Arizona Basketball

No. 9 Gonzaga vs. No. 3 Arizona Wildcats: Top three storylines



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Top three storylines for today’s game:

1. Arizona has stood tall in Top 10 matchups at McKale.

Historically, Arizona has handled the pressure of defending its home court against prime competition. The Wildcats are 6-1 in games against non-conference teams at McKale Center when both teams are ranked in the Top 10.

In such games, Arizona has defeated the likes of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (twice), UNLV’s Jerry Tarkanian, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Texas’ Rick Barnes and Florida’s Billy Donovan. Now comes Gonzaga’s Mark Few.

The lone loss was to Kansas, coached by Roy Williams, in 2001 when the eighth-ranked Jayhawks defeated No. 4 Arizona 105-97 on Dec. 1, 2001. Kansas had future NBA players Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich.

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True to its blue-collar form, Gonzaga’s roster does not include a Top 60 NBA draft prospect, according to, but the Bulldogs have talent.

Five players average in double figures, led by Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer, who is a former member of the Oakland Soldiers AAU team that included Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner in 2010.

Today’s matchup is only the second game at McKale Cetner in the last eight seasons against a Top 10 non-conference opponent. Sean Miller’s eighth-ranked team two years ago beat No. 5 Florida 65-64.

In Lute Olson’s 24 years at Arizona, the Wildcats played 11 games against Top 10 non-conference opponents at Arizona (an average of once every 2.2 years).

Arizona is 9-3 against Top 10 non-conference opponents at McKale Center. The Wildcats are only 9-8 against Top 10 Pac-12 opponents in Tucson.

Coaches like Krzyzewski would attribute the record disparity to Pac-10/12 referees working the games in Tucson. The more credible answer is the familiarity of conference teams with Arizona.


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Tip Time: 3:15 p.m. MST
TV: ESPN (Roxy Bernstein/Dan Dakich/Jeff Goodman)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
Overall: Arizona leads, 4-1
In Tucson: Arizona leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 84-61, on March 23, 2014
Sean Miller vs. Gonzaga: 1-2


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A jump shot by Byron Wesley (22) was blocked by Jordin Mayes in early 2013 (YouTube screen shot)

A jump shot by Byron Wesley (22) was blocked by Jordin Mayes in early 2013 (YouTube screen shot)

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2. Welcome back to McKale Center Byron Wesley.

Wesley, the leading scorer as a junior at USC last season, averaged 17.8 points per game. He transferred to Gonzaga immediately eligible after finishing his undergrad degree prior to transferring. Wesley, 6’5″ and 210, also averaged 6.4 rebounds a game for the Trojans.

Wesley did not travel to Tucson with USC last year because the unbalanced Pac-12 schedule had Arizona playing only in Los Angeles.

In his last trip to McKale on Jan. 26, 2013, he scored only eight points, shooting only 2 of 10 from the field, when the Trojans lost 74-50. He also had five rebounds.

Last year in Los Angeles, when the Wildcats beat USC 73-53, Wesley led the Trojans with 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting with six rebounds.

Wesley was 1-4 against Arizona while at USC, including two losses at McKale Center by 16 and 24 points. When USC upset No. 11 Arizona 89-78 in Los Angeles on Feb. 26, 2013, Wesley had 18 points.

Wesley is averaging 11.3 points and 5.1 rebounds for Gonzaga. An aggressive player as evidenced by his rebounding production as a guard, he will be a good matchup against Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson and sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the perimeter.

3. Gonzaga gets the most out of Few.

Mark Few is not about the money and the limelight

Mark Few is not about the money and the limelight

Mark Few won’t be leaving Gonzaga any time soon, probably not until he retires.

The urge for the national media to name him a candidate for a coaching vacancy annually is comical. His name was among those mentioned when Arizona was searching for a permanent coach in 2009 before former athletic director Jim Livengood landed Miller.

Few has also been rumored for openings at UCLA, Oregon, USC and Oregon State in recent years along with many other schools.

Few, who is more of an Opie character than Steve Kerr given his backroads upbringing in Creswell, Ore., is perfect for the Gonzaga job in big-city, small-town Spokane, Wash.

The USA Today published the top salaries among coaches before last year’s NCAA tournament and Few was ranked No. 34. He is the last among those who have at least a $1 million contract at $1,187,536.

Former Arizona player and assistant coach Josh Pastner ranks No. 9 at $2,650,000, one spot ahead of Miller ($2,627,806).

ASU’s Herb Sendek ($1,804,500), Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin ($1,552,205), Nebraska’s Tim Miles ($1,525,000) and Colorado’s Tad Boyle ($1,427,500) earn more than Few.

The does not faze the 16-year Gonzaga coach who has a career record of 410-100.

He has never advanced past the Sweet 16 in four attempts. This year’s team with a perfect blend of experience, size and athleticism appears to be the one that will push Few over the top into the Final Four. They have the hunger of being eliminated in the NCAA third round last year by the Wildcats.

On his Sirius/XM radio show earlier this season, Krzyzewski said Gonzaga is his dark horse to make the Final Four. That’s saying something for a renowned ACC coach to say something favorably about a team out West, especially in November.


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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)

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[table “” not found /] 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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