Arizona Vs. Auburn Preview

The Wildcats face the Auburn Tigers tonight in the Maui Invitational.  Both teams are 4-1 and are coming off their first loss of the season.

Starters:

#1 Jared Harper  5’10” G (Jr.)

#2 Bryce Brown 6’3″ G (Sr.)

#10 Samir Doughty 6’4″ G (Jr.)

#24 Anfernee McLemore 6’7″ F (Jr.)

#5 Chuma Okeke 6’8″ F (So.)

Off the bench:  #4 Malik Dunbar 6’6″ G (Sr.), #50 Austin Wiley 6’11” C (Jr.), #0 Horace Spencer 6’9″ F (Sr.), #12 J’von McCormick 6’0″ G (Jr.)

Offense:  After 5 games Auburn is averaging 90 points per game and is shooting 52% from 2 and 36% from 3.  They are very good at spreading the floor and creating a lot of space.  They’ll run quite a few baseline crosses (with or without screens) to look to get open.  I loved seeing them–against Duke yesterday–using a variation of Pete Carril’s Princeton offense, in particular the famous Princeton “chin” series.  All 5 players will be free throw line extended.  The first option is a back screen for the guard right through the wide open lane after a pass to the weak side.  If that’s not there one of the bigs on the elbows will step out and set a perimeter ball screen for a Pick N Roll or Pick N Pop.  They didn’t get many buckets off that first back screen but I enjoyed seeing it.

Defense:  The Tigers primarily play man defense.  They did, however, show an interesting look in yesterday’s game where they appeared to be in a 2-3 match-up zone for a few possessions.  Both teams will primarily play man-to-man but, due to Arizona’s poor 3 point shooting percentage, Auburn could very well decide–as Gonzaga did yesterday–to try some zone defense for a few possessions and force Arizona to make some 3’s.

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Strengths:  Auburn goes 9 deep and, like Arizona, all of those 9 average at least 10 minutes per game.  They are a team with a lot of experience and their roster is filled with juniors and seniors.  Their guards, Harper and Brown, are their leading scorers.  They have very good athleticism all around.  They are 14th in the NCAA in steals averaging just under 10 per game and are 5th in offensive rebounds per game averaging a whopping 18 per game (doubling Arizona’s average of 9 per game).  They are also 10th in the NCAA in made 3’s with 60 after 5 games, compared to Arizona’s 34 made 3’s through 5 games.

Weaknesses:  The Tigers are very solid all around and are ranked in the top 10.  Really the only weakness so far this season is their free throw shooting.  They are only making 67% from the line and that could hurt them in close games.

Summary:  It will be interesting to see how both teams play after coming off their first loss of the season.  With a quick one day turn-a-round they should be able to get into the swing of this game quite easily.  For the Cats it was the tale of two halves yesterday.  After a really good 1st half they struggled in the 2nd to make shots and to stop Gonzaga from getting good looks.  Then Chase Jeter fouled out and that pretty much sealed the victory for the Zags.

This game will have some great guard matchups to watch.  The top 5 scoring players on the court tonight are the 2 starting guards for Auburn and the 3 starting guards for Arizona.

Arizona will have to be aggressive on the defensive boards as well as keep Auburn’s guards from getting into the lane with dribble penetration.  Jeter and Okeke should be a really good matchup on the inside to start, but Auburn will have a definite size advantage with the 6’11 Wiley and the 6’9″ Spencer coming off the bench.

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