scanned the room for something to put on their laps to hide their collective erection.)” – Mark Titus

Outlook: I have sunglasses on right now and it’s not the hangover. No the future is so bright I’m wearing shades and it’s taking all I’ve got to not talk about hotels and things to do in Dallas. What’s it like there in early April? Alas, there’s entire slate of basketball to be played and games to be won. None of this is going to be easy for the Wildcats but they’ve positioned themselves to make it look so. Their schedule is great – I’m attending as much of it as I can – and everything I mentioned above. Detractors, critics, and realists will mention Arizona’s unproven outside shooting. They have a point. But the greater point on that front is that if Arizona is grossly reliant on its shooting they’ve got bigger problems. If the offense isn’t running through someone named Aaron, Kaleb, or Brandon: issues. Furthermore, Arizona is going to get its buckets in transition. Defense will be their signature. I imagine a lot of run stopping timeouts from opposing benches (20-4 run, etc.).

We’re one week away.

He touched the ball.

Go Cats and here’s to basketball games in football stadiums.

Bear down.