Arizona Basketball

Three top storylines of Arizona Wildcats at Utah Utes



Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski need to show another dominant inside presence against Utah tonight (Arizona YouTube 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)

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NO. 7 ARIZONA (25-3, 13-2) AT NO. 13 UTAH (22-5, 12-3)
Tip Time: 7:05 p.m. MST
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch/Fran Fraschilla/Holly Rowe)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
Overall: Arizona leads, 29-28
In Salt Lake City: Arizona trails, 9-19
Current Streak: Arizona won 11
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 69-51, on Jan. 17, 2015
Sean Miller vs. Utah: 8-0

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Top three storylines for tonight’s game:

1. Arizona has thrived in raucous Salt Lake City atmosphere before.

ESPN’s Dave Pasch asked his sidekick Bill Walton the other day during the Arizona-Colorado broadcast if tonight’s game is the biggest at the Huntsman Center since the Magic JohnsonLarry Bird NCAA title game in 1979.

Pasch overlooked the Arizona-Gonzaga double-overtime classic in the 2003 NCAA tournament at Salt Lake City. That was about as good as it gets and the Wildcats emerged victorious in an atmosphere with the crowd weighted toward the Cinderella, upset-minded Gonzaga team.

The cynics will say this year’s Arizona team does not have the fortitude to excel on the road after losing at UNLV, Oregon State and ASU. They are correct that the Wildcats should have beaten those teams, but consider this: The Rebels, Beavers Sun Devils are a combined 39-7 at home. Arizona lost those games by a total of only nine points.

To Sean Miller’s advantage: The Wildcats have responded this year in big-game situations against San Diego State in Maui and Gonzaga and Utah in Tucson. Arizona has also beaten potential NCAA tournament teams UTEP and Oregon in true road games.

2. Larry Krystkowiak wants to beat Arizona in worst way.

Miller told CBS Sports last week in the “Men of March” show that he wants to get the Final Four in the worst way. The same can be said of Krystkowiak finally beating Arizona after starting 0-8 against the Wildcats in his Utah coaching career.


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Utah, which is 19-9 against Arizona in Salt Lake City dating to the Border Conference and WAC days, has an 11-game losing streak against the Wildcats. Arizona has a five-game winning streak against Utah in the Huntsman Center dating to 1993.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any question as to what it’s going to be like Saturday,” Krystkowiak said following Utah’s win over ASU on Thursday. “It’s going to be a little bit crazy. It really kind of defines college basketball; it’s what kind of environment you’re looking to play in, and we’re all excited to do so.”

“We haven’t beat them since we joined the Pac-12, so that will be a great way to end the regular season, beating them,” Utah’s Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate Delon Wright said. “Hopefully we’ll see them again down the road, but this will be a good time to get a win against them.”

3. Two keys for Arizona: Wright and Rebounding

Krystkowiak said after Arizona’s 69-51 win at McKale Center last month that T.J. McConnell is the “head of the snake” for Arizona.

The same can be written about Wright for Utah.

Wright ranks second in the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (behind McConnell) and third in assists (5.3). He also tops the conference in free-throw percentage and is among the league leaders in field-goal percentage (seventh) and scoring (12th).

How he goes, Utah goes for the most part. The defense on him by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is paramount. The other enticing matchup is McConnell against Brandon Taylor at the point-guard spot. McConnell’s defense will be important.

Inside the paint, all eyes will be on Kaleb Tarczewski against fellow 7-footer Jakob Poeltl.

The Wildcats embarrassed the Utes 38-17 on the glass last month in Tucson. That was against a Utah team that has a rebounding margin of 5.5 this season. Arizona is at plus-8.7.

Poeltl, who averages a team-high 7.2 rebounds a game, had only four in Tucson. Senior backup Dallin Bachynski had none. Tarczewski had five as did reserve Dusan Ristic. Most of the damage on the boards for Arizona was done by Hollis-Jefferson (7), Stanley Johnson (9) and Brandon Ashley (8).

“Anytime I need to talk about rebounding, I’ve mentioned the last couple of months; it’s just been talking about Tucson,” Krystkowiak said.


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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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