Greetings from the Southwest terminal of the Tucson airport, where I'm heading to Los Angeles to watch the Arizona Wildcats play USC and then UCLA. And I'm also wondering why anyone would ever eat at the Taco Bron in the terminal. Sorry for the early chat — flying gets in the way. I'm eager to hear your questions about the UA and the Pac-12 race, which is getting more interesting by the second. Send as many questions as you like, and I'll try to get to them in the next hour or so.
Would Arizona beat Gonzaga if they played on a neutral site? Perhaps. Does Arizona have the resume of the Zags? Heck no. Gonzaga's lost twice all year — both to teams ranked No. 13. And maybe the WCC isn't good, but Gonzaga's won five of their last six games by 17 or more.
Would it be possible for the Wildcats to charter this morning and play USC tonight? Totally. Would it be possible for them to return between the two games and then fly to UCLA on Saturday? Of course. But they're not doing that. Coaches love the control that comes with taking a team to a hotel. You can monitor what they eat, what information you give them and (in theory) what time they go to sleep. Or at least, what time they have lights-out. Coaches much prefer that. It's why the football team stays at a hotel room the night before HOME games.
You're right — he's probably closer to a really big small forward, given his sweet (if ugly) jump shot. But Solomon Hill is playing that spot, so Ashley won't be there this year. I could see a lineup next year with Tarczewski at center, Ashley at power forward and Jerrett maybe at small forward.
I know you guys hate it when I preach patience, but I'm preaching patience. I don't believe it's a matter of "waking up." Fact is, big guys take longer than guards to develop into legitimate college stars. (Remember Derrick Williams' freshman year? He was good, but nowhere near what he was as a sophomore.) I like what Ashley brings to the Wildcats. He appears to like getting his hands dirty. The team could use a few more of those.
Actually, I think so. It's hard to believe because, as I wrote today, they didn't even have a winning conference record until the first week of this month. Entering the week, Cal had an RPI of 45, which is better than Oregon. (And they beat Oregon twice!) I think Cal would have to flop over the next three weeks to miss The Dance. And, with three regular-season home games left, I don't see that happening.
That's a concern, for sure. His difficulty, at times, catching balls fed into the post drives fans nuts. Even worse, it seems to discourage his teammates from trying to feed the post, which the Wildcats MUST do to be successful. As the great Bruce Pascoe discussed, tough, Tarczewski (one of two Pac-12 freshmen, along with Jahii Carson, to start every game this year) is a willing passer and is improving greatly in the post. Over the past three games, Bruce wrote, Zeus is 12-for-17 with two turnovers. Ya think UA fans would take that average — 4-for-6 (or so) with a turnover a game? I would, in a heartbeat. Throw in seven or eight rebounds, and the UA is in business
Yes, I wholeheartedly do. The problem is, that's not who Lyons is. Do you realize that the senior PG has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, 12 times this season? And that, at 15.2 points per game, he's ninth in the league in scoring? That's his game.
Miller has tried all year to get him to be more of a distributor, but he is quick to point out that the UA is asking Lyons to learn how to be a true PG on the fly.
As in, today? No I don't. And I'm not sure it would be close. Selection Sunday, though, is 18 days away. The Wildcats wouldn't play a team of that caliber, likely, until March 23/24 at the earliest. That gives the UA a loooooooong time to develop into the kind of team that could scare the Indianas of the world. I believe the Wildcats have the talent to, for what it's worth.
If they can win at Pauley Pavilion, yes. That might be the toughest game the Wildcats walk into all year, if Travis Wear can recover from his foot injury in time to play. (Travis is The Good Wear; as an identical twin, I'm well within my rights to make blanket judgements about twins). Also, I like to defer to the predictive powers of Ken Pomeroy in these cases. He gives the Wildcats a 70 percent chance to win tonight at Galen Center, a 51 percent chance to win Saturday and an 87 percent chance to beat ASU at McKale on Senior Day. As much as the Sun Devils might be desperate for a win by that point, I can't see Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom losing to a rival in their last regular-season game.
Hmmm. The top 4 teams in the Pac-12 Tournament get a bye. As of today, that's UO/UA/UCLA/Cal. That leaves ASU and Colorado as the best remaining teams, but they'd have to win an extra game to take the tournament. I think Colorado has a chance to earn an NCAA tournament bid. Stanford's a sleeper to win a few conference tourney games. As for a DEEP sleeper to win at least one, how about 3-12 Oregon State?
Greatest strength: Veteran leadership. Hill, Parrom and Lyons have 13 years of college basketball to their name, combined. Come tourney time, it's amazing what age can do for you. Greatest weakness: the Wildcats are second in the league in scoring average, and only a half-point off of first, but it doesn't feel that way. Their performance halfcourt sets against good teams needs to be better.
You misread Bracketology. As of this second, it's got Arizona playing South Dakota State in the first round, Pittsburgh or LaSalle in the second, and either Michigan State/Montana/San Diego State/Iowa State in the Sweet 16. The Elite 8 opponent would, most likely, be either Gonzaga (!), Ohio State, Kentucky/Nova or Kansas State. Michigan State in the Sweet 16 and Gonzaga in the Elite 8? That's a TOUGH road. I don't know that the UA can beat MSU right now. And we've already talked Zags
No. Though with Lyons scoring at a much better clip that Johnson, I see how folks might think that's an option. Fact is, Lyons has been the PG, even if in name only, all year. I can't see them changing that any time soon.
I don't believe they've gotten worse. I think they haven't developed as quickly as some of us thought, and some fans hoped. Remember, too, that the Wildcats were a miraculous comeback and a few foul shots away from losing BOTH those games; we'd remember them much different if they turned out as losses.
It would have been easier for Miller to have a shorter leash on Lyons and Johnson if Jordin Mayes had contributed more earlier in the year. He's since been leap-frogged by Gabe York. But ask yourself: if stuff goes bad at Pauley Pavilion, do you think Miller believes he can turn to the inexperienced York for stability? The Wildcats entered this season rather thin at guard, even if Kevin Parrom (and even Solomon Hill) can play the perimeter in a pinch. I'm sure Miller woulda liked one more option at the 1 and 2.
Was talking to a friend about that very thing the other day. Aaron Gordon, the power forward prospect originally from the Bay Area, probably looks at Oregon and Washington and sees oodles of playing time. (Singler, Kazemi and N'Diaye won't be here next year). And, depending on if Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress go pro, he might see the same thing in Lexington.
Thanks for writing, Shabazz. How's the gold backpack? I saw it up close when you were here. It's pretty dope. The Big Ten is BY FAR the best conference in America this year. You can compare any other league to it, and all would fall very, very short. I think the Pac-12 is so much better than last year that it's hardly worth having the conversation. The Pac-12 has no team with an RPI worse than 185 this year. Last year, it seemed like all 12 did.
Johnson is a much much much better defender than Lyons. You're right — Lyons has a tendency to gamble too much.
Oh, totally. It's a road game. You can't disrespect road games, ever. Also, when USC played at McKale Center, it posted probably the worst showing of any league team I've seen in my seven years here. They have to play better this time around, because they couldn't be worse. I think the Wildcats should win, but it'll be closer than it was last time around, for sure.
Thanks for all your question today, guys. Gotta catch a bird to LA. Don't forget to follow the game on StarNet tonight, and the Wildcats all week.