Arizona vs. Gonzaga Preview

Tonight in the second round of the Maui Invational, the Arizona Wildcats play the Gonzaga Bulldogs.  Both teams are 4-0 and are playing for a chance to–most likely–play the #1 team in the country, Duke.

Starters:

(#13) 6’3″ G Josh Perkins (Sr.)

(#23) 6’5″ G Zach Norvell Jr. (So.)

(#24) 6’6″ F Corey Kispert (So.)

(#15) 6’7″ F Brandon Clarke (Jr.)

(#21) 6’8″ Rui Hachimura (Jr.)

Off the bench:  (#0) 6’2″ G Geno Crandall (Sr.), (#3) 6’11” Filip Petrusev (Fr.), (#22) 6’5″ Jeremy Jones (Sr.).

Offense:  The Bulldogs run a pretty typical modern offense with quite a bit of perimeter ball screens and Pick ‘N Roll action.  They are currently 3rd in the NCAA averaging 100 points per game and will get out on the break pretty regularly.  The offense runs through  Josh Perkins who is averaging 11 points and almost 9 assists per game.  He is very effective at breaking down the defense with dribble penetration, looking to score, drop off to a big man, or pass weak side for an open 3.  They will run a lot of Pick ‘n’ Roll with Perkins and Rui Hachimura, a versatile and highly skilled post player.  Hachimura can post, put the ball on the floor and drive, and step out behind the 3 point line.  Against Illinois last night, Hachimura “slipped” a lot of the perimeter screens, and looked to dive to the basket and get an easy 2.  Arizona’s defense will have to keep Perkins and Hachimura in check if they hope to win this game.  The Zags are making 33% of their 3’s and shooting 22 per game.  Norvell Jr. is their best 3 point shooter and both  Kispert and Perkins will look for theirs as well.  They are ranked 9th overall in field goal percentage at 53%.

Defense:  The Zags run basically the same defense as the Wildcats.  Straight up half court man to man where the Bigs will have to flash out on perimeter ball screens and then recover to their man while weak side defenders provide help.

Strengths:  Once again Gonzaga will put a highly competitive and experienced team on the floor, which they’ve been doing for 20+ years now.  They’ve been scoring a lot of points and shooting a very good percentage so far this season.  Perkins and Hachimura are the focal points of this team but they have a number of other players who will contribute as well.

Weaknesses:  They are, at this point, only about 8 deep and are not at full strength.  Killian Tillie, their 6’10” Jr. forward will be out for this game and is not expected to return until conference play starts.  Against Illinois, the Zags seemed susceptible to pressure defense.  Illinois was able to speed them up and get some turnovers when they decided to press a little.  Gonzaga definitely had some trouble with taking care of the ball–they had 21 turnovers–and we’ll see if Arizona decides to extend their defense and try to force some mistakes.

Summary:  This will be a great test for the young Wildcats.  Both teams have had some easy games so it can be difficult to assess what a team really is this early in the season.  One trend that I hope continues for Arizona is being 30th best in the NCAA at not turning the ball over.  They are only averaging 9 per game and that is a good sign thus far.  With all the talk this year about the guard heavy roster, the Cats are only shooting, on average, 4 more 3 pointers per game than they were last year at this point in the season.  They are an unimpressive 211th in the NCAA so far at 3 pointers attempted.  Tied with…Gonzaga.  Both teams have attempted 89 three-pointers this year.  An interesting stat that probably doesn’t mean much yet is that Arizona’s rebounding is nearly identical to what it was last year.  Last year:  9.8 offensive boards per game and 28 defensive boards per game.  This year:  9.5 offensive boards per game and 29 defensive boards per game.  Again, that may not mean much but the fact that Ayton was in the post last year would have led me to think their rebounding stats–especially offensively–would be significantly lower than last year.  This might be a good indicator of “team” rebounding…or of a lot more missed shots.  Arizona is only shooting 30% from 3 but is making a decent 55% of their 2’s.  They will most likely need to improve on those numbers in order to beat Gonzaga tonight.

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