Arizona Basketball

Three top storylines Arizona Wildcats vs. Wisconsin Badgers



Brandon Ashley’s contribution on offense and defense will be important for Arizona today against Wisconsin (YouTube video capture)

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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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— Arizona Wildcats so close to eight Final Fours instead of four straight Elite Eight heartbreaks

— Notebook: Arizona Wildcats survive to Elite Eight rematch with Wisconsin


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NO. 2 ARIZONA (34-3) vs. NO. 1 WISCONSIN (34-3)
Tip Time: 3:09 p.m. MST
TV: TBS (Harlan/Miller/Bonner/Nichols)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Jeffries/Hansen)
National Radio: Westwood One (Larrivee/Marshall)
Overall: Arizona trails, 2-4
At Neutral Sites: Arizona trails, 1-4
Current Streak: Wisconsin won 2
Last Meeting: Wisconsin won, 64-63, on March 29, 2014
Sean Miller vs. Wisconsin: 1-2

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Top three storylines for today’s game:

1. Calling on Brandon Ashley.

In the five games preceding the NCAA tournament, culminating with the Pac-12 tournament championship over Oregon, Brandon Ashley was playing by far the best basketball of his career.

He led the Wildcats in each of those games — Cal (twice), Stanford, UCLA and Oregon — in this site’s productivity rating. During that five-game stretch, he posted a rating of 1.061 that boosted his season productivity rating to .637.

In the three NCAA tournament games against Texas Southern, Ohio State and Xavier, Ashley has a productivity rating of only .333, which has made his overall rating dip to .613.

Now more than ever, Arizona needs Ashley to produce to offset the threat Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky poses.

Ashley at 6’9″ and 230 pounds gives up size to Kaminsky (7’0″ and 242) but Ashley has the ability to extend the big man with his perimeter game on offense. Ashley also has the body control over teammate Kaleb Tarczewski (7’0″ and 245) to make Kaminsky expend energy on the block, not to mention get him in foul trouble.


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“It’s not just what he can add to defense,” Arizona graduate assistant Joseph Blair told Anthony Gimino of about Ashley. “It’s what he can add to Kaminsky having to guard him on offense. It’s a few more touches where Kaminsky has to play more defense, which could wear him out a little bit more.”

Arizona did not have that last year in the 64-63 overtime loss to Wisconsin at the Elite Eight. Kaminsky was matched mostly against Tarczewski, who was stationery at the post for most of the game with Ashley sitting on the bench with a boot on his right foot. Aaron Gordon’s form of offense was attempted putbacks from his Arizona-NCAA tournament record 18 rebounds.

The Wildcats did not have a post player to sub for Tarczewski last year. Other than sixth man Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, guards Jordin Mayes and Elliott Pitts were they only reserves Sean Miller used. Freshman center Dusan Ristic provides relief for Tarczewski this year, if only for a few minutes.

Gordon played 39 minutes in last year’s game and made only 3-of-11 shots from the field. He had the look of exhaustion in overtime.

Arizona wants that look out of Kaminsky. It’s up to Ashley’s threat against Kaminsky when Arizona goes small to make him that way in the end, if Kaminsky survives potential foul trouble.

2. What about the other Badgers?

In Wisconsin’s two defeats this season in which Kaminsky has played — he didn’t play in the loss against Rutgers because of concussion-like symptoms — fellow starters Nigel Hayes, Sam Dekker and Josh Gasser were not threats.

The losses were against Duke and Maryland. In those games, Hayes and Dekker (forwards) and Gasser (guard) combined to make 15 of 37 (40.5 percent) from the field and 6 of 17 (35.2 percent) from three-point range. They normally shoot an impressive 49.7 percent overall. Their three-point shooting percent of 35.3 percent this season is what they showed against Duke and Maryland.

The most important aspect for Arizona: Limiting the looks of Hayes, Dekker and Gasser while T.J. McConnell tries to contain sophomore point guard Bronson Koenig and senior Traevon Jackson (who led the Badgers with 40 minutes played in last year’s game but is limited this year in his return from a foot injury).

Hayes and Dekker normally average 18.4 field goal attempts per game. They averaged 14 against Duke and Maryland. Off-the-ball defense against them will be crucial for the Wildcats. The point guard or Kaminsky will try to offset the defense with penetration or by drawing double-teams, respectively. If the Wildcats stay true to their man, the results should be positive.

Former Arizona player Kelvin Eafon, the head coach at Pueblo High School and analyst on KCUB (1290-AM) The Source offered this viewpoint on the matter on Twitter:

3. Who will be the toughest?

Arizona’s lineage of quality point guards include four of the best who led the Wildcats into the Final Four: Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby and Jason Gardner.

Each had a calming influence with their confidence and ability to set up the execution for others on offense. While some may criticize aspects of their game, nobody can look back and question their fortitude.

The critics said Kerr was slow, Stoudamire took too many shots, Bibby was too quiet and Gardner was not a threat on offense.

What can be said of McConnell, who today will attempt to join this prestigious Final Four group of point guards?

He has an awkward jumper that looks like a set-shot from the 1950’s? No. McConnell will go down in history as the ultimate gamer, a player who got every ounce of ability out of himself.

ESPN’s Sean Farnham last night asked when analyzing the outcome: Who has the toughest player? The answer: Arizona with McConnell.

Stoudamire, now McConnell’s coach as an Arizona assistant, looks at his senior guard with envy. That’s saying something because Stoudamire is one of the best to wear an Arizona uniform.

“He’s making his own legacy,” Stoudamire told Steve Rivera of “He’s not like us in a sense that what we (other famed Arizona guards) were to our team and what he is to this team. His value to this team is never going to be measured in numbers because his statistics are never going to look right when you match him against someone else.

“He won’t be an All-American. He wasn’t the Pac-12 Player of the Year because of his statistics. But he’s special. I see him and say, he’s always going to make the right play. He’s always going to knock down the shot. He’s going to make a play on the defensive end. He’s an easy guy to love and watch.

“I didn’t play that way. But since I became a coach, I see that I don’t like guys who play like me. Then I look at a guy like TJ and you appreciate all the things he does. He doesn’t have all the ability other guys have, but he maximizes what he has. He gets every inch out of it on the court.”


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First game: 20-13 (.606)

Second game: 17-3 (.850)

Third game: 10-7 (.588)

Fourth game: 4-5 (.444)

Final Four: 2-2 (.500)

Championship: 1-1 (.500)

Total: 54-31 (.635)

NCAAT: Last recorded date in NCAA tournament.
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1. T.J. McConnell (2014-present) 3.06 (435/142)
2. Steve Kerr (1984-88) 2.64 (443/168)
3. Matt Muehlebach (1988-91) 2.20 (458/208)
4. Matt Othick (1989-92) 2.18 (552/253)
5. Mike Bibby (1997-98) 2.12 (377/178)


1. Russell Brown (1978-79) 247
2. T.J. McConnell (2014-15) 233
3. Reggie Geary (1995-96) 231
4. Damon Stoudamire (1994-95) 220
5. Mustafa Shakur (2006-07) 215


1. Mike Bibby (1997-98) 87
2. Jason Terry (1996-97) 85
3. Hassan Adams (2005-06) 82
4. T.J. McConnell (2014-15) 81
5. Jason Terry (1998-99) 80

Rank: Overall school ranking.
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50. Ed Stokes (1990-93) 984
51. Rick Anderson (1998-03) 968
52. Mickey Foster (1967-70) 966
53. Tom Lee (1968-71) 962
Brandon Ashley (2013-present) 962

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[table “” not found /] 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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