Friday, March 25, 2011

Raising Arizona

Some things to know about the Arizona Wildcats:

*** Derrick Williams is an absolute beat and promises to be an extremely match-up for UConn. So why don’t we hear more about him? Plain and simple, East Coast media bias. If he played in the Big East, ACC or even the Big 10, his 32-point, 13-rebound domination of Duke Thursday night would have hardly come as a surprise. As it is, many sports fans on the East Coast are probably just getting to know him.

*** For all that Williams does well – and there’s a lot – getting to the foul line is one of his best assets. Williams led the nation in free throw attempts this season with 319, and he hit 238 of them for a 74.6 percentage.

“It’s just being aggressive, really," Williams said. "I try to get to the free throw line to take a break, really. Whenever I get to the free throw line, it gives our whole team a break, and we get right back to it. Hopefully, I knock down two free throws and it’s positive.”

*** Alex Oriakhi said he'll draw the early assignment on Williams, though the Huskies are hoping Williams fell in love with the 3-pointer (he hit five vs. Duke) and stays out on the perimeter most of the game.

“I’ve seen him out on the wing. He looks like a 3 to me,” Oriakhi said. “I’m definitely going to have my hands full, especially out on the perimeter. But if he’s able to go by me, Roscoe (Smith) said, ‘I’ve got your help defense.’ Me and Roscoe both help each other out when our man is able to go by us.”

*** The Wildcats looked good – real good … as in, unstoppable good – in Thursday’s 93-77 whitewash of Duke. But it hasn’t all been rosy for the Wildcats this season. They had one of the worst losses I’ve seen this season back on Feb. 26 when UCLA trounced them, 71-49. It was an embarrassing performance by the ‘Cats, their second loss in a row. They have, of course, won seven of eight since then and may just be peaking at exactly the right time.

Sound a little like a team we know?

*** Arizona has lost its last two regional finals (in 2003 to Kansas and in 2005 to Illinois). The ‘Cats are also 0-2 in regional finals here at the Honda Center (Kansas in ’03 and Utah in 1998).

*** Sean Miller is one of the few college coaches whom Jim Calhoun also coached against as a player. Neill Ostrout’s crack research revealed that Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard is another. We’re trying to think of some more, but coming up blank. There almost have to be a few others. Can anyone think of any?

*** ‘Zona can shoot. It hit 40.3 percent of its 3-pointers this season and eclipsed 60 percent from beyond the arc five times. It’s hit 10 or more treys a dozen times this season. The Wildcats also hold opponents to 29.3 percent shooting on triples.

*** Every four-year player at Arizona since 1985 has played in at least one Sweet 16 in his career in Tucson. Pretty impressive.

And a tale of the tape between the Huskies and Wildcats:

NCAA titles: UConn 2, Arizona 1

Final Fours: UConn 3, Arizona 4

Elite Eights: UConn 10, Arizona 9

NCAA tourney appearances: UConn 30 (one has been vacated), Arizona 27 (two have been vacated)

Current players in the NBA: UConn 11, Arizona 10.

Most NBA draft choices since 1989: UConn 24, Arizona 31

Best pro ever: Ray Allen or Sean Elliott (or maybe Gilbert Arenas?). Elliott had a nice, long career and won an NBA title with the Spurs, but Allen is a Hall of Famer.

Better Kahlid: El-Amin or Reeves? Reeves averaged 24.2 points per game as a senior in 1993-94, but El-Amin engineered the Huskies' first national title in '99.

All-time series: UConn, 4-0. The two teams have never met in the NCAA tournament -- until Saturday night.

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Blogger DRP said...

I give 'Zona the edge. Arizona has a habit of making deep tourney runs when no one expects them to. Then they usually don’t perform up to expectations in the seasons when they are expected to go deep in the tourney. This team’s run reminds me of the ’97 team that caught everyone by surprise. I feel bad for UConn; I think they have no answer for Arizona’s talent.

March 25, 2011 at 7:57 PM 
Anonymous Jeff said...

First, I agree that Arizona is incredibly talented and athletic. Yes, they looked unstoppable against Duke at periods. But let's remember that Duke is not exactly known for its athleticism. At one point in the second half it looked like AZ was a pro team that was basically dunking and scoring at will against Duke. I don't think that's indicative of what will happen against UConn. I hope at least.

As much as I wasn't a fan of Michael Wilbon's recent column on Uconn, he did make a pretty good point. Jeremy Lamb would start for every team in the country, including Kansas. Dude is super athletic. We need a huge game defensively and it starts with Oriakhi. Let's do this.

March 26, 2011 at 9:58 AM 

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