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. This is only the Huskies’ second real road trip during conference play – the other was to visit their neighbors in Oregon. Yes, I’m aware that they opened conference play at Washington State – but when two rivals face off it is rarely a true home court advantage. So don’t be surprised if that almost perfect 6-1 record drops starkly over the next month.

 

Regardless of the circumstances of their record, compiling a 6-1 record amongst the PAC-10 is no easy task and certainly legitimizes a team. There is no questioning Jon Brockman’s ability as he’s a threat on both the offensive and defensive end. The difference between this first-placed team and last years bottom-half finish is that Brockman finally has frontcourt help and Lorenzo Romar has the playmaker he was desperately missing a year ago.

  Matthew Bryan-Amaning is a stud of a freshman that can pick up the frontcourt slack for the Huskies while Brockman gets a rest. That’s the first change for the Huskies who couldn’t afford to rest Brockman or have him in foul trouble last year. Bryan-Amaning is an adequate threat with the ball in his hands near the rim, he is a solid rebounder, and plays tough.

UWs Freshman PG Isaiah Thomas gets into the lane in a game earlier this season against Florida

UW's Freshman PG Isaiah Thomas gets into the lane in a game earlier this season against Florida

The biggest change has to be thanks to the addition of Isaiah Thomas. The undersized point guard is a phenomenal playmaker who can edge his way through defenses and create open looks for his teammates. Those abilities have opened up Justin Dentmon as a wingman and have helped Quincy Pondexter finally live up to his billing as an incoming freshman.

Keys to the Game

  •  Arizona needs to exploit the height problems that Washington faces by having two guards (Thomas & Dentmon) under six-foot on the floor. Arizona’s length advantage on the perimeter should help them be able to deny the Huskies from reversing the ball. It should also help on the offensive end where they should be able to get some spot up shooters in motion to be able to shoot over the aforementioned players.
  • Nic Wise’s ability to counter Isaiah Thomas’ play-making ability will be vital. Wise needs to counter it with his play-making ability on the other end, and use his speed on the defensive side to limit the effectiveness of Thomas.
  • Arizona needs to finally win a turnover battle (and points off turnovers are right in step with this). The Wildcats have tied and broken their season turnover high in the past few games. Honestly that aspect of the game has been downright ugly, and if the ‘Cats want to have any chance at a run heading towards March that is the first thing that needs to change. 
  • The other glaring problem has been the ‘Cats inability to finish a conference game strong. Their last two conference games have been decided in the closing seconds thanks to mental mistakes and poor shot selection, and no, the fouls didn’t help either. So Arizona either needs to pull ahead earlier and maintain that lead during the final five minutes, or they need to put on a nice run to close the game out and seal the deal.
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