Arizona Basketball

Three top storylines: Colorado Buffaloes vs. Arizona Wildcats




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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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Top three storylines for tonight’s game:

1. The Stanley Johnson maturing process ongoing.

Sean Miller did not name names Tuesday when he talked about how his team must leave personal agendas behind.

“You start to think about the NBA, then you get a phone call or text message at the end of the game to say you’re not doing enough on offense and the whole thing goes to …,” Miller said.

Stanley Johnson attempted only one field goal in the last 16:30 of the 58-56 loss at Oregon State on Sunday night. A five-star player, one of the most touted recruits to wear the Arizona uniform, Johnson’s defense was a step slow in allowing Oregon State guard Langston Morris-Walker a clear path to the lane for the go-ahead shot.

“If you’re a totally committed team on defense it’s really hard to say that our team is selfish,” Miller said. “If you have a team that picks and chooses how hard we play on defense, then I think everyone would have the right to call our team selfish.”

It’s not Miller’s style to single out anybody but the inclination is clear that Johnson, a lottery pick come June according to and others, is one of the players in question. It’s common knowledge among the media that covers Arizona basketball that ESPN power players, such as Jeff Goodman, have inside information about the Wildcats’ program.

Goodman tweeted this on Sunday:

This is by no means a similar relationship Miller had with Aaron Gordon last year. Miller continuously lauded Gordon for his maturity and team-first mentality. We have not heard those same words about Johnson.

More than anything, it likely frustrates Miller because he knows Johnson has a bigger upside than Gordon. Johnson has a better inside-outside game, is more fluid with a better perimeter game and can be a tougher lateral defender than Gordon. He may not have similar athleticism than Gordon, but he has the physical qualities to play with anybody.

Judging from Miller’s own words, the biggest difference is the mental part of it and the feedback Johnson is hearing rather than how Gordon concerned himself only of Miller’s direction and the process.

2. Colorado is top heavy.

Whereas six Arizona regulars have a productivity rating of .463 and higher, Colorado has only four above that mark. And after power forward Wesley Gordon’s .629 mark, which fourth-best on the team, the numbers drop off drastically.


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COLORADO (9-6, 2-1) AT NO. 10 ARIZONA (14-2, 2-1)
Tip Time: 7:05 p.m. MST
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch/Bill Walton/Jay Bilas)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
Overall: Series tied, 11-11
In Tucson: Arizona leads, 6-3
Current Streak: Arizona won 4
Last Meeting: Arizona won, 63-43, on March 14, 2014
Sean Miller vs. Colorado: 7-3

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Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents. Arizona is No. 11 with a strength-of-schedule ranking of No. 69. Colorado has an RPI ranking of No. 67.
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The Buffaloes’ No. 5 player is starting starting off-guard Jaron Hopkins of Mesa Dobson High School. His productivity rating is only .335. Arizona’s No. 5 player, reserve off-guard Gabe York, has a rating of .490.

Arizona’s depth compared to that of Colorado should be a factor in tonight’s game. Add to that the recent injury problems of starting post player Josh Scott (back spasms) and wing player Xavier Johnson (high ankle sprain) and Tad Boyle’s team is stretched thin.

Scott and Xavier Johnson are listed as day-to-day. Neither has practiced this week, according to the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera.

In the last two years, Boyle’s bout with team injuries has been difficult. Spencer Dinwiddie was lost midway through last season with a knee injury.

“The one thing you learn in college athletics, and it’s one of the things I’ve tried to get our team to understand, is that you’ve got to control the things you can control,” Boyle told the Daily Camera. “That’s what we concentrate on. We don’t make excuses for who’s playing and who’s not playing. I think they’re capable players. Sometimes people get thrown into situations, and we may have that this weekend.”

Boyle has the ability to get the most out of his players. The problem is, after his top four, getting the most out of the others might not be enough.

3. Arizona and use of zone defenses.

Miller, frustrated with Arizona’s execution of man-to-man defense, has talked this week of switching to a zone defense.

Lute Olson once made a DVD that outlines the use of the 1-1-3 and 2-3 matchup zone defenses.

Miller is exclusively a man-to-man defense coach, much like Olson was at Long Beach State and Iowa before he came to Arizona in 1983.

Olson was forced to play a zone in his first few years because of a lack of size in the interior with Pete Williams and Eddie Smith, each 6’7″, as his starting frontcourt players.

The difference with Arizona this year is the Wildcats have size in the middle with Kaleb Tarczewski (7’0″) and Brandon Ashley (6’9″) but isolation defense with Tarczewski and Ashley and others is a concern. Tarczewski has routinely been in foul trouble and Ashley’s lateral quickness is exposed when matched against an opponent’s smaller lineup.

Olson told longtime Tucson sportswriter Steve Rivera, formerly of the Tucson Citizen, that Arizona played zone defense “maybe five or 10 possessions” a year for 15 seasons after Williams and Smith exhausted their eligibility in 1985.

So the notion that Olson was a zone-defense coach as opposed to Miller’s man-to-man principles is not entirely accurate.

Olson used the zone defense when personnel situations dictated it, much like Miller will possibly attempt to do going forward this season.

“We don’t want (7-1 center) Loren (Woods) to get pulled too far outside (in man-to-man),” Olson told Rivera. “And when we go to the bench there may be some mismatches with Luke (Walton) or Ricky (Anderson) trying to defend a guard, so that allows us to do a better job on teams.”

Translated to this year’s team: Miller does not want Ashley to get pulled too far outside in a man-to-man. Oregon State’s Olaf Schaftenaar extended Ashley with his perimeter game. On at least a couple of occasions in the game, McConnell drifted back to assist in the defending of Schaftenaar and became isolated against the 6’10” player, giving up nine inches.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson can defend either guard position but that could lead to other potential size mismatches involving McConnell, York and Pitts, etc.

One of the most interesting subplots tonight will be Miller’s potential use of the zone and if it is effective enough to stand.


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Present RPI ranking of the Pac-12.
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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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