Arizona Basketball

Three top storylines of Texas Southern Tigers vs. Arizona Wildcats

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Brandon Ashley is coming on strong (Fox Sports screen shot)

Brandon Ashley is coming on strong (Fox Sports screen shot)

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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

Player Pos G S PP MIN PR
Stanley Johnson SG 34 33 703 964 .729
R.Hollis-Jefferson SF 34 21 663 965 .687
T.J. McConnell PG 34 34 652 1018 .640
Brandon Ashley PF 34 34 607 953 .637
Gabe York SG 33 13 381 746 .511
P.Jackson-Cartwright PG 30 0 151 304 .497
Kaleb Tarczewski C 34 33 438 883 .496
Elliott Pitts SG 34 1 120 509 .236
AVG 5-9.9 MIN
Craig Victor PF 8 0 38 57 .667
Dusan Ristic C 32 0 165 293 .563
AVG 1-4.9 MIN
Matt Korcheck PF 20 1 56 71 .789
Trey Mason SG 9 0 2 12 .167
Drew Mellon SF 12 0 -3 23 -.130
Jacob Hazzard PG 17 0 -10 26 -.385
TOTAL TEAM 34 3963 6825 .581

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NO. 2 ARIZONA (31-3) VS. NO. 15 TEXAS SOUTHERN (22-12)
Tip Time: 11:10 a.m. MST
TV: TNT (Harlan/Miller/Bonner/Nichols)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Jeffries/Hansen)
National Radio: Westwood One (Larrivee/Montgomery)
THE SERIES
Overall: Never met
Sean Miller vs. Texas Southern: 0-0

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Top three storylines for today’s game:

1. Brandon Ashley gets his chance.

Nick Johson's Twitter profile picture still shows the moments after last year's loss to Wisconsin

Nick Johson’s Twitter profile picture still shows the moments after last year’s loss to Wisconsin

The last time Brandon Ashley played in an NCAA tournament game was two years ago when Arizona lost in the Sweet 16 against Ohio State in Los Angeles.

Ashley, a freshman that season, played only 18 minutes off the bench as a backup to senior captain Solomon Hill. Ashley tried only four field goals, making two with only two rebounds. In three NCAA tournament games against Belmont, Harvard and Ohio State, Ashley scored a combined 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field.

If his performance this month is any indication, Ashley is bound to pass that scoring total in one game when No. 1-seeded Arizona opens the NCAA tournament with No. 15 seed Texas Southern at 11:10 a.m.

Ashley did not participate in March Madness last season because of a foot injury. The pain of that injury and the loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight still resonates.

Nick Johnson’s Twitter profile picture shows Ashley with a big boot on his right foot supporting a dejected Johnson seconds after the loss to the Badgers.

Since that loss, Johnson was drafted in the NBA by the Houston Rockets, who he’s played with in 20 games this season. Despite the advancement in his career and the thrill that goes with that, Johnson keeps the picture of one of his most difficult experiences as his profile picture.

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The picture can serve as motivation for both Johnson and Ashley. The prevailing thought last year was that Arizona with Ashley would have gone further in the NCAA tournament, perhaps winning it all.

Now he gets his chance on an Arizona team that actually has a better overall record (31-3) than last year’s team (30-4) entering the NCAA tournament.

“We were a man short last year with Brandon going down,” Sean Miller said this week in a press conference. “If can you imagine Brandon playing like this on last year’s team, what we could have done. Nobody knows that more than him.”

Ashley is at his best, fully recovered mentally and physically from the foot injury, leading Arizona in productivity in the last five games (all in March). It is the longest streak by an Arizona player this season.

2. Arizona as a No. 2 seed mixed results.

The good news: The Wildcats have participated in two of their four Final Fours as a No. 2 seed. They advanced to the 2001 national championship game against Duke in 2001 as a No. 2 seed. Their 1994 Final Four appearance against Arkansas was also as a second seed.

The bad news: Two words — Santa Clara. The forgettable 64-61 loss to the 15th-seeded Broncos and Steve Nash occurred on March 18, 1993. T.J. McConnell was a week away from his first birthday on that date. Despite it being so long ago, the stinging memory lives on.

Arizona’s record as a No. 2 seed is 12-5 overall. The Wildcats have lost in every round as a No. 2 seed except the Elite Eight.

The record of the No. 15 seed vs. a No. 2 is 7-117. A No. 15 seed upsets a No. 2 seed once every 3.4 years.

More good news for Arizona: A No. 15 seed is not due for a win. It has happened three times in the previous three years, twice in 2012 (Norfolk State over Missouri and Lehigh over Duke) and once in 2013 (Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown).

More bad news for Arizona: Before the last three wins over No. 2 seeds since 2012, it took 11 seasons for No. 15 seeds to win four. That means the chance has become more possible.

Will all four No. 2 seeds (Arizona, Gonzaga, Virginia and Kansas) go unscathed in the Round of 64 this year? Will the nation be shocked by a No. 15 seed (Texas Southern, North Dakota State, Belmont and New Mexico State) once again?

That’s why they call it March Madness.

3. How did Texas Southern win at Michigan State and Kansas State?

The Tigers started with a brutal schedule that included 15 road games among their first 16 games. By the time that was complete, Texas Southern was 6-10. Two of those wins were at Michigan State and at Kansas State, a team Arizona struggled to beat in the Maui Invitational.

What was different for Texas Southern in those games than others, such as a 40-point loss at Gonzaga?

Texas Southern shot 53.2 percent in the 71-64 overtime win at Michigan State, its best percentage in the first 20 games of the season. Former Arizona recruiting target Chris Thomas scored a game-high 22 points for the Tigers, who handed the Spartans their first home loss of the season.

Michigan State played without starting forward Branden Dawson, who was out with a fractured wrist.

The Spartans had 18 offensive rebounds but were outscored in the paint 36-32. They entered the game leading the nation at 44 percent from 3-point range, but they went 4-of-21 against the Tigers, who are making their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

“I’m going to find out what the NCAA will legally allow me to practice tomorrow, and then I’m going to probably exceed it,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the loss.

The 58-56 victory at Kansas State was a month after Arizona struggled to beat Bruce Weber’s team 72-68 in Maui.

The Tigers won at Manhattan, Kan., on a putback by Thomas with 0.9 seconds left and a buzzer-beater jumper by Jason Carter after Kansas State turned the ball over on the inbound pass following Thomas’ basket.

“We were up 9-0, then the first media time out, and after that we were just drained,” Kansas State senior forward Nino Williams was quoted as saying afterward. “I think we were drunk emotionally, drunk on emotion.”

Thomas and SWAC Player of the Year Medarious Gibbs were Texas Southern’s only scorers in double figures with 15 points each.

Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, who scored 23 points against Arizona on 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range, had 17 against Texas Southern. He made 3 of 7 from beyond the arc against Texas Southern.

Texas Southern outrebounded Kansas State 31-18, about the same margin Arizona outrebounded Kansas State (30-19).

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ARIZONA SCHEDULE/PRODUCTIVITY RESULTS

Date Opponent Results TeamPR Productivity Leader Pos PP MIN PR
March 14 Oregon 80-52 (W) .605 Brandon Ashley PF 28 29 .965
March 13 UCLA 70-64 (W) .535 Brandon Ashley PF 37 34 1.089
March 12 Cal 73-51 (W) .595 Brandon Ashley PF 27 29 .931
March 7 Stanford 91-69 (W) .715 Brandon Ashley PF 28 29 .966
March 5 Cal 99-60 (W) .860 Brandon Ashley PF 36 26 1.385
Feb. 28 Utah 63-57 (W) .450 Gabe York SG 19 25 .760
Feb. 26 Colorado 82-54 (W) .571 Gabe York SG 25 23 1.087
Feb. 21 UCLA 57-47 (W) .400 Dusan Ristic C 24 11 2.182
Feb. 19 USC 87-57 (W) .574 T.J. McConnell PG 20 19 1.053
Feb. 15 Washington St. 86-59 (W) .640 Kaleb Tarczewski C 28 24 1.167
Feb. 13 Washington 86-62 (W) .725 Stanley Johnson SG 39 27 1.444
Feb. 7 ASU 81-78 (L) .435 T.J. McConnell PG 30 34 .882
Jan. 30 Oregon St. 57-34 (W) .475 T.J. McConnell PG 22 30 .733
Jan. 28 Oregon 90-56 (W) .715 Dusan Ristic C 18 13 1.385
Jan. 24 Cal 73-50 (W) .550 Stanley Johnson SG 31 30 1.033
Jan. 22 Stanford 89-82 (W) .585 Brandon Ashley PF 22 16 1.375
Jan. 17 Utah 69-51 (W) .525 Stanley Johnson SG 30 28 1.071
Jan. 15 Colorado 68-54 (W) .545 Stanley Johnson SG 40 32 1.250
Jan. 11 Oregon St. 58-56 (L) .365 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 26 34 .765
Jan. 8 Oregon 80-62 (W) .590 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 26 25 1.040
Jan. 4 ASU 73-49 (W) .530 Dusan Ristic C 14 11 1.273
Dec. 23 UNLV 71-67 (L) .446 T.J. McConnell PG 28 39 .718
Dec. 19 UTEP 60-55 (W) .395 T.J. McConnell PG 23 35 .657
Dec. 16 Oakland 101-64 (W) .835 Craig Victor PF 13 10 1.300
Dec. 13 Michigan 84-50 (W) .640 Stanley Johnson SF 31 27 1.148
Dec. 9 Utah Valley 87-56 (W) .710 Dusan Ristic C 23 18 1.278
Dec. 6 Gonzaga 66-63 OT (W) .435 Brandon Ashley PF 19 38 .500
Dec. 2 Gardner-Webb 91-65 (W) .745 Parker Jackson-Cartwright PG 17 13 1.308
Nov. 26 San Diego State 61-59 (W) .525 Stanley Johnson SG 29 37 .784
Nov. 25 Kansas State 72-68 (W) .540 Stanley Johnson SG 21 25 .840
Nov. 24 Missouri 72-53 (W) .525 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 25 23 1.087
Nov. 19 Cal-Irvine 71-54 (W) .610 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 31 29 1.069
Nov. 16 Cal State-Northridge 86-68 (W) .605 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 26 22 1.182
Nov. 14 Mt. St. Mary's 78-55 (W) .660 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 28 21 1.333

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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