The Wildcats end their regular season tonight in Tucson against the Cal Golden Bears. Cal is 8-22 this year and 2-15 in the Pac-12. Arizona beat Cal 79-58 in January.
#1 Darius McNeill 6’3″ G (Fr.)
#2 Juhwan Harris-Dyson 6’5″ G (Fr.)
#14 Don Coleman 6’3″ G (Jr.)
#10 Justice Sueing 6’7″ F (Fr.)
#24 Marcus Lee 6’9″ F (Sr.)
Off the bench: #22 Kingsley Okoroh 7’1″ C (Sr.), #21 Nick Hamilton 6’4″ G (Sr.), #15 Roman Davis 6’7″ F (So.)
Offense: Cal generally runs a 1-4 set against man with either a pick and roll or a weave into a pick and roll. They focus on getting the ball inside to Lee and Okoroh. Coleman is the teams leading scorer and McNeill and Sueing are also capable of creating their own shots through the offense.
Defense: They play a standard pack-line defense for their man set and will also play some 2-3 zone. They have decent size in the post and will try to match-up man to man against Arizona’s bigs. But, there is a good chance the Cats will see a lot of zone this game if Cal’s bigs have trouble with Ayton and Ristic.
Strengths: Good front-court play with Okoroh and Lee. Okoroh has the size to bang with Ayton but lacks the agility and athleticism to hold him in check throughout the game. Coleman is Cal’s best player and is very good in both transition and half-court offense. They have 7 players who are all productive and solid. They are 2nd in the Pac-12 in steals averaging just over 7 per game.
Weaknesses: Depth and perimeter shooting. Cal is basically 7 deep and is close to last place in all of D-1 from behind the arc, shooting 29%. They are last in the Pac-12 averaging just under 63 points per game while giving up 76.5 per game.
Summary: This is a transition year for the Golden Bears after having lost their head coach and their top 4 scorers from last year. They are 1-15 in 2018 and did not win a game in the month of January. They have lost 6 in row coming into Tucson. The momentum is in Arizona’s favor and it will take a complete game of exceptional basketball for Cal to come out victorious in Tucson.
Keys for the Cats: It was a confusing and schizophrenic week in Tucson. It started out looking like the program was in shambles with an uncertain present and future. It ended with a team and a fan base re-energized and unified in its support of Coach Miller and this team. Though these accusations have definitely damaged Arizona’s future recruiting prospects it might have been just what this team this season needed to make a final push through March into April.
It’s senior night and Arizona will be saying good-bye to its starting 5, either through graduation or the NBA draft. This is a starting 5 that has logged in a significant amount of minutes this year. 4 of the 5 are averaging over 30 minutes per game. The 5th, Ristic, is averaging 26. We’ll find out come tournament time (both Pac-12 and NCAA) what these Cats have left in the tank after many long games and an emotionally exhausting season. They have been in the NCAA top 5 for most of the year in FG% and are currently 2nd thanks to Ayton and Ristic both hovering around the 60% mark. I was surprised to learn that they are 37th in the NCAA from 3-point land, shooting 39%. They are also 34th in the NCAA shooting 76% from the free throw line. Those three stats (FG, 3-point, and FT) are encouraging signs and indicative of a team that can put together a series of wins come tournament time. The March success of this year’s Wildcats will rely on three factors: Consistency; toughness/durability (physical and emotional); and playing better than average defense.