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Roll On: Scouting The Revitalized Arizona Wildcats

I could spend many words talking about how impressive Derrick Williams is, but that would be a bad idea because you already know he’s pretty good. You watched him almost single-handedly beat Cal in Arizona. So I’ll just let this one stat illustrate his value and uniqueness: Derrick Williams has attempted 213 shots, and he has scored 457 points.

213 shots, 457 points. I’ll do the math for you. That’s 2.14 points per shot.

When Derrick Williams shoots the ball it’s probably going in the basket. And when it doesn’t he’s drawing a foul and going to the line. Cal found this out the hard way when Williams spent most of the 2nd half shooting free throws, while Markhuri Sanders-Frison and Harper Kamp both finished the game on the bench with 5 fouls. Richard Solomon and Bak Bak combined for 23 minutes of the bench and combined for 5 fouls of their own. In all, Cal’s bigs spent 81 minutes on the floor and combined for 15 total fouls. In case you were wondering, yes, Cal was playing a zone defense at that time, and no, it didn’t do much good to slow down Williams.

So clearly something needs to change. Maybe all we need are a few more home field whistles. But the more likely answer is that either Richard Solomon or Bak Bak will need to step up with a timely performance off the bench. At some point tomorrow either Kamp or MSF (or, god forbid, both) will get into foul trouble, and one of the youngsters will have to defend the best low post player player period in the Pac-10, in addition to trying to replace the offense of one of Cal’s two main cogs.

But beyond Williams what do we need to know about the Wildcats?

Well, they’re a deep team of athletes who can stretch the defense. Arizona plays 10 deep, and all 10 are capable of sinking a 3 point shot. 8 of them attempt them regularly. That means that if Cal does insist on sticking with the 2-3 zone it will be critical for the Bears to move the zone quickly and not leave any open space around the perimeter. In Tucson Arizona hit just enough 3’s when it mattered to compliment Williams and his free-throw-palooza down the stretch.

I’m guessing that this game will come down to what Cal can take away from Arizona on offense beyond Williams. He’s going to get his points – somewhere from 20 to 30 – but if the Bears can take away the deep ball, or if they can shut down Lamont Jones or Solomon Hill, then maybe Cal can steal a win.

Kenpom Sez:

Arizona 75, Cal 71, 35% confidence

Note: The following chart concept has been blatantly stolen from mgoblog.

Category Cal Rank Ari Rank Advantage
Cal eFG% v. Ari Def eFG 143 68 A
Cal Def eFG% v. Ari eFG% 141 8 AA
Cal TO% v. Ore Ari TO% 152 229 C
Cal Def TO% v. Ari TO% 276 151 AA
Cal OReb% v. Ari DReb% 244 59 AA
Cal DReb% v. Ari OReb% 11 111 CC
Cal FTR v. Ari Opp FTR 9 181 CC
Cal Opp FTR v. Ari FTR 106 23 A
Cal AdjO v. Ari AdjD 72 55 A
Cal AdjD v. Ari AdjO 84 11 A

Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.

Before we get into the matchup itself, I'd like to note that for the first time this season Cal's offense is more efficient than their defense. Based purely on recent results that's not particularly surprising - recently the Bears have essentially outscored Washington St. and Oregon, and tried and failed to outscore UCLA. Only perhaps the USC game was won with defense. It's just interesting to note the change from earlier in the season, when the Bears survived solely with above average defense but couldn't find the basket.

Also of note: we've become really reliant on drawing fouls, almost to a worrying degree. We're 9th in the country in free throw / field goal ratio, led primarily by Jorge and Brandon Smith, who combine to create perhaps the most aggressive back court in the country. Do yourself a favor and watch how fast Brandon moves in the backcourt, especially in transition. He draws a deceptively large number of fouls (usually away from the basket) that play a big part in getting Cal to the bonus faster. Drawing fouls played a gigantic role in our win over USC, ASU and Oregon, just to name a few. It's an inherently risky strategy to get points because of the fickleness of the officials, but hopefully it will play in our favor at home today.

Not on the chart above are a couple of interesting stats: Arizona is 7th in the nation in 3 point percentage at 40.8% and 1st in the nation in 3 point defense at 26.5%! I'm not sure what that says about the state of Pac-10 shooters, but the bottom line is that tonight may not be Allen Crabbe's night. The zone defense is going to have to really be ready to swing around to open shooters while still keeping Arizona's athletic perimeter players in front of them. As soon as AZ drives inside that will open up passing lanes for Williams. It's a tough defensive challenge.

I’m not by any means expecting a victory. Arizona is on a roll and playing for the conference title, Cal has nobody that can match up with Williams, and the Bears expended all kinds of energy beating ASU on Thursday. But I’m anticipating that Haas will be pretty full, and as loud as it’s been since the Bears clinched the conference last year. And the 2011 Bears have done nothing all season long but surprise me. Win this game and the Bears can start contemplating some pretty insane sounding scenarios that I dare not speak of right now. Go Bears!