Arizona Basketball

No. 11 Arizona (23-5, 11-5) at UCLA (21-7, 11-4): Wildcats an afterthought on ESPN’s GameDay show


Date: Tonignt
Time: 7 p.m. Tucson time
Location: Pauley Pavilion (13,800), Los Angeles, Calif.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: ESPN (Dan Shulman/Jay Bilas/Samantha Ponder)

ESPN College GameDay’s crew of Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps, Jalen Rose and Rece Davis considered Arizona an afterthought when discussing the Pac-12’s most likely to make a run in the postseason. Phelps chose Cal, Bilas took Colorado, Rose pegged UCLA and Davis picked Oregon as long as its guards are healthy. Davis concluded by noting Arizona’s wins over potential ACC champ Miami and SEC champ Florida. This is what happens when a team like Arizona is 3-3 in its last six games after a 20-2 start. The Wildcats need a statement victory against one of the Pac-12’s top tier teams such as UCLA. Their five losses are against UCLA, Oregon, Cal, Colorado and USC — five teams that have a combined Pac-12 record of 62-31. Their 11 conference wins are against ASU, Colorado, USC, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington (twice), Washington State (twice), Utah (twice) — combined conference record of 55-75.

Sean Miller

Sean Miller

Sean Miller made his name at Xavier because of the Musketeers’ defense, largely because his talent pool was not as loaded as Arizona’s roster. The players he recruited to Xavier were of the three-star variety. None of them had a sense of entitlement as four- or five-star recruits. Miller’s task with the Wildcats is fusing together McDonald’s All-Americans, high school hoops standouts and highly-publicized transfers into a cohesive unit, especially on the defensive end. Scoring, especially in one-on-one situations, comes natural to them because that’s how they were groomed in high school and AAU ball. Defense is truly a team concept, where communication and knowing and complementing a teammate’s tendencies are so critical, especially with Miller’s man-to-man principles. In Miller’s last season at Xavier in 2008-09, the Musketeers had an adjusted defensive rating of No. 11, according to Ken Pomeroy’s system at Arizona is currently at No. 40. Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency is points allowed per 100 possessions after adjusting the quality of opponents. If the Wildcats were at No. 11 this season, they would be undefeated.

Shabazz Muhammad

Shabazz Muhammad

UCLA’s three freshman starters – Jordan Adams, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson accounted
for 36 of the Bruins’ 39 points in the first half and finished with 64 of UCLA’s 79 total points in the Bruins’ 79-74 overtime win over ASU on Thursday.
Prior to this season, two or more UCLA freshmen had never recorded 20 or more points in the same game. That feat has happened three times this year. In two games, UCLA has had three freshmen score at least 20 points (against Fresno State on Dec. 22, and Arizona State on Thursday). Adams and Muhammad each reached the 20-point pleateau in UCLA’s win against Long Beach State. Lute Olson started three freshmen in 1998-99: Ruben Douglas, shooting guard, and forwards Richard Jefferson and Michael Wright. Luke Walton averaged 25.8 minutes a game as a redshirt freshman reserve in 1999-2000 with true freshmen Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arenas starting in the backcourt. Olson did not count on all three players on each of these teams to score more than 20 points in a game.

Kevin Parrom

Kevin Parrom

Bilas made it clear that UCLA struggles on the boards during the GameDay telecast. UCLA is getting out-rebounded in Pac-12 play by an average of 41.4 to 35.7. The Bruins, however, out-worked Arizona on the boards in Tucson on Jan. 24 with a 45-44 advantage. UCLA coach Ben Howland told the GameDay crew that if UCLA does not improve upon its rebounding the Bruins will not go far in the NCAA tournament. UCLA will come out determined to out-rebound Arizona again. The Wildcats are out-rebounding Pac-12 opponents 35.9 to 32.9. Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Kaleb Tarczewski combine to average 16.1 rebounds a game in Pac-12 play. They will have to combine for at least 25 against the Bruins. Also not to be overlooked — Arizona’s guards Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson must be active on the defensive rebounds to fuel Arizona’s fast break.

Larry Drew

Larry Drew II

UCLA is North Carolina West with three former Tarheels as major contributors on the Bruins’ roster. Larry Drew II, a senior, and two redshirt juniors David Wear and Travis Wear were teammates in Chapel Hill during the 2009-10 season. Drew II was part of North Carolina’s NCAA championship team during his freshman season of 2008-09. Drew II has assist-to-turnover numbers like Steve Kerr but is not close to being the kind of shooter Kerr exhibited. Drew II ranks second on UCLA’s single-season assists list (218) and currently stands first on the school’s single-season assists per game list (7.79). Through Thursday’s games, Drew II ranked second in the nation in assist turnover ratio (3.46) and fourth in assists per game (7.8). He has logged at least eight assists in 17 of 28 contests and has committed two or fewer turnovers in 19 of 28 games. He shoots 44 percent from the field and only 60 percent at the free-throw line. He knows his strength is distributing the ball.

Bruce Pascoe of The Arizona Daily Star quotes Howland as saying Arizona can be a Final Four team.
— Remember when Miller called Arizona’s defense a “milk and cookies” defense in his first season with the Wildcats in 2009-10? Anthony Gimino writes that the UA is reliving those days.

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner


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