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Previewing the 100% NCAA compliant Arizona Wildcats

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NCAA Basketball: Oregon at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

When: 6:00 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks

Sean Miller’s response to the FBI arresting one of his assistant coaches, lightly edited:

I was devastated to learn last week of the allegations made against Emanuel Richardson that all the stuff we do is now public knowledge. I have expressed to both Dr. Robbins and our Athletic Director Dave Heeke that I fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate these allegations that allowed my coaching regime to flaunt the rules this long. As the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona, I recognize my responsibility is not only to establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance to maintain the only thing about our school that distinguishes us from Arizona State, no matter how many rules we need to break to do it. To the best of my ability [insert your own sarcastic joke here], I have worked to demonstrate obfuscate this over the past 8 years and will continue to do so as we move forward be super careful from now on because the feds are the only thing that make me sweat more than coaching a basketball game.

Any and all assertions that Sean Miller didn’t know what was going on underneath his program is complete and utter hogwash, and any assertion that Arizona’s leadership gives one single damn about NCAA compliance is disproven for as long as Miller continues to roam the sidelines in Tucson. I’d respect them more if they tried to argue that NCAA regulations are an illegal/immoral barrier to the free exchange of payment for work and talent.

With that out of the way, how many of you are excited to talk about the actual players on Arizona’s roster!

Roster

Starters

PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright - Doesn’t have to do much but pass the ball to those other guys and occasionally hit a 3, but he does that job well
G Allonzo Trier - Competing with Tra Holder for title of best Pac-12 guard, and I’m comfortable giving Trier the title. Great shot, handle, penetration game
G Rawle Alkins - missed 9 games to start the season with a broken foot (and 3 of Arizona’s 4 losses), but has been a near Trier statistical clone since coming back
F Dusan Ristic - Overshadowed by Ayton, but he’s a solidly above average post in every way.
F Deandre Ayton - Likely Pac-12 POY, one of a handful of players who could go #1 in the draft. A shot making, rebounding, foul drawing monster

Bench

G Brandon Randolph
G Dylan Smith
F Ira Lee
G Alex Barcello
F Keanu Pinder
G Emmanuel Akot

Arizona uses lots of bench guys for very limited minutes individually, and so I don’t have much to say about each by themselves. But they’re all perfectly excellent basketball players I’m sure.

But really, the focus is on Arizona’s 5 starters, who are all averaging at least 32 minutes/game in Pac-12 play except for Ristic.

Allonzo Trier might be the best player from the recruiting class of 2015 still playing college basketball. Rawle Alkins might be the best player from the recruiting class of 2016 still playing college basketball. And Deandre Ayton is one of a small handful of players in the conversation for best player in the class of 2017.

I know Arizona is going to get great recruits as long as they have a replacement level coach, but since when do they also get lucky and have them stay for multiple years?

Statistical Preview

Arizona/Cal

Good news: Arizona’s defense doesn’t force many turnovers, and Arizona’s offense doesn’t shoot tons of 3s!

Bad news: Pretty much everything else.

Worth noting: While Arizona’s defense is far from bad, it’s the worst defense Sean Miller has orchestrated since his debut season in the desert. How teams are shooting so well when Arizona has two 7 foot rim protectors and a bevy of speedy guards is beyond me, but the numbers don’t lie.

Keys to the game

1) Arizona doesn’t play sharp

Let’s be real, we need Arizona to look past our Bears and come out unfocused and lazy just as much as we need the Bears to come out sharp and ready to compete. If Cal were to jump all over the Wildcats the way they did Wichita State, then maybe things get interesting

2) Mandatory offering to the Gods to prevent Marcus Lee foul trouble

Hey to the extent that anybody can match up with Ayton’s size and athleticism in the Pac-12, there’s Marcus Lee. But dealing with Ayton and Ristic (to say nothing of dribble penetration from Trier and Alkins) doesn’t make me think that Marcus is going to play 35 minutes tonight.

Also, just not fouling much would be helpful, since Arizona likes to draw fouls and shoots really well from the line. Getting a ref crew that’s been yelled at one too many times by Sean Miller would be helpful.

3) Somehow discovery our shooting touch (i.e. pseudo #kod5)

There are many, many things that can contribute to winning and losing basketball games. But if you can’t make the ball go through the rim, none of that stuff matters. And Cal very much hasn’t been able to do that right now. To illustrate:

In Pac-12 play only, Cal is last in the conference in eFG% and 44.9%. The gap between Cal and 10th place Colorado is identical to the gap between Colorado and 1st place Washington State. To be fair, we’re talking about 5/6 game samples so the numbers aren’t necessary representative . . . but still. Cal has to find a way to start sinking shots.

(I could write something virtually identical about Cal’s eFG% defense in Pac-12 play, but this is depressing enough as it is.)

Our Computer Overlords Predict

Kenpom sez: Arizona 83, California 70, 11% chance of a Cal victory

Kenpom’s numbers strike me as optimistic (and it looks like Vegas agrees) but are perhaps a fair representation of Arizona’s defensive frailties. I’m just not super convinced that Cal’s offense is the one to take advantage.

Enjoy the Gold Out everybody.