Posts Tagged 'Nic Wise'

2009-2010 ‘Cats Preview

Okay, so the season doesn’t actually start for a little over four months from now and there is still the possibility that significant changes could still occur… but I doubt it.  Without further adieu, here is my first glimpse into the ‘Cats this season. Continue reading ‘2009-2010 ‘Cats Preview’

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Arizona @ Washington

Just one week ago the Wildcats seemed to have all but locked up a NCAA Tournament bid, and seemed to be in absolute control of their post-season fates with just five games remaining. They were the winners of seven-straight games, including wins over two of the better teams in the conference, Washington and UCLA, and were eyeing another signature win against their natural Rivals, Arizona State.

 

But the Wildcats have lost their past two games and as they find themselves teetering on having their bubble burst yet again, many “fans” find themselves edging towards the bandwagon’s emergency exits. Their strangle hold on a NCAA Tournament ticket has slipped, and now the ‘Cats must win at least two of their three remaining games. Perhaps more importantly, they also have to show they can win on the road and have only one remaining chance to prove that – tonight when they visit the Washington Huskies.

 

A lot of the Cats hopes rely upon Wises ability to make the right decisions in Seattle today.

A lot of the 'Cats hopes rely upon Wise's ability to make the right decisions in Seattle today.

It’s not just that the Huskies have the best record in the conference that makes the Wildcats task so daunting, it’s how the Huskies have done it. In Seattle, behind the play of ever-reliable Jon Brockman and freshman phenom Isaiah Thomas, the Huskies have amassed an amazing 16-1 record and outscored opponents by 13.8 points per game.

 

 

 

For as great as Arizona was during their seven-game stretch, which just happened to coincide with a long home stand and the easiest road trip in the conference this year (Oregon/Oregon State). When the level of opponent picked up again on the road, the ‘Cats found themselves struggling again. Can the ‘Cats put it together for their final road game of the season? Will they be left teetering on the edge thanks to a poor showing on the road all season long?

 

Keys to the Game

 

Take Control: I know Pennell & Co. have said they only look at one game at a time now, and don’t look ahead and don’t pay attention to the long term ramifications. I can respect and appreciate that to a certain extent. But the bottom line is that the Wildcats are in a must win situation. They have to prove they can win on the road, and they need to finish the last 5 games of the season 3-2 or better.

 

Know When: The Huskies are a very quick, talented team with a deeper bench than our own. Nic Wise and Co. will have to play smart basketball taking advantage of the fast-break opportunities, but not rushing their offense or getting into a running match (Yes, I know they won 106-97 last time, but they also had 41 points at the charity stripe).

 

No Misfires: The Wildcats were spectacular during that 7-game stretch because The Big Three were all playing well. In their last two games (ASU & WSU) we have seen less-than-spectacular halves and stretches from each one of them independently. Arizona has to be firing on all cylinders if the hope to do what 16 other teams have failed to do this season – win in Seattle.

The Rivalry: Part II

When Arizona and Arizona State met up one month ago, the game ended in one of the most controversial calls we’ve seen in this rivalry in some time. While the call ultimately sealed the deal for the Sun Devils, to claim that it cost the ‘Cats the game would be pushing it too far. The Wildcats were plagued by simple, yet costly mistakes that set them in the position for a whistle to be capable of determining so much in the game. Frankly, if the Wildcats deserved to win that game they wouldn’t have been in that position.

 

Ironically, that is the last time the Wildcats have found themselves in such a position this season. During the past seven games the Wildcats have outscored their opponents by 8.2 points per game, and have eclipsed an average of 82.6 points during that time. They have also found themselves on the right end of the turnover battle while forcing opponents into 15.4 per game while committing 14.6 themselves.

 

If that’s not enough, it appears as though the Big Three are finally living up to their bidding with all three averaging between 19-21 points per game. But that’s not been all their scoring. They’ve seen significant impact from Kyle Fogg and Zane Johnson on both ends of the court. This team has been clicking on all cylinders the past seven games and look to continue when they travel to Tempe today to face the Sun Devils.

 

ASU has been on a bit of a tear themselves, with an active 4-game winning streak under their belts the Sun Devils have seen continued dominance from Harden and Pendergraph, and have been getting some big games from Derek Glasser and Rihards Kuksiks.

 

The keys to the game are the same as the last time out, but it can all be summarized to say that they simply need to avoid the simple mistakes that cost them just a few short weeks ago. The Sun Devils are fighting for a better seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the ‘Cats are fighting to secure their ticket. Both teams are within reach of the PAC-10 conference lead, and face the top-ranked Washington Huskies next week. Things are getting interesting in the conference, and this game is going to have hefty consequences for both teams.

 

Keys to the Game

Harden Up: James Harden is the driving force for the Sun Devils, if you can contain or limit his play-making ability you disable ASU’s offense. Arizona doesn’t have a defender capable of face guarding him and shutting him down the way that Tim Floyd and USC did, but they should be able to slow him down.

Win the Blocks: The inside battle will be key. Neither team has much (if any) quality depth in the frontcourt. So a lot of the rebounding responsibilities fall on the guards, and the Wildcats have to be ready to box out. They’ll also need to make it a pointed effort to get Jordan Hill active and involved early in the game.

Stick ‘em Up: The Wildcats need to get their hands up on shooters, especially Kuksiks outside the 3-point line. ASU doesn’t have many players that can create their own shot, so rotating in the zone and getting a hand in the Sun Devils’ faces will be crucial. If Arizona wants to pull out the home win, they’ll need to limit the number of open looks they give the Sun Devils.

Protect the Ball: The Sun Devils have the 2nd lowest turnover average in the conference with 12.4 per game (Arizona has 12.5) to go along with 6.6 steals. In each of their losses this season the Wildcats have turned the ball over more than their opponent and been outscored in points-off-turnovers by a significant amount.

 

For more on this rivalry, see my previous post with individual position break-downs.

https://sportscapsule.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/the-rivalry/

Life After Lute

 

These Cats are making believers out of doubters and proving there is life after Lute.
These ‘Cats are making believers out of doubters and proving there is life after Lute.

Life after Lute isn’t doomed to what Kevin O’Neill forced Wildcats’ fans to suffer through a year ago. The miraculous 10-point in under one minute come-back win against Houston started a 7 game winning streak for the Wildcats – their longest winning streak since the start of the 2006-2007 season. Even more amazing is the fact that this is the Wildcats longest conference win streak (6 games) since 2004-2005, and it is the first time the Wildcats have beaten UCLA either in Tucson or LA since 2005.

 

The streak in conjunction with earlier wins over Gonzaga, Kansas, and Washington have the Wildcats primed for a chance at another post-season appearance, hopefully with their first trip past the first round since 2006. With all the accomplishments these kids have, and recent negative streaks they have overcome, why should we be surprised if they finally snap a string of first-round losses?

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Wildcats still aren’t a lock, although they ought to be one of the favorites for an at-large bid, provided they can continue the high level of play we’ve seen over the past three weeks. In order to ensure they make the NCAA Tournament the ‘Cats need to extract revenge on the Sun Devils – who were a benefactors of a heinous whistle & technical in the final minute – this weekend in Tempe.

 

With the ‘Cats and fans teeming with confidence, the ASU game has almost seemed like an after-thought over the past few weeks. While that may seem like the case, I don’t believe that’s the case. While fans are looking at what must be done to reach the NCAA Tournament, nobody – fans and team alike – has been looking beyond the current game at hand anymore. It’s not about who’s coming up next, but the task at hand. The result has been a more urgent and aggressive play, and an attitude of never say die.

 

While the ‘Cats all-around performance has seen little improvement from their 5-2 streak that marred most of January, their recent success is immeasurable. The Wildcats have seen better production from Kyle Fogg, Zane Johnson, and even Jamelle Horne, their defenses has been able to come up with the timely stops, and they’ve been hitting clutch shots during this streak. All of which can be attributed to a greater desire to win and the confidence that they can really beat anybody they face.

 

This new found swagger must continue, as they will face three of the top five teams in the PAC-10 during the next three weeks. The task continues to mount, as the road-troubled ‘Cats will find themselves away from McKale for three of the final four remaining (PAC-10 tournament included) weeks leading up to Selection Sunday. As tremendous of a task as all that is, the Wildcats have indicated that they are more than ready to overcome it, even if they aren’t required to do it flawlessly.

 

Reaching the “magic number” (20) seemed like an almost impossible for the ‘Cats just three and a half weeks ago, but now with 18 wins and only 5 remaining games, the Wildcats seem ready to have an NCAA Tournament berth within their grasp. Each win only solidifies their case and earns them a higher seed come tournament time – an accomplishment that was all but written off by the media when Olson announced his retirement prior to the season tip-off.

Things are looking great for the Wildcats right now. A seven-game winning streak, two games out of first place in the PAC-10 and a chance at the conference title within reach, and a likely NCAA Tournament bid. The Wildcats recent success has started to make believers out of doubters, and given the faithful reason to forget their previous woes. Above all, this team is proving that there truly is life after Lute, and with the right moves the future is extremely bright.

Pregame: Arizona @ Oregon

On Saturday night the ‘Cats hope to keep their Tournament hopes alive while the Ducks are looking to save a little dignity.

On Saturday night the ‘Cats look to keep their Tournament hopes alive while the Ducks are looking to save a little dignity.

Both the Wildcats and the Ducks will enter into Saturday’s game hoping to salvage something of their season. The Wildcats have been getting themselves back into legitimate NCAA Tournament talks again, but a loss to Oregon would almost certainly be a knock-out blow for the ‘Cats. Meanwhile, the Ducks have been horrendous in conference play this season and are looking to salvage at least their dignity during the second-half of conference play. Can the ‘Cats avoid the knock-out blow and stretch Oregon’s losing skid to 11 with their second true road win of the year? Continue reading ‘Pregame: Arizona @ Oregon’

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!

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’


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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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