Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: Markkanen on wing against Gonzaga makes sense


If No. 16 Arizona must go with a seven-player rotation — meaning if Allonzo Trier is still not available — what will Sean Miller do today against eighth-ranked Gonzaga?

The answer has to be play 7-footer Lauri Markkanen, by far his most productive player, on the wing and utilize Chance Comanche and Dusan Ristic inside.


The Wildcats must go big. Sean Miller has already admitted he made a mistake sticking with a four-guard lineup against Butler after the Bulldogs went to a 2-3 zone in the last couple of minutes.

Lauri Markkanen's inside-outside shooting ability, including his mid-range game, will be huge today against Gonzaga (Robert Scot/VirlVideo)

Lauri Markkanen’s inside-outside shooting ability, including his mid-range game, will be huge today against Gonzaga (Robert Scot/VirlVideo)

Arizona did not have enough options inside to break down the zone and the guards became pass-happy and less assertive on the perimeter, resulting in Butler’s 12-2 run that secured its win in Las Vegas.

With his seven healthy players consisting of four frontcourt players and three perimeter guys — again if Trier, who is in L.A., does not play — Miller must play accordingly.

Gonzaga’s size and depth on the frontcourt is also a major factor with 7’1″ Przemek Karnowski (10.7 points, 6.0 rebounds) and 7’0″ Zach Collins (11.6, 5.4) at the post with 6’9″ Johnathan Williams (10.9, 5.9) and 6’10” Killian Tillie (5.7, 5.1) significant contributors.

The versatility of Markkanen allows for him to play away from the basket, which should free up penetration for him, Kadeem Allen and Kobi Simmons from the perimeter against Gonzaga, which is likely to use a zone.

Kadeem Allen and Arizona's guard must be able to stop and pop from all parts of the court today (Robert Scot/VirlVideo)

Kadeem Allen and Arizona’s guard must be able to stop and pop from all parts of the court today (Robert Scot/VirlVideo)

What the Wildcats must guard against is being too aggressive trying to break down the zone and run into potential charging calls.

One thing Sean Miller can’t afford is a player picking up two quick fouls in the first half. That can adversely affect the Wildcats mentally with their lack of depth.

Arizona must make the mid-range jumpers and be prepared to score off second chances as much as possible.

Don’t count on Miller going to a zone defense to protect his players from fouls, at least not for very long. That goes against his coaching philosophy and allows for the potential of Gonzaga’s size taking over inside with offensive rebounds. Also, Gonzaga has dangerous perimeter shooters who can be deadly from 3-point range.

The Bulldogs will try to keep the game uptempo with their scoring and playmaking ability on the perimeter with Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss, Cal transfer Jordan Mathews and veteran guards Silas Melson and Josh Perkins.

Williams-Goss, Mathews and Perkins are shooting a combined 43 of 94 (45.7 percent) from 3-point range.

Taking care of the ball and grabbing as many offensive boards and loose balls as possible are key. A breakdown in any of those areas could spell doom for Arizona.

The Wildcats can be successful with seven players, but everything must fall into place against a balanced team like Gonzaga. Miller knows a lot about pulling a victory out of a difficult situation in the regular season. He has won his last seven non-conference matchups against ranked opponents, with three points the average margin of victory.

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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FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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