#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.

2 thoughts on “#1 Arizona Wins at Maples: How and Why

  1. Nice win for the Cats last evening. A big departure from your excellent article. Is it just me or is it becoming clear that the only player Arizona has that appears ready for the NBA is Johnson (and even he looks like a really good role player vs an all-star level guy). I understand that Gordon and Ashley would likely get taken in the first round if they dipped their toes in the pro pool, but is either showing the consistent ability to take games over on this level? I think the same is true for UCLA – Anderson looks the part, but LaVine and Adams look like they could use a little more seasoning. LaVine looks the part, but he has not shown the ability to create his own shot and has an improving, yet shaky, handle. No one should fault these kids from chasing their dreams and getting paid to play, but it appears the hype, especially, in Gordon’s case isn’t warranted.

    1. Really interesting ball game.

      The NBA-bound Wildcats discussion is one my Wildcat brain trust and I frequent. Johnson strikes me as a candidate to come back just due to size and NBA projected position but that’s a totally different conversation. He just looks like a damn good basketball player right now. As for the rest of them, here are my thoughts:

      Ashley: Has the complete package, just needs to know how it all works together and consistently. He’s the most skilled player on the team.
      Hollis-Jefferson: Could have the best pro career of all of them and is oh so close. Sometimes I don’t cheer when he hits baseline jumpers because that’ll become his meal ticket. Still wildly raw.
      Tarczewski: Still learning about his own size, how to use it, and how to move it.
      Gordon: Ahhh, the prodigal son. He does everything and none of it sexy. He has probably the fourth best skillset on the entire team – arguably fifth – but the Creator touched him in a way that no one else was built and his athleticism allows him to get into positions to make plays no one else can. It’s a difficult skill/talent/gift to scout as it’s rare. If measuring him on strict basketball skills, they’re not definitely there. The end game, however, is he’s just better than you.

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