Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats vs. San Diego State Aztecs: Three top storylines

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Stanley Johnson figures to be an important player to match San Diego State's athleticism and length (ESPN screen shot)

Stanley Johnson figures to be an important player to match San Diego State’s athleticism and length (ESPN screen shot)

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Top three storylines for tonight’s game:

1. Who’s to blame for a transfer?

Angelo Chol wants his revenge against Arizona

Angelo Chol wants his revenge against Arizona

Two of the best transfers in the Sean Miller era: Angelo Chol and Daniel Bejarano do not look back kindly on their experience with the Wildcat program in terms of their playing time.

Who’s fault is that? It is a good debate but I’ll side with the coach.

Both Chol and Bejarano are upstanding guys. They are not bad seeds. They had more confidence in their skill set than Miller and his staff saw and left when they noticed the writing on the wall with incoming recruits. Does that make Chol and Bejarano bad players? No. They sought a better opportunity. Isn’t that what we all should do?

Bejarano is a senior guard with Colorado State who is leading the Rams in scoring (17.7 points a game) and assists (4.0) and is second in rebounds (7.0).

Chol, who gets his dream match with Arizona tonight in the Maui Invitational title game, is a reserve for San Diego State who is averaging 7.2 points and 4.0 rebounds a game.

“I want to play them,” Chol said a year ago. “I want them to know that I made a good decision to transfer, to make them see the mistakes they made by not letting me play. I’m going to do that by improving here and getting better, then playing against them and actually beating them so they can see.”

Miller has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders to make Arizona the best program it can be. He gets paid a ton, which puts him under pressure to succeed now, not maybe later. He cares about his players’ skills, not their egos, as it should be. That includes making shrewd decisions about who plays the most, especially at crucial parts of the game.

If a player does not understand those decisions while taking a free-ride scholarship, you can’t blame the head coach.

Looking at Arizona’s lineup now, Chol would be a senior power forward with the Wildcats if he opted to stay and battle his way to more minutes. He left after Miller and his staff recruited Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon in consecutive years. Chol never showed he had the offensive capability to forge ahead of those players in the rotation.

If Chol stayed, it likely would have taken the scholarship away from Craig Victor. He might be playing the minutes Dusan Ristic (about 7 minutes a game) is playing now. Chol is averaging 16.4 minutes a game for San Diego State.

Bejarano would have been a senior last year coming off the bench behind Nick Johnson. If he stayed, Arizona might have not signed Gabe York, who is a junior starter and will be important as a senior next year. Bejarano also would not have become a marquee player for a Division I program like he has become at Colorado State.

Chol says he wants to show Miller he made a mistake not playing him. He should want to show head coach Steve Fisher he could start for San Diego State, not for Arizona. That’s in the past. As it is right now, Chol has the same role with the Aztecs that he had with Miller and Arizona.

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MAUI INVITATIONAL TITLE
Tip Time: 8 p.m. MST
TV: ESPN (Sean McDonough/Fran Fraschilla)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
Audio Stream: ArizonaWildcats.com
National Radio: ESPN Radio (Bill Rosinski/Malcolm Huckaby)
Postgame Show: KCUB 1290-AM (Anthony Gimino/Steve Rivera/Kelvin Eafon)
THE SERIES
Overall: Arizona leads, 23-7
Current Streak: Arizona won three
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 70-64, on March 27, 2014
Miller vs. San Diego State: 3-2

AnthonySteve.Book

Perfect gift for any Arizona or college hoops fan this holiday season: A complete rundown of the Arizona basketball program as we might not know it put together by longtime Tucson sportswriters Steve Rivera and Anthony Gimino. Please e-mail Rivera, Gimino or ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com for ordering details.

CLICK HERE to read Javier Morales’ review


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2. If the Pac-12 expands again, San Diego State should top the list.

The Aztecs’ program, in a strong southern California market that includes San Diego, would be a natural for the Pac-12. The conference should look into adding San Diego State and another Big 12 program, perhaps TCU, or another team from Texas.

San Diego State’s basketball program has been on par with the Pac-12’s best under Fisher since Miller was hired by Arizona in 2009-10. The Aztecs are 13-3 in their last 16 games against current members of the Pac-12 and 14-4 since 2009-10.

The Aztecs’ roster includes nine players from California, including three from the Los Angeles area who UCLA and USC allowed to slip away. They are important players for Fisher — Senior forward Dwayne Polee II and guard Aqeel Quinn and junior guard Skylar Spencer.

If San Diego State goes to a Power 5 conference like the Pac-12, its image will be enhanced and Fisher can attract more players from Findlay Prep (such as Winston Shepard) and others from across the nation. Who would not want to attend school in San Diego with a full ride?

Boise State and San Diego State have been rumored in the past to be the next to join the Pac-12. With the way the Big Ten and ACC have expanded in recent years, it won’t be too long that the Pac-12 becomes the Pac-14.

3. Which athletic forward/wing tandem is better? Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson or San Diego State’s Shepard and Polee?

Just going off the stats, Arizona’s duo has a slight edge.

Shepard and Polee are averaging 20.6 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson are averaging 26.4 points and 11 rebounds a game.

Shepard and Polee are shooting a combined 30 for 83 (36.1 percent) from the field. Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson are shooting 41 of 75 (54.7 percent).

Shepard and Polee are shooting a combined 8 of 30 (26.7 percent) from three-point range with Polee (5 of 23) taking the most shots beyond the arc. Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson are shooting a combined 5 of 18 (27.7 percent) from three-point range with Johnson (4 of 14) having the most attempts from beyond the arc.

Polee has 13 steals (Shepard two). Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson combine for nine steals.

What stands out most about San Diego State is it is a team full of forwards and post players. Gone is dangerous point guard Xavier Thames, who exhausted his eligibility. J.J. O’Brien, a 6’7″ forward, leads the Aztecs with 14 assists. The Aztecs have 61 turnovers compared to only 53 assists.

Players like Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson will be important to match against San Diego State’s length and athleticism, but the most important Arizona player is senior point guard T.J. McConnell and how he can take control with flawless play against an opponent that is in need of a player like him.

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ARIZONA DUNK TALLY
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WHAT IS PRODUCTIVITY RATING?:
PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

SEASON PRODUCTIVITY RATING
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ARIZONA SCHEDULE/PRODUCTIVITY RESULTS
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also has published articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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