Friday, December 08, 2017

Sleeping with the Enemy, Arizona Wildcats


I reached out to Ryan Kelapire of Arizona Desert Swarm to get their perspective on tomorrow night's game, and he graciously shared the info below.  I also answered some questions about our team for their site, if you are interested.  If you visit Arizona Desert Swarm, please abide by their site's rules and be a good representative of our University.  

Strengths

Arizona's biggest strength is that it has two of the top scorers in country in Deandre Ayton and Allonzo Trier. Both are averaging north of 20 points per game and they have carried Arizona's offense all season. Ayton can score from all over the floor, but is mostly a terror in the paint because of his size and athleticism. Trier is an incredible slasher, who's best at scoring off the dribble but has improved quite a bit as a shooter. Arizona has other players who are capable of scoring in double figures too (we'll get to one of them), but the main reason Arizona has had any type of success this year is because of these two guys.

Weaknesses

Defense. Generally, Sean Miller-coached teams are excellent on defense, but this team isn't, ranking 212th in the country in defensive efficiency. Arizona doesn't have any lockdown perimeter defenders and aren't a fundamentally sound defensive team either (they don't communicate well or play with great effort). And while Arizona starts two 7-footers including the athletic Ayton, they aren't a great shot-blocking team. So opposing teams have been able to beat the Wildcats off the dribble and finish at the rim. However, Arizona has improved defensively as the season has worn on as evidenced by their win over Texas A&M.

Rebounding is another weakness, particularly on the defensive end. It seems odd that a team that starts two 7-footers would have trouble controlling the glass but one of those 7-footers (Dusan Ristic) just isn't a physical force in the paint. Add that to the fact Arizona's guards and wings aren't great rebounders and you get the struggles Arizona has had. Ayton is one of the top defensive rebounders in the country, and that's great because Arizona would be awful without him. That said, they are adding Rawle Alkins back to the mix and he is Arizona's best rebounding guard.

Players to watch for? 

I mentioned Ayton and Trier already, so I'll talk about two other guys. First, Rawle Alkins. Alkins is set to make his debut Saturday after missing the first nine games with a broken foot. While he is not the scorer that Trier is, he is good at basically everything. He will be an additional creator and shooter on the perimeter, and should help solve Arizona's defensive and rebounding woes as well.  He was Arizona's second-best defender last year and could be the go-to defender the team sorely needs this year. While Alkins won't have a full workload Saturday, he is arguably Arizona's second-best player, so he will surely be a difference maker in the minutes that he does play.

Also watch for Dusan Ristic. He is quite a different player than Ayton as Ristic relies completely on size, footwork and his touch around the basket to score. Ristic is fundamentally sound on the low block and has the best touch around the basket that I've seen for a college player. He also can step out and hit jumpers too. He is not good defensively because of a lack of athleticism, and he can get outmuscled on the boards, but if he catches the ball on the low block he is probably going to score. 

Prediction?

This Arizona team is trending upward and hardly ever loses at home, so I believe they'll win a tight one Saturday. Maybe something like 75-69.

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