Time to pull out that sling and start looking for rocks. #7 Arizona is ready to kick us while we're down...and that's just their assistant coach.
Buoyed by stellar recruiting classes, Coach Sean Miller has quickly returned the Wildcats to their familiar position of conference heavyweight.
So far this year, Arizona is carrying the standard for the Pac-12 with three wins over top-25 teams including a last minute comeback over then #5 Florida.
But after a perfect 12-0 non-conference record, the 'Cats stumbled a bit with losses to both Oregon and UCLA. Since their last loss, they responded with a four-game winning streak and placed a decisive claim on the conference's top spot.
Arizona has a deep, talented, and ridiculously athletic lineup. Although their two seniors lead the way, they have balanced scoring options throughout their roster.
Like Oregon, this is a team that likes to run and crash the offensive glass. Unlike the Ducks, this is a team that loves to shoot the three pointer. With their endless array of long-armed shot-blockers and athletes, they're also leading the league in steals.
It's going to take some serious resolve, mental toughness, and an inspired effort for our Bears to pull the upset.
Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Grant Jerrett were all top-25 recruits. Ashley is the athletic freak who is a terror on the boards. Jerrett is more of a shot-blocking and defensive specialist. Tarczewski has really come on since the beginning of conference play to show off a variety of scoring moves in the paint. Solomon Hill is a dangerous inside/outside scorer. He was on the pre-season Wooden Award list and is the team's best three-point shooter. Nick Johnson built on a solid frosh campaign to emerge as one of their leading scorers this year. Mark Lyons is a graduate transfer from Xavier. He's a scoring point guard who can hit the deep jumper or get himself to the line. Kevin Parrom recovered from a season-ending gunshot wound last year to provide an emotional lift and outside shooting off the bench.
Keys to the Game:
1) Protect the ball.
Turnovers on offense and offensive boards on defense will kill you in most games. Against the Wildcats, it means you get blown out.
2) Deny dribble penetration.
Arizona has plenty of threats beyond the arc. They love to set up their shooters with drive and kick action. If you let them get into the paint at will, they'll bury you.
3) Stay out of foul trouble.
The Wildcats have several slashers and their bigs can all finish. It's almost an unfair advantage, but they also lead the Pac-12 in free throw shooting percentage.
4) Don't back down.
The Mckale Center is an intimidating venue for opposing teams. Besides the noise and rabid fans, there's a bit of mystique that goes along with Arizona's long history of basketball success. Doesn't matter. They still play on the same regulation court and rims. We've got to stay mentally tough and not let lapses in focus or composure feed their runs.
Game Time: Sunday, February 10th, 4:00 pm(PST)
TV: Pac-12 Network