LSU–Alabama? Forget the SEC West Division Championship Game. It’s basketball season!
Even Arizona’s football coach is going to basketball games. If you’re feeling a little behind on what’s going on with the Wildcats and the rest of the Pac-12, fear not. As in the past, we’re here to help.
UA hoops has a 6-2 record with wins against Valparaiso (6-2), Duquesne (5-3), Ball State (4-2), St. John’s (4-4), New Mexico State (5-3) and NAU (2-6). The losses came to Mississippi State (8-1) and San Diego State (8-2). So, yes, the Cats lost to the two best teams they’ve played so far.
Who is the next Derrick Williams?
Do you think dunking/shooting/shot-blocking/team-carrying machines grow on trees? No, this year’s team is having to share the scoring load. Two players average between 7.1 and 7.4 points per game, three players average between 10.5 and 11.0 points per game, and Solomon Hill is leading the way with a 12.4 average. The scoring factory is gone so the 2011-’12 Cats are more of a co-op.
Who is the best freshman?
Nick Johnson. He’s only 6-foot-2 but he jumps out of the gym and he’s the best 3-point shooter (46%) among the heavy-minute guys.
Who is the worst freshman?
The Other Johnson. Normally I wouldn’t call out a kid just a month into his college career but when you get suspended before you make your first college basket it’s safe to say it’s not going very well. Sidiki Johnson has announced he will be transferring and he’s still waiting for that first college basket.
Why haven’t I been able to find the games on TV?
The games have been televised but not in one place like in the past. So far the Cats have played on ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports Arizona Plus. Here’s the UA schedule for the rest of the non-conference season to help you plan ahead:
|Wed Dec 7||Florida||Gainesville||5 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sat Dec 10||Clemson||Tucson||2 p.m.||FSN|
|Sat Dec 17||Gonzaga||Seattle||2 p.m.||CBS|
|Tue Dec 20||Oakland||Tucson||6 p.m.||KWBA/FSAZ+|
|Thu Dec 22||Bryant||Tucson||5 p.m.||KWBA/FSAZ|
Yes, five games on five different channels. The new Pac-12 TV deal can’t start soon enough.
What are this team’s biggest weaknesses?
1) A lack of size. The starting lineup right now consists of Hill (6-6) at power forward and 6-7 Jesse Perry as the center. The Arizona big men are medium-sized at best.
2) Lack of interior scoring. Issue two is directly related to issue one. Because the Cats don’t have anyone who can post up and reliably score in the paint, they rely on the 3-point shot. A lot. In the first two games 30% of Arizona’s shots were from behind the arc. Since then it’s up to 44% including 58% (26 3-point attempts out of 45 total shots) against NAU.
Life is good when they go in (shooting 48% on 3s in the win against St. John’s) but when they don’t (19% in the loss to San Diego State) the Cats will struggle.
So is this team going to make the NCAA tournament?
We may find out this week. The UA takes on No. 10 Florida, Clemson and No. 19 Gonzaga over an 11-day span. That’s one more ranked team than in the entire Pac-12. Bubble-type teams need to pick up quality wins when they can.
Can this team defend its Pac-12 championship?
That might almost be easier than making The Field of 64 (Plus Four). Let’s take a trip around the Pac-12 and its underwhelming performance to date:
Oregon State vs. Texas, 100-95 in OT. That’s not saying much since the Longhorns aren’t ranked. The Pac-12 could really use Arizona picking up a big win or two in the next couple weeks.
Arizona State vs. Fairfield, 55-44. The Stags were so fired up after beating ASU they proceeded to lose to Dayton and Indiana State in their next two games.
Cal, by default. The Bears are the only ranked team in the conference but one of their two losses was to Missouri in a game in which Cal was outscored by 19 in the first half and 20 in the second half. The Pac-12 will not be the SEC Football of basketball this year.
Utah. It’s not even close. The Utes began their first season as a member of the Pac-12 by beating an NAIA school at home…by three. Utah hasn’t won since and hasn’t gotten closer than a 14-point loss to Massachusetts. No red-carpet rookie season schedule will be able to save this team.
Best Pac-12 team not in the Pac-12
San Diego State. The Aztecs have beaten USC, Arizona and Cal.
Biggest surprise (good)
Oregon State. The Beavers were picked to finish 8th in the Pac-12 but they are 6-1 with that win over Texas and a two-point loss to top-20 Vanderbilt. I believe this is the point where I’m supposed to mention OSU coach Craig Robinson is Barack Obama’s brother-in-law.
Stanford. The Cardinal was slotted as the 6th-best team in the league but they are a conference-best 8-1 with a win over Oklahoma State and a six-point loss to top-5 Syracuse. Stanford gets bonus points for playing Central Arkansas, UC-Davis, Pacific and Seattle…and not losing to any of them.
Biggest surprise (bad)
UCLA. This one isn’t close either. After starting the season ranked the preseason favorites in the Pac-12 are barely 2-5 with an 11-point loss to Loyola Marymount, a 20-point loss (!) to Middle Tennessee (!!), a 16-point defeat to Kansas, a 16-point laugher against Michigan and a 10-point loss to Texas. There are slow starts and then there’s…that.
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