Archive for January, 2009

Arizona: Week Five Recap

Kyle Fogg has stepped up big-time the last three game. Could he become the difference breaker between NCAA & NIT?

Kyle Fogg has stepped up big-time the last three games. Could he become the difference breaker between NCAA & NIT?

Arizona’s sweep over the Washington schools this week is definitely something to get excited about. And it’s not just because it was their first PAC-10 series sweep of the season outside of Oregon/Oregon State either. It’s much bigger than that. It’s that they beat two completely different teams in decisive manners and with an array of different weapons.

 

 In Thursday’s game against Washington, they beat the Huskies at their own game. They were aggressive, attacked the rim, used the baseline well, and found themselves the beneficiary of a barrage of free throws. An impressive win when you consider that UCLA and CAL have been the only conference teams to date to do that to the Huskies.

 

In their weekend match-up against the Bennett Ball Cougars, they were able to force their tempo in the second half, and apply dizzying pressure along the perimeter. The first half was rather unnerving as the ‘Cats failed to force the tempo, but a huge second half run en route to 43 second half points showed what the ‘Cats are capable of when they are focused and determined.

 

There have been some phenomenal changes in mindset amongst certain players. Budinger’s approach to his first half mini-slump against WSU was excellent. He didn’t once check out of the game mentally and found was to get his teammates involved before going nuts in the second half and finding his stroke again.

 

Nic Wise proved that he is king of the 72” or less club as he tore apart Isaiah Thomas, Justin Dentmon, and Venoy Overton to the tune of 29 points and 8 assists. A huge outburst by Wise is not a shocker, but to become the level of offensive threat he was is just plain scary.

 

Jordan Hill continues to impress, as Arizona fans have come to expect, with his “typical,” yet amazing performances tallying 16 points with 16 rebounds, and 18 points with 9 rebounds. That is the type of performance Arizona fans have become accustomed to with Jordan Hill. But not typically when the Wildcats have four players scoring double digits. The coexistence of the two show that Arizona is playing extremely well together and have found a rhythm that includes an inside-outside game on every possession, rather than from one possession to another.

The biggest development for the Wildcats, however, has to be the unbelievable play by Kyle Fogg. Fogg is averaging just under 15 points per game over the last three for one major reason – he isn’t hesitating to take open looks. After the close losses to USC and ASU where he was essentially dared to shoot, it seems as though Fogg is taking it personally. He’s taking open looks when he gets them, and is being more aggressive on both ends of the floor. His performance means that the Wildcats will no longer suffer when one of the “Big Three” is having an off night.

 

Despite these great performances, the Wildcats still have little room for error right now. These were games that they needed to win, and by doing so they have only stayed the guillotine for a short while longer. The Wildcats needs to continue to build on their performance and have a great opportunity to do so when they face the Oregon schools next week. They have a tough road ahead, but a sweep of the Washington schools has provided a sign of life as well as a ray of hope. Bear Down Arizona!

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Pre-Game: WAZZU@ ARizona

After defeating the Washington Huskies with a deluge of free throws, the Wildcats turn their sights on the Washington State Cougars as they covet more momentum heading into the second half of conference play. A win against the Cougars would place them one-game behind their longest winning streak of the season (four) with a road trip to face the Oregon schools on the horizon. It’s irrefutable that for the Wildcats to extend their consecutive NCAA Tournament streak they must continue their winning streak for at least three more games.

 

On paper, the Cougars are a very misleading team to behold. They only have three players averaging double-digits in scoring, and score a conference low 58.9 points per contest. The Cougars, however, are much better than basic stats can foretell – any seasoned PAC-10 fan can tell you as much. “Bennett Ball” is a very methodical, pain-stakingly slow offense that thrives on defensive mistakes of their opponents.

 

On the other hand, defensively they only allow 52.6 points per game – first in the conference. This figure is also misleading, and neither the Cougar’s offensive or defensive stats should be taken at face value. But no matter how you look at it, the key to defeating Washington State is limiting lost possessions and forcing the tempo of the game. Arizona State failed to do that and lost by 10, while Gonzaga managed to reach the 70-point plateau and won decisively.

 

 

The Cougars have also received solid contributions for Aron Baynes and freshman Klay Thompson this year. Thompson has the makings of fitting Bennett’s system much the way that Derrick Lowe did in previous years, though Thompson is more athletic but has less experience. He is still a volatile element for the Cougars, but is a year or two away from consistently being a threat the way that Lowe was in previous years.

 

Keys to the Game

  •  Force the Tempo: Arizona needs to get out and run on the Cougars a bit – it’s not that they can’t handle the up-tempo game, but anytime you can take a team out of their game plan you gain an advantage over them. If this game finishes with the winner sitting in the low 60’s it will likely be Washington State. On the other hand if it sits in the upper 60’s or low 70’s the probability will be Arizona coming out on top.
  • Protect the Ball: The Wildcats’ turnover woes continued against Washington on Thursday night, though they did improve from their previous game – though that’s not saying much. The Cougars have a conference best 11.8 turnovers per game, so Arizona really needs to buckle down and do a better job of ball control on Saturday.
  • Exploit the Athleticism: Bennett ball has an emphasis on smart players, not athletic ones. Because of this if Arizona can play smart (limit turnovers, grab rebounds, stay focused defensively) then their athleticism will be a huge advantage for them. They need to use their speed to attack the rim and the paint, and to apply pressure on the perimeter.
Rochestie celebrates a win over host James Harden & the ASU Sun Devils
Rochestie celebrates a win over host James Harden & the ASU Sun Devils

You have to give credit to this squad for performing how they have in games and consistently holding to their game plan – even when down by double-digits under five-minutes remaining. For that you have to give credit to their floor general, Taylor Rochestie, for keeping his head and tapping into the experience he has as a senior. Rochestie is a sure-handed guard who averages 4.7 (Conference rank: 6th in total assists) assists and only 2.4 turnovers per game (third in a/to ratio in guards with 90 assists or more on the season).

 

Looking Ahead to April

 

Even though the remaining 6 weeks of conference play are uncertain and any guess as to what will happen would be as good as any other, I’m taking a few moments to look ahead to the future and the job ahead for the Arizona Wildcats starting in fall of 2009. Things will become quickly more clear the moment that Lute Olson’s successor has been named. Whoever this coach is will inherit a solid foundation and a great program that has fallen into a bit of disrepair over the past couple of years. For that they will be blessed, but while the name “Arizona” has a bit of clout to it and can help pull in recruits Arizona’s 2009 recruiting class will fall heavily on the coach who is selected. The Successor will also have the foundation laid for a good supporting cast, provided no unexpected departures occur, and the fires of the recruiting trail will already be kindling thanks to Reggie Geary.

With the NCAA Tournament finishing on April 6th and the spring signing period starting at noon two days later, the Wildcats have a small window to make a huge impact in the recruiting field. Continue reading ‘Looking Ahead to April’

Game Preview: Washington @ Arizona

 

The Wildcats are up against the ropes desperately trying to avoid the knockout punch; which so many critics are waiting to fall. After a scare against Houston, the ‘Cats just might have the momentum and determination they need to go on an amazing second-half run to extend their current NCAA Tournament streak to 25. It will be no easy task, even at McKale Center, as they host Washington and their conference best 6-1 record.

Washington is for real, but their record may not be. Continue reading ‘Game Preview: Washington @ Arizona’

PAC-10 Picks: Week 5

NaterB’s Picks:

  1. Arizona – goin’ with a bit of a homer pick, but also because the ‘Cats really need this one.
  2. Arizona State – They’ll get what’s coming to them for that robbery of a call against Hill – but it won’t be against the Cougs.
  3. USC – Stanford has no match for Gibson and Washington gets shut down by DeRozan.
  4. UCLA – Gotta go with the home team here, but don’t be surprised if Cal wins this one.
  5. Arizona – If there is one thing Arizona can do, it’s compete with teams that want to slow it down.
  6. UCLA – This is a more interesting match-up than the UCLA/CAL game, but only because UCLA actually has an inside advantage against someone.
  7. Washington – This isn’t what is coming to ASU, but they’ll get eaten up here.
  8. OSU – Never would’ve saw myself picking the Beavers over the Ducks this year, but I can’t warrant making the other pick.
  9. CAL – USC’s great defense vs. CAL’s great offense – I’m gonna go with CAL on this one – USC is too inconsistent to pick twice in one week.

The others: Only seven participants have submitted their votes at this time.

Washington 5 @ Arizona 2

Washington State 0, Arizona State 7

Stanford 0, USC 7

CAL 0, UCLA 7

Washington State 0, Arizona 7

Stanford 0, UCLA 7

Washington 5, Arizona 2

Oregon 4, Oregon State 3
CAL 6, USC 1

PAC-10 Week 5 Preview

Week Five Preview

Weekly Matchup’s:

Arizona schools host Washington Schools

Bay Area Schools travel to LA

Rivalry Matchup: Oregon Schools

 

What to watch for

CAL was impressing spectators nation wide until they lost to a less athletic, but more disciplined Oregon State team. They’ll get a good test this week in SoCal against the favorite for the P10 Championship: UCLA.

This game really intrigues me because we’ll get to see how good CAL really is and if they have the versatility to win some other way than behind the 3-point line.

 

Arizona is looking to build on the momentum and boost they received after their miraculous win against Houston. They have a tough task as they host the Huskies who sit on top of the conference standings – largely because of being at home for the majority of the first four weeks in conference play.

 

Last year OSU went 0-18 in conference play. Now they host their 0-8 rivals in hopes of pushing them along the winless streak that they’ve found themselves on. It’s speed and athleticism vs. determination and experience. My vote is on 0-9.

 

The second half of the week will feature Arizona State and Washington State as well – and it ought to be interesting to see how well Harden and Pendergraph can overcome the tempo and frontcourt of Washington.

Livengood’s Second Chance

The fate of Arizona’s future rests on the shoulders of an AD that by-and-large has been more of a program curator rather than director. His job has been simple, sit back and watch as the softball, swimming and diving, and men’s basketball programs have had perpetual success year after year. Unfortunately, when the time has arisen for him to step up and make some executive directives he is largely known for making mistakes. He botched the Dick Tomey situation and the football program didn’t sniff a bowl game for ten years. He made matters worse by rushing to sign the first coach he could – John Macovick – which turned out to be the biggest mistake of his time at Arizona thus far. It took him seven years to find a suitable coach to turn the baseball program around. And he’s gone through several women’s basketball coaches during his tenure at Arizona.

 

 

Livengood’s track record has improved recently though. After what may have been a decision to try and be quick and decisive in hiring Macovick, Livengood eventually turned things around under Mike Stoops. Livengood stood by his choice and allowed Stoops to gradually turn the program around until they reached their first bowl appearance in ten years. He’s furthered his stock with the hiring of Andy Lopez as the baseball coach. Arizona’s baseball program has seen continued competitiveness under Lopez and doesn’t look to stop anytime soon. Continue reading ‘Livengood’s Second Chance’


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PAC-10 Power Rankings

1. Cal 2. Washington 3. UCLA 4. Arizona 5. Oregon 6. Oregon State 7. Arizona State 8. Washington State 9. Stanford 10. USC

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