Both Oregon State and Arizona are coming off their first conference loss of the season. The Beavers are 11-5 overall and The Cats are 13-5. OSU has only won 1 game in their last 13 matchups with U of A and that win was a little over 4 years ago.
Offensively Oregon State is led by the 6’8″ Tres Tinkle, the son of their Coach, Wayne Tinkle. He fills up the stat sheets with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. He has been hampered lately by an ankle injury but it hasn’t decreased his playing time or production. His only offensive weakness is, so far this season, his lackluster 31% shooting from 3-point range. Tinkle is–going deeper into the analytics–#1 in the Pac12 in both Points Produced and Points Produced Per Game and ranks in the top 10 (in the Pac12) in just about every advanced statistical measurement. From 2nd in player efficiency to 1st in usage percentage to 7th in defensive rating, just to name a few.
The Thompson brothers, along with Tinkle, account for most of this team’s offensive production. Between the 3 of them they are averaging just under 50 of this teams 74 points per game. Ethan is the best 3-point shooter for the Beavers shooting 39% for the year, with Zach Reichle just behind him at 38%. They seem to prefer getting the ball in the low post or creating looks off dribble penetration through their motion offense rather than jacking up 3’s. They do share the ball quite well and are 2nd in the Pac12 in total assists and average 16 per game, compared to Arizona’s 12.
Arizona is coming off its worst offensive performance of the season in their game against Oregon. The Duck’s zone defense had quite a bit to do with that. Brandon Randolph did not score in double digits for the first time this year and, as a team, the Cats had their 2nd worst shooting performance of the season making only 19 of 52 shots. Their 54 point total was the lowest of the year and 20 points below their season average of 74.8 points per game going in to that game. Randolph is the 8th best free throw shooter in all of NCAA Division 1 at .912% and in games where the offense is struggling and not shooting well it might serve the Cats better for him to try and get to the line as often as he can by attacking the basket and drawing some contact.
Oregon St. will play zone tonight. I love these “floating” zone defenses we’re seeing in the Pac12. The players have a lot of freedom to matchup with players whether they are in their “zone” or not. The OSU defense will be a mix of just about every regular zone defense. It can look like a 2-3, or a 3-2, or a 1-3-1, depending on the offensive set. They will also extend out to a 3/4 court zone press at times throughout the game.
Arizona has not played well against zone defenses this year and one way to beat a zone–for teams that don’t have a good zone offense or just aren’t shooting well in that particular game–is to get out and run. The Cats are not known as a running team but often times the best way to beat a good zone is not to let the defense get set up in it. Getting out in transition is a good way to get a zone defense “on its heels” and out of sorts.
Kylor Kelley, the 7-foot Junior, is averaging a ridiculous 4 blocked shots per game. He is 2nd in the NCAA with 64 total blocks. Arizona, as a team, has 47 blocks. Even more frightening is that Kelley is playing 23 minutes per game. He’s blocking 4 shots per game while playing just slightly over half the game! Which means his per 40 minute average for blocked shots is a dizzying 7! That averages out to about a block every 5 to 6 minutes of play. And those numbers are fairly consistent. He hasn’t had some ridiculous game of 15 blocks or anything like that to skew the numbers. 9 was his most in one game and the rest fall pretty consistently into the 3 through 5 each game range.
One final statistic for the aluminum foil hat-wearers. Could there be a Kelley Effect? The Beavers are 7th in the NCAA in opponents 2-point shooting at 42%, most likely due to Kelley’s ability to defend the rim. More mysteriously, however, opponents have had a difficult time making free throws against OSU. In Pac12 play the Beaver’s opponents are shooting a horrific 56% at the free throw line. Even though the free throw is an “unguarded” shot, could the presence of a great shot blocker like Kelley be negatively effecting the mindset of opposing players? Could the Kelley Effect be real? Are Mulder & Scully available to investigate? Even outside of Pac12 play opponents were shooting only 64% from the line against the Beavers. The Pac12 league average, so far this year, is 71%.
OSU has 3 players 6’11” or taller–all of whom have been averaging at least 10 minutes per game–but despite their size inside they are only an average rebounding team. They can go 9 deep but, like Arizona, will rely on a few key players to do most of the scoring. These are two very good defensive teams and we could be in for another low scoring affair tonight.