Arizona Basketball

Three top storylines: UCLA Bruins at Arizona Wildcats



Look for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to show his defensive versatility by being matched up with UCLA power forward Kevon Looney on occasion (ESPN screen shot).

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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)

The Bruins’ starters.
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UCLA (16-11, 8-6) AT NO. 7 ARIZONA (23-3, 11-2)
Tip Time: 7:05 p.m. MST
TV: ESPN (Dan Shulman/Jay Bilas)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
Overall: Arizona trails, 38-53
In Tucson: Arizona leads, 22-15
Current Streak: UCLA won 1
Last Meeting: UCLA won, 75-71, on March 15, 2014
Sean Miller vs. UCLA: 6-8

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Top three storylines for tonight’s game:

1. UCLA top heavy.

Steve Alford’s team is heavily reliant on four players who have started every game this season — senior wing player Norman Powell, sophomore point guard Bryce Alford, freshman power forward Kevon Looney and freshman shooting guard Isaac Hamilton.

They average 67.3 percent of UCLA’s minutes played. Each averages at least 31.9 minutes, led by Alford’s 36.1 mark.

By comparison, Sean Miller’s four most-utilized players — senior point guard T.J. McConnell, sophomore wing player Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, freshman shooting guard Stanley Johnson and junior power forward Brandon Ashley — equals 56.8 percent of Arizona’s minutes played.

None averages more than 29.6 minutes.

The bulk of Steve Alford’s minute distribution goes to six players with junior starting center Tony Parker and freshman center Thomas Welsh averaging at least 16 minutes a game.

Miller has seven players who average at least 16 minutes with junior center Kaleb Tarczewski, junior shooting guard Gabe York and sophomore shooting guard Elliott Pitts getting their fair share of minutes.

2. Alford’s first trip to McKale

Steve Alford has never stepped foot in McKale Center as a player or coach until now, another reminder that the only traditional basketball power to not play the Wildcats is Indiana.


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Much of that stems from Lute Olson’s rift with Bobby Knight over the years from their Big Ten days.

The Wildcats have faced the other bluebloods of college basketball in the regular season (Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, Louisville and North Carolina).

The closest tie Alford has to the Arizona program, if you can call it that, is when Luke Recker transferred to Iowa to play for Alford after originally transferring to Arizona from Indiana. Recker and his girlfriend were involved in a horrific car accident in 1999, that left his girlfriend paralyzed. He asked Olson if he could play closer to home and Olson granted him that request.

Alford and Miller were featured by Sporting News as two of the top former college basketball players who coached in the Sweet 16.

If UCLA loses today, the Bruins must win their last three regular-season games (which won’t be difficult against the Washington schools and USC at home) and at least once in the postseason for Alford to continue his streak of eight 20-game win seasons.

3. Physical test for Arizona and Ashley ahead.

Looney, 6’9″ and 220, will provide Ashley a physical test inside at the power forward spot. Looney is averaging 9.7 rebounds per game, the second-highest rebounding average of any freshman in the nation.

Looney has logged 13 double-doubles in 27 games, the highest double-double total of any freshman in the country. Looney totaled season highs with 27 points and 19 rebounds in UCLA’s 86-81 double-overtime comeback victory against Stanford in Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 8, 2015.

Arizona prides itself with its inside presence, particularly with its rebounding. The Wildcats lead the Pac-12 with a plus-8.2 rebound margin and rank first nationally in defensive rebound percentage at 77.0.

An interesting sidebar to the game is how Ashley and Tarczewski match up with Looney and Parker. Don’t be surprised to see Hollis-Jefferson’s defensive versatility extend to defending and boxing out a physical and long player like Looney.


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Present RPI ranking of the Pac-12.
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Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents.
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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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