Photo by Cal Athletics
Cal Basketball

The BearInsider Scout: Arizona is Good but Vulnerable

February 12, 2020
1,154

Cal kicks off its weekend of playing host to the Pac-12’s Arizona schools with a Thursday night showdown against the Arizona Wildcats. So far this season, the Wildcats (16-7, 6-4) haven’t taken full advantage of its No. 6 nationally ranked 2019 recruiting class and are sitting tied for third in league standings.

To be sure, it’s an improvement over Sean Miller’s team last season which missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six seasons. But it’s not quite a team similar to Miller’s teams of the mid-2010s.

For the most part this year, the Wildcats have lost to the tougher teams on its schedule, with losses to Baylor and Gonzaga and a tough overtime loss to Oregon in Eugene. But when the Wildcats are on, they’re very good. Arizona had Oregon on the brink of defeat and the Ducks were lucky to come out with a win. And the Wildcats drilled Colorado by 21 in Tuscon.

Still, there is very much hope for Cal to pull off the upset. The Wildcats have laid some eggs this season, including its last game, a 13-point loss at home to UCLA. Arizona also lost by double-digits at Oregon State and have a neutral court loss to St. John’s which keeps looking worse as the Red Storm fall closer and closer to the bottom of the Big East standings.

Let’s take a look at Cal’s potential path to an upset.

When Cal has the Ball

Stat Cal Arizona
Adj. Eff. 100.0 (217) 93.7 (43)
Avg. Poss. Length 19.2 (331) 18.1 (306)
Eff. FG% 47.5% (263) 45.5% (35)
TO% 19.6% (217) 20.3% (95)
Off. Reb. % 24.9% (279) 26.4% (103)
FTA/FGA 33.9 (141) 34.1 (226)
3P% 34.3% (113) 32.4% (136)
2P% 45.9% (308) 43.7% (24)
FT% 71.9% (138) 71.0% (197)
Block% 8.7% (158) 10.5% (94)
Steal% 7.3% (24) 9.4% (140)
Non-Stl TO% 12.3% (330) 11.0% (89)

Arizona has been solid on defense but teams have been able to bust open in some games. Oregon State hung 82 on the Wildcats, USC put up 80 in a loss, and Washington even put up 72 in a home loss.

Statistically, Arizona is most vulnerable at sending teams to the free-throw line and allowing teams to shoot decently from three. Opponents are getting a 34.1 FTA to FGA ratio on the Wildcats, which puts them at 226th in the nation. And opponents are shooting about 32.4% from long-range against Arizona. The Wildcats are decent but not great at forcing turnovers.

If Cal can do what it did at home to Oregon and knock down some key three-point shots while getting to the line, this could very much be a game.

When Arizona has the Ball

Stat Arizona Cal
Adj. Eff. 113.9 (16) 100.1 (131)
Avg. Poss. Length 16.3 (58) 17.9 (266)
Eff. FG% 52.1% (65) 49.1% (156)
TO% 15.8% (17) 17.9% (245)
Off. Reb. % 31.0% (82) 27.0% (126)
FTA/FGA 36.5 (85) 36.7 (266)
3P% 36.0% (55) 35.2% (274)
2P% 51.2% (99) 46.6% (83)
FT% 73.5% (90) 73.4% (299)
Block% 7.2% (42) 7.4% (245)
Steal% 6.2% (3) 6.0% (351)
Non-Stl TO% 9.7% (145) 11.8% (35)

As a whole, Arizona’s offense has been generally very good this year. It ranks 16th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency standards, which is second-best in the conference behind Oregon. The Wildcats really do everything well on offense. In particular, they don’t turn the ball over much and they shoot it well from outside.

Freshman center Zeke Nnaji has paced the Wildcats, averaging 16.2 points and 8.9 rebounds in about 30 minutes per game. The offense usually runs between him and fellow freshman point guard Nico Mannion. Both have the team’s highest possession rates. Mannion is the team’s second-highest scorer, averaging 14 points per game. The other player averaging double-digits in scoring on the season is freshman wing Josh Green, who is putting up 11.9 points per game.

A potential x-factor for the Wildcats is if senior forward Chase Jeter plays. The former Duke Blue Devil has been injured since Arizona’s loss at Oregon State. He played for two minutes against Washington but has sat since. Reports were he was cleared to play against USC and UCLA but didn’t see the floor. Considering the Wildcats could’ve used him in their loss to UCLA, Miller must still not be confident in his readiness.

Keys to the Game

Rattle the youngsters early. One of the issues of relying on three freshmen as your leading scorers is inconsistency (see Kentucky every year). These are still 18 and 19-year-olds and are playing their first season in college hoops. In Arizona’s loss to St. John’s, the Red Storm went up 23-11 in the first quarter of the game and extended it to 40-26 at halftime. That’s throwing the first punch. If Cal can come out with intensity, forcing the Wildcats into bad shots while making a few of their own, they can force Arizona into playing catchup all game, which is mentally tough, especially on the road.

Get to the line. Cal could really use some home cooking. Slowing and uglifying the game will play into Cal’s advantage.

Pace. Speaking of slowing the game, Arizona likes to get out and run. Not as much as Arizona State (more on that in a couple of days), but the Wildcats can push. This is likely a game where the first team to 70 wins. Maybe 60. Either way, the lower the possessions, the more likely the odds tip in Cal’s favor.

Make threes, guard threes. Three-point shots are huge in general in college basketball. They’re momentum changers and confidence builders. Mannion likes to hoist up a lot of long-range shots, but at 34% he’s not particularly efficient. Kentucky transfer Jemarl Baker leads the team in consistency at 39%. Senior guard Dylan Smith can also knock down outside shots and is averaging just over 35% from long-range.

Swarm Nnaji. Cal had a very effective game plan against Washington’s stud freshman forward Isaiah Stewart. They should also throw soft and hard double teams at Nnaji to keep him off-balance and guessing. The big difference with that plan against Arizona is Mannion has been an absolute terror for the Wildcats and is averaging 5.5 assists per game. They can generate offense even if Cal is able to stifle Nnaji.

KenPom says … 72-62 Arizona 82% win chance

Discussion from...

The BearInsider Scout: Arizona is Good but Vulnerable

956 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by KoreAmBear
KoreAmBear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
I'm pretty sure AZ beat CU in Boulder not Utah, but hey I have been made an ass for assuming the obvious before.
bearister
How long do you want to ignore this user?
KoreAmBear said:

I'm pretty sure AZ beat CU in Boulder not Utah, but hey I have been made an ass for assuming the obvious before.

We live in a topsy turvy world these days. I'm not sure of anything.


Cancel my subscription to the Resurrection
Send my credentials to the House of Detention
I got some friends inside
NathanAllen
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Staff
KoreAmBear said:

I'm pretty sure AZ beat CU in Boulder not Utah, but hey I have been made an ass for assuming the obvious before.
I was thinking Tuscon but typed "Utah." Weird. Either way, Utah and Colorado were both wrong. Arizona was the correct answer.
KoreAmBear
How long do you want to ignore this user?
NathanAllen said:

KoreAmBear said:

I'm pretty sure AZ beat CU in Boulder not Utah, but hey I have been made an ass for assuming the obvious before.
I was thinking Tuscon but typed "Utah." Weird. Either way, Utah and Colorado were both wrong. Arizona was the correct answer.
Oh haha. See foiled again.
Page 1 of 1
 
×
Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.