Thursday, March 26, 2009

Show Me My Opponent - Arizona Wildcats

NAME: University of Arizona

LOCATION: Tucson, Arizona



MASCOT: Wilbur (and Wilma) Wildcat

CONFERENCE: Pacific-10

DATE: Friday, March 27, 2009
TIME: 7:07 pm EST

SITE: Lucas Oil Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana

TELEVISION: CBS; Gus Johnson play-by-play; Len Elmore commentary
RADIO: WHAS 840 AM; Paul Rogers play-by-play, Bob Valvano commentary


SERIES HISTORY: 2-2 all-time; (2-0 in Louisville; 0-2 neutral)

LAST MEETING: Arizona 72, Louisville 65; December 5, 2006 in New York, N.Y.

HEAD COACH: Russ Pennell (1st year)

ASSISTANTS: Reggie Geary, Matt Brase, Mike Dunlap (associate head coach)
OVERALL RECORD: 21-13 (9-9 in Pac-10)

SEED: 12 in the Midwest Region
RPI: 62
SOS: 34

SPREAD: Louisville minus 9

The short of it is that current University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino is widely believed by many out in the desert to be the No. 1 candidate for the Arizona Wildcats’ soon-to-be-vacant head coaching job


Gilbert Arenas
Richard Jefferson
Mike Bibby
Jason Terry
Damon Stoudamire
Luke Walton
Andre Iguodala
Steve Kerr
Sean Elliot

Bob Dole (former U.S. Senator and Republican Presidential Candidate) (not pictured right)
Samaire Rhys Armstrong (actress) (pictured right)
Amanda Beard (Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer)
Lance Briggs (NFL Pro Bowl LB for the Chicago Bears)
Tedy Bruschi (NFL Pro Bowl LB for the New England Patriots and member of the Coolest Names in Sports club)
Terry Francona (Manager of the Boston Red Sox)
Kenny Lofton (former OF for the Cleveland Indians; also a member of Zona’s 1988 Final Four team)
Jennie Finch (Olympic Gold Medalist softball pitcher)


F Chase Budinger Jr. 6'7 218 17.9 PPG 6.3 RPG 3.4 APG
F Jamelle Horne So. 6’6 209 6.9 PPG 5.1 RPG
C Jordan Hill Jr. 6'10 245 18.4 PPG 11.0 RPG
G Kyle Fogg Fr. 6’2 175 6.5 PPG 2.1 RPG
G Nic Wise Jr. 5'11 177 15.7 PPG 4.6 APG 2.4 RPG

BENCH: G Zane Johnson 4.6 PPG, G Garland Judkins 2.4 PPG

The question Wildcats’ fans have going into tomorrow night is whether someone besides the Big 3 is going to step up. Zona is 15-2 when someone besides Budinger, Hill, and Wise goes for double-digits, but has a losing record otherwise.

The question Cards’ fans have going into tomorrow night is whether our D can slow down Zona’s Big 3. Jordan Hill is projected by many as a top 5 pick in next year’s NBA draft. Averaging a double-double, the junior is as explosive in the paint as anyone Samardo, TJ, and George Goode have seen all season. Only once all season has he failed to go for double digits. (And that game he had 9.)

Chase Budinger, it seems, has been playing college basketball for 20 years and was in the same recruiting class as Steve Kerr. Like Hill, Budinger’s also a projected NBA first round, perhaps lotto, pick and is as versatile as anyone in the Pac-10. He knocks down better than 40% from beyond the arc and will be on the boards tomorrow night, mixing it up in the paint with the big boys. Fortunately, Pitino uses these Show Me My Opponents as scouting reports and will have his boys stepping out on Budinger in the zone.

Nic Wise will be charged with the duty of handling the Cards’ tenacious pressure. It’s no secret that Louisville at times struggles with PGs with the quickness to get the ball across half-court before we can get into our press. (That’s what A.J. Price said, anyway.) Wise is that kind of guard. The junior averages 4.6 dimes per game to go along with his 15.7 points. He’s been as good as any PG in the tourney, including Johnny Flynn and Ty Lawson, going for 29 points against Utah and 21 against Cleveland State. But he’s prone to cough it up, averaging almost 3 turnovers per game. Like Budinger, he’ll need to be challenged when he pulls from trey – he shoots better than 42% from behind the arc. It’s called “wet from 3’s” the kids tell me.

What’s in bold is the heart and soul of this Arizona team and its Sweet 16 run. There’s a huge drop-off in productivity outside the Big 3. Arizona’s problems this year have been exposed when they come across a lot of depth. Louisville should be able to wear ‘em out. The Wildcats are notoriously known for lack of defense, especially on the perimeter. (Although Zona Nation will point out their Cats “held” Cleveland State to 3-23 from three last round and Utah was only 33.3% from there last weekend.) Look for the Cards to get open looks in the corner – Sosa, Preston, and McGee can all light it up from there. Hopefully Jerry will be on too. Making the extra pass along the perimeter will pay dividends against the Zona D.

I also like the Cards to get the ball in the paint as much as possible. If we get Hill or Budinger in foul trouble early, it could be smooth sailing into the Regional Finals.

Because of their lack of depth and defensive aptitude, and because the Cardinals are going to come out swinging after the Siena scare, I like Rick Pitino’s chances of going 9-0 all-time in the Sweet 16.

Gimme the Cards, 77 – 63.

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