Arizona beat writer Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star was good enough to take time and answer five questions about the Wildcats leading up to tonight’s game between Washington and eighth-ranked Arizona:
1. Besides playing quality opponents, is there a common thread to Arizona’s two losses and/or other times it has struggled this season?
You have to almost throw out the mechanics of the UCLA loss because everything went south after they started poorly offensively (missing 12 of 13 shots to start). But they also struggled against Charleston Southern, Southern Miss, Utah, and Colorado while losing to Oregon. Their three-point shooting defense is often poor in these games and they haven’t been good on the boards, especially allowing too many second shots. Big men who can go inside and out sometimes have hurt, too because the UA’s freshmen big men aren’t great defensively. Early on they struggled quite a bit against zones though they have been better lately.
2. What has been the (mostly) good and (sometimes) bad of Mark Lyons?
Lyons is a “money” player. He makes plays when they need them the most, and he’s best at driving inside and picking up fouls — and always hitting them when the game is on the line. He’s not always great when the game is not in doubt. He’s also not a good assist-turnover guy, and not a true point guard at all, but that was expected. Some people think he takes too many shots and should distribute more, but that’s who he is. Lyons left Xavier in large part because Chris Mack didn’t want him to play point guard but Miller offered him the chance to do so at Arizona. So overall, he’s been a big addition; fans just have to get over the fact that he’s not a true point guard (and many have not).
3. How have the young bigs Ashley, Jerrett and Tarczewski been?
They have alternatively played great and disappeared, like freshmen often do. But they also have a handicap of sorts in that they are not needed to really be leaned on much and, in fact, just don’t get the ball that much which may be affecting their development a bit. I think they would be making much more of an impact on many other teams. Ashley has go-to potential, a gifted offensive player who is improving defensively. Jerrett is a really skilled inside-outside guy and Tarczewski is a solid 7-footer with good quickness and pretty good offensive skills for his size, though he has struggled with turnovers at times.
4. It feels unfair to ask if a 17-2 team should be more dominant. But, we’ll ask you that anyway. Fair? Why or why not?
Not really. I’m surprised they are 17-2 actually. I picked UCLA to win the league and figured Arizona would have 4 or 5 losses by now. They’ve gotten this far because they have great team chemistry and a good mix of experience and young talent but I never thought they’d be a dominant team. In fact, and Miller has admitted as much, they are actually kind of lucky to be 17-2, with very close wins over Florida, SDSU and the infamous Colorado game (when Sabatino Chen’s would-be game-winner was called off). I’ve been told the TV folks in Denver still call it the “crime in the desert.”
5. If you were tasked with beating Arizona, how would you go about doing it?
Try to go deep in the shot clock because Arizona’s field goal defense is inconsistent. Switch defenses, and definitely try some zone, because UA’s shooting is also inconsistent (though it can be very good). Rebound well, especially on the offensive glass. And don’t trash talk to or have fans go after Lyons — he’s an experienced New York guy who thrives on that stuff. Lyons has been a better player on the road than at home because of that.