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Pac10 Men's Basketball Preview - Arizona

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Unfortunately, his mom was right, and his face stayed that way for the rest of his life.
Unfortunately, his mom was right, and his face stayed that way for the rest of his life.

TwistNHook:  Well, we just got a taste of Arizona basketball when they took on national power, Kansas:

Arizona fell behind 33-18 with 10:47 remaining in the first half, in a game that seemed headed for a blowout early on.

But the Wildcats battled back to within five by halftime, which showed the team's growth over the last year.

"Last year we would have crumbled, we would have put our head down," Williams said of falling behind early. "If we would have played them last year, they probably would have done the same thing BYU did to us.

"This year's team is much more physical and just has a tougher mentality."

The key spark to the Wildcats' comeback was junior guard Kyle Fogg, who was replaced in the starting line-up by fellow junior Brendon Lavender after showing a bad attitude against Santa Clara, with 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field, including 4-for-8 from beyond the arc.

Arizona ended up falling behind early against Kansas, but battled back to briefly lead before losing by a final score of 87-79.  A very solid outing from the Wildcats.  What should we expect from these desert devils in 2011?

Avinash:  Two losses. That's what we should expect.

Kodiak:  Sean Miller is a legit coach and Derrick Williams is probably the Pac-10's best NBA-prospect.

They have some questions at the point after losing Nic Wise.  However, they have proven outside shooters/scorers on the wing and plenty of athleticism.

AZ has never lacked for talent - but without a fully healthy Lute at the controls, they had some issues with headcases and team chemistry.  Where they're really tough is on defense.  They don't have a true center, but Williams is so good that they don't really need one.  Last year, they were still learning to play together.  With a number of returning starters, I'd expect them to be pretty tough this year.  In fact, I'd rank them at #2 in the conference behind UW.

TwistNHook:  Is Kodiak not the only one who would put Az below UW?  Is there anybody who would put Az above UW?

Avinash:  It's close--Pomeroy has Washington ranked 6th, Arizona 7th (of course it's too early to tell anything from any of these, but they've both played top 10 opponents extremely tough). They are very spunky--they were definitely in it with Kansas for most of the second half before the talent of the Jayhawks took over.

But Washington is still the most experienced team in the conference. Arizona's upside is high, but they're still a very raw team. Kyle Fogg, Jamelle Horne, Lamont Jones all return, but none of them are what you'd call blue-chippers. The newcomers are providing an immediate influx of good bench power, but this team is going to ride Williams this season, and that'll cause them trouble in conference play.

Still, they're the clear cut second place team, and probably a matchup nightmare for the Bears. Doesn't hurt that after a game with BYU, their next real opponent is us--they'll be playing creampuffs all the way up to our meeting in McKale in January.

TwistNHook:  Cal fans should keep an eye out for Derrick Williams:


And why not? Williams is shooting nearly 65 percent from the field.

"He's really aware of a good shot or bad shot," Miller said. "He has an uncanny ability to shoot left-handed and right-handed. Sometimes I try to get (his) teammates to get him the ball more."


Williams had 27 points and eight rebounds in the loss to the Jayhawks, and he's been consistently superb for the Wildcats (5-1) early in the season. Through six games, he was averaging 21.0 points and 7.3 rebounds, despite playing just 24.5 minutes per outing.

If anything, Arizona coach Sean Miller would welcome more from his 6-foot-8 sophomore.


NorCalNick:  Like Kodiak said, I was impressed with Arizona's shooters against Kansas.  They had a variety of players (Williams included!) who looked very comfortable from mid-range and from deep, and it added a dimension to their offense similar to what Cal had last year.  It was particularly noticeable because they were hitting the type of shots Cal had so much trouble with against Notre Dame and Boston College!  I don't know if that game was representative of the Wildcats this year, but what little I saw indicated to me that Arizona has gotten a lot closer to returning to their vacated spot as Pac-10 power.

What do you think about the Arizona Wildcats?