Date: Today. Time: 1 p.m., Tucson time
Location: Huntsman Center (15,000), Salt Lake City
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Paul Sunderland/Brevin Knight)
Arizona coach Sean Miller told The Arizona Daily Star’s Bruce Pascoe “I guarantee you there won’t be the same five guys walking out there” when the Wildcats tip off their game at Utah today. The move will be made, Miller told Pascoe, because he is alarmed about how the Wildcats played before the first media timeout in both halves in the last three games. According to Pascoe’s research, the Wildcats were outscored by Stanford, Cal and Colorado 53-27 in that 24-minute span. Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson and Solomon Hill will start because they are Arizona’s bread-and-butter players. Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, Kevin Parrom, Grant Jerrett and Angelo Chol will challenge for the other two starting positions. Parrom can afford to start with either him or Hill occupying the power forward position. Utah features probable All-Pac-12 center Jason Washburn (who is 6-10, 242) but the Utes’ power forward is freshman Jordan Loveridge, who is only 6-6 and 230. My guess is Parrom starts, although he has struggled for most of the Pac-12 season, because of his experience and Tarczewski will also be in the lineup to uphold his confidence.
For the Wildcats to make a deep run this season, Arizona needs Parrom to regain that Bronx swagger and produce. Parrom has not scored in double figures since producing 16 points in the Pac-12 opener against Colorado on Jan. 3. He is capable of a double-double but has yet to produce one. Double-doubles in points and rebounds for the Wildcats are scarce this season. They only have three (two by Ashley and one by Hill). Hill had 12 double-doubles in his first three seasons. Parrom has only one double-digit rebound game in his career. With him being a senior, he should challenge for more. In the last two road games against Washington State and Colorado, Parrom produced six points and four rebounds in 30 minutes (he was ejected after playing only seven minutes against the Cougars). Hill is the senior captain. Parrom should be the guy who motivates. Hill and Parrom have been around the program the longest. Their time to leave a mark on the program is now.
Washburn posted the most productivity points by a conference player this year with 53 in 36 minutes in Utah’s 60-55 win over ASU on Wednesday. Productivity points, which is published at this site, factors all positive stats such as made field goals and rebounds subtracted by negative stats such as turnovers and missed free throws. Washburn’s total against ASU tops the 50 posted by ASU’s Jordan Bachynski against UCLA and by Allen Crabbe against Arizona. Washburn was 9-of-12 from the field, 8-of-9 from the free-throw line, pulled down nine rebounds, scored a career-high 26 points, had two blocked shots and two steals, and did not commit a turnover in 36 minutes against the Sun Devils. “I would be really surprised if he doesn’t play in the NBA,” Miller told the media after Arizona survived against the Utes 60-57 in Tucson last month. “I don’t think a couple of years ago he would have been that. He’s agile. He can score. He was one of the best players on the court, if not the best player.” Washburn had 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Wildcats in the first meeting.
The Pac-12 is loaded with talented freshmen and Utah’s Loveridge belongs among the elite of them (UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, ASU’s Jahii Carson, Oregon’s Dominic Artis, etc.). After a minor knee injury sidelined him against Colorado on Feb. 2, Loveridge has played well, especially in the last two games against Oregon and ASU. Typical of an unpredictable freshman, Loveridge did not score in the second half after posting 14 points before halftime in Utah’s 73-64 loss to Oregon on Feb. 9. He also did not pull down a rebound against the Ducks, drawing the ire of head coach Larry Krystowiak. His performance against the Ducks was reminiscent of how he played against Arizona in the first meeting at McKale Center. Loveridge scored 17 points and made three 3-pointers, all in the first half. He scored 13 of Utah’s 23 first-half points. “Jordan Loveridge is a heck of a player,” Miller told reporters afterward. Loveridge tallied 13 points and six rebounds in the upset win over ASU on Wednesday. Loveridge is one of the Pac-12’s league leaders in rebounding with an average of 6.8 per game, which leads the Utes. He also ranks 11th in the league with an average of 2.3 oﬀensive rebounds per game. Loveridge also leads the Utes by averaging 12 points per game.
Miller must be encouraged with Chol shooting 61.5 percent from the field in Pac-12 games. Although he has made only eight shots in 13 attempts in 75 minutes, Chol could be a piece to the puzzle for Miller to coach this team deep into March Madness. Arizona needs a reliable shooter inside to keep defenses honest against perimeter scorers Lyons, Johnson and Hill. Tarczewski is shooting 40.7 percent from the field against Pac-12 competition and Ashley is at 47 percent. The Wildcats long for the days of when frontcourt players shot better than 60 percent from the field in a season. Those in the .600 Club starting in the Lute Olson era include Pete Williams, Anthony Cook, Brian Williams, Joseph Blair and Jordan Hill. Why there is reason for hope for Chol, Tarczewki and Ashley to develop into consistent shooters inside: Cook had very raw skills as a post-up shooter when his career began. As a senior in 1988-89, Cook set the UA record by shooting 62.9 percent from the field. The shooting and scoring ability of the .600 Club elevated the play of Arizona’s heralded point guards through the years because they finished plays and increased assist totals. They are at the foundation of Point Guard U.
PAC-12 RPI ASSESSMENT
RPI based on CBSSports.com
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*-Wins vs. Top 50 teams
**-Losses vs. Top 100 teams or higher
SOS-Strength of schedule
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner