As the Cards head into Indy Friday, their preparation will be loaded with information from Coach Pitino and his staff about Arizona' dynamic trio that can beat them if given the chance. F Chase Budinger and F/C Jordan Hill are projected NBA lottery picks and Nic Wise is a lightning-fast PG. The key to beating the Wildcats is stopping as many of the trio as possible. If they stop one, Arizona could still win. Stop two and things look good for the Cards. Stop all three and it's a blowout.
Arizona is pretty much a three-headed monster the same way UK and Notre Dame are two-headed monsters. All three average over 15 points a game and the next highest scorer puts up 6.5. 4th option Jamelle Horne more than doubled his average with 15 against Cleveland St. in Round 2, but no one else on the team had more than a basket. Horne also had a 19-point games against Kansas earlier in the year in a Wildcat victory. No slight to Horne, the Arizona bench and role players, but it is obvious that the offense runs consistently through the three go-to guys and the zone needs to be keyed in on them.
PG Nic Wise - Jr. - 5'11 177 - 15.7 PPG 4.6 APG 2.4 RPG
The thing that scares me about Wise is his speed that is comparable to any PG in the nation, including UNC's Ty Lawson. As most of you remember, Lawson was a one-man press break due to his quickness against the Cards in last year's tourney. However, Wise doesn't have the supporting cast that Lawson did so he is relied on to score more, which he has done this tourney averaging 25 PPG. He makes good decisions with the basketball and takes good shots - 45% FG and 42% from long range. Wise got to the line 10 times against Cleveland St. making all 10. He takes it strong to the rim - almost to a fault - which is either feast or famine a la Edgar Sosa. How he will handle the pressure of the Louisville guards is the question because Wise hasn't faced a lot of pressing-teams all year. He averages 38 minutes a game so fatigue might become a factor if he has to face the constant irritation of Pitino's press. Of all three players, if Wise handles the pressure and gets off the Cards might be in for a dog-fight. Although not as much of a pro-prospect as Budinger and Hill, Wise is the type of pesky-point guard that could give the Cards the most trouble.
F/C Jordan Hill - Jr. - 6'10 245 - 18.4 PPG 11.0 RPG 54.5 FG%
Hill was second in the Pac-10 in both scoring and rebounding this season and has been consistently getting better over the last 3 years. He is currently has him projected as a top-5 pick across the board and the guy has only been playing organized basketball for 4-5 years. He is very athletic, runs the pick-and-roll well, and contests almost every shot inside. Obviously being so new to the game, he lacks fundamentals, makes poor decisions at times and gets lost on occasion on defense. He can be taken away from the game defensively if Samardo can knock down a couple of shots and bring him away from the basket. On offense, Hill is known to make quick decisions, so the Cards need to close out on him even quicker. The Cards have had problems with players that are very active around the basket like Dante Cunningham, Jeff Adrien and Patrick Patterson - Hill is that type of player. I wouldn't be surprised to see a rotation of Samuels, Jennings and Goode to keep up with his activeness and possibly tire him out.
F Chase Budinger - 6'7 218 - Jr. - 17.9 PPG 6.3 RPG 3.4 APG
First off, he's obviously smooth with the ladies and I have to admit his Basketball Jesus jersey is a nice touch. Also, I've read where he was a much-better prep volleyball player even though he was a McDonald's All-American selection coming out of high school. Budinger is basically the glue that keeps this Arizona team together. He has been held under 10 points only twice all year and all have been Wildcat losses. An extremely versitile player who plays both above the rim and beyond the arch and is considered one of the more unselfish players in the country. Budiger throws alley-oops and catches them all while shooting over 40% from 3-point range. Sounds like a potential NBA All-Star...right? The problem people have is he's not a leader on the floor or assertive enough to get the most out of his high skill level. He can catch-and-shoot very well, but has fits creating his own shot. He reminds me a lot of Joe Alexander from West Virginia last year - both fundamental white-boys with insane leaping skills bu maybe unselfish to a fault. Louisville's pressure will have trouble rattling Budinger, who plays cool, calm and collected. However, I also compare Budiger to the pin on a grenade. If he's in (meaning "on"), Arizona imposes a threat, If he's taken out, the Wilcats could blow to smitherines.