Saturday, November 21, 2009

Arizona Pre-Game Analysis

Opening Thoughts: With Oakland downed, who’s next? None other than the Wildcats of Arizona… who are awaiting the Badgers in a gym just off of Maui’s Honoapiilani Highway. While this isn’t a star-studded team coached by Lute Olsen, this team is very dangerous to Wisconsin. It is tiny and ultra-athletic. Wisconsin will have a height advantage at most positions, but will be either even or at a disadvantage athletically. Due to too small of a sample size with Miller at the helm and too different of playing style between last year’s Arizona and this year’s, I’m gonna mainly use offensive stats from last year’s Arizona team and defensive stats from last year’s Xavier team for this analysis. I may mess around with numbers to try and incorporate Arizona’s players and Miller’s strategies. Also, Miller has stated the starting line-up is subject to change. I’ll just go with the most recent one.

Forums to Visit:
Wildcat Scoop (Scout)
Go AZ Cats (Rivals)
Point Guard U (Independent)

Arizona Probable Rotation:
*G – 5’10” SR Nic Wise (15.7 PPG, 4.6 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 41.5% 3FG last season)
*G – 6’0” FR Lamont Jones (8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.5 SPG in first 2 games)
*F – 6’6” FR Solomon Hill (14.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2 APG, 55% FG in first 2 games)
*F – 6’6” JR Jamelle Horne (6.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.3 APG last season)
*F – 6’7” FR Derrick Williams (9 PPG, 5 RPG, 2 APG, 1.5 BPG in first 2 games)
G – 6’3” SO Brendon Lavender (5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1 SPG in first 2 games)
G – 6’3” SO Kyle Fogg (6.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 38.3% 3FG)
C – 6’10” FR Kyryl Natyazhko (3.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG in first 2 games)

Last season they played at a pace of 67 possessions per game, very close to last season’s Indiana and Purdue teams, as did new coach Sean Miller’s Xavier team. I’m certain they will play man-to-man defense, with strong defensive rebounding, but not many steals or forced turnovers, a la Wisconsin.

They are returning 52.1% of their minutes, 40.5% of their rebounding, and 42.3% of their scoring from last season. They return a whopping 2 upperclassmen, senior Nic Wise and junior Jamelle Horne. The rest of their rotation consists of 4 true freshman and 2 sophomores, one of which only played mop-up time.

Key Players: Nic Wise – Arizona’s senior leader by default. He declared for the draft in April but withdrew in June. He also seems to have a beef with Bo Ryan since he was cut from the World University Games team that Bo coached, so he said that’s an extra motivator for him in this game. Last season, he had a great 112.6 offensive rating. He achieved this by shooting similar numbers to Jerel McNeal (11% better from the line and 1.5% better from 3) and turned it over slightly more often than Krabby did last season.

Solomon Hill – He is one of the top ranked players of the freshman class, and Hill is proving it on the court. The diaper dandy is putting up 14 and 5 with an efficiency matching Wise’s. It should be interesting to see how he and the other underclassmen react to a defense like Wisconsin in their first neutral/road game of the season.

Jamelle Horne – He’s Arizona’s Jamelle Cornley. He had similar stats but isn’t as aggressive in looking for his own shot and is a better defender in the post. As I said previously, this Zona team is very undersized, case in point, 6’6” Horne and 6’7” Williams will be the ones matching up with the likes of Leuer, Nankivil, and Berggren.

What Arizona is really good at:

1. Rebounding Defensively. So far this season, Arizona has grabbed 29.5% of all rebounding opportunities on their defensive end and Miller’s Xavier team grabbed 27.8% last season.

2. Not sending opponents to the line. So far, Arizona’s opponents have attempted a ratio of 23 FTs to 100 attempted shots. For comparison, Wisconsin’s is 24.5. Xavier was good at this last season also.

3. Defensive Effective FG%. So far, Arizona has given up a paltry 38.5%. Wisconsin’s at 33.3% and Xavier was 7th at it last season. We’ll see if this was just a product of competition.

What Arizona is really bad at:

1. Rebounding Offensively. So far this season, the Wildcats have grabbed only 29.7% of their misses. I’m not sure of this is just small sample size or lack of actual players’ size, because Xavier was one of the best at it last season.

2. Getting to the free throw line. They attempt 32 FTs for every 100 FGs so far, which is slightly worse than Wisconsin did last season. Xavier was one of the best at this last season, but Arizona may not have the right skills in the right places for it to become a strength.

Relative efficiency: Arizona was entirely an offensive team last season, hoping to outscore everyone they played, but Miller will incorporate some tough man-to-man defense for better consistency.
When Arizona has the ball: They scored a superb 1.18 PPP last season and 1.03 in their first two games, while UW gave up 0.71 in the first two games and 0.95 last season.
When UW has the ball: They gave up an average 1.00 last season (Xavier, a superb 0.89) and 0.80 in their first two games, while UW scored 1.07 in their first two games and 1.14 last season.

Pace: Arizona played at 67 possessions per game last season and 75 in their first two games compared to UW’s 62 in their first two and 60 last season.

My expectations:

1. Both teams protect their defensive glass. Arizona and UW will not allow more than 33% of the misses on defense to be grabbed by the offensive team.

2. Leuer and Nankivil combine for more than 22 points. I’m still liking this Badger duo to continue their dominance in the paint against this undersized Arizona team.

3. Badgers fluster the Wildcats into more than a 20% turnover rate. They averaged 20.1% in the first 2 games, and I think the much better Badger defense (compared to Northern Arizona and Rice) frustrates the young Wildcats into mental errors.

My prediction: Badgers in a tight one, 65-58 in a 64-possession game.

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