Where: Tucson, Arizona
When: 8:00PM (Mountain)
Radio: 1290AM 107.5 FM
Line: Florida -3.5
The #8 Arizona Wildcats (7-0,0-0) will take on arguably their toughest opponent this year tomorrow: #5 Florida (7-0,0-0). After the Wildcats showed the country they can finish a game on the road after losing an early lead, they get put in the national spotlight Saturday night. A top ten matchup nationally televised on ESPN at home just after finals week for these Wildcats. Hopefully some students will stick around for this thriller. Here’s a look inside Miller’s Chalkboard for the Wildcats as they play the Gators:
Gators To Watch: The Florida Gators are a familiar opponent for most of these Wildcats- Arizona traveled to Florida last year. The game was notable because the prized freshman point guard for the Cats, Josiah Turner, was suspended for this game, but the Cats fought the Gators into overtime before foul trouble got the best of them, losing 78-72. The Gators will be without their freshman stud from last year, Bradley Beal (3rd overall pick), but do have a flurry of guards to pick up the slack. Let’s start with senior point guard Kenny Boyton, who is leading the team with 14.4 points per game, along with 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. Similar to all of the other guards on this talented Florida team, Boyton can shoot lights out. McKale is known as a shooter’s gym, so the Cats must play great defense and contest shots to win. Michael Frazier is another guard who can flat out score, and in bunches. This freshman only averages 6.6 a game but shoots well at 40.7% from behind the arc and 44.1% from the field. Down low the Gators bang with the best of them, starting with their beast, Patrick Young. Young led all scorers last season when these two met (25) and is averaging 10.3 this year along with 7.3 rebounds per game, the best on his team. He is a strong presence in the post and will be a task to contain for these young wildcats down low. The other big man, Erik Murphy, averages 11.9 points a game and 4.6 rebounds a game. He and Young are excellent and getting offensive boards and creating more possessions for their team. The Wildcats will need to hit the glass well and play tough defense to win.
Rebounds: The Wildcats may have more size on the Gators, but the Gators have experience. Look for Sean Miller rotating his young big men to tire out the Gators and find the right chemistry. Patrick Young and Erik Murphy are two tough big men to keep off the glass. If the Wildcats can reduce the amount of second chance points coming from these two, the Cats will be victorious come Saturday night.
Defense: This category refers to defense on both sides of the ball. First, offensively the Wildcats will have to be able to adjust to the different looks Billy Donovan’s team will throw at them. Donovan is a great coach and will look to confuse the young Cats with different defensive looks. Arizona will have to be able to play better against a zone then the last time they saw one (Southern Miss) and will have to take advantage of their talent in man to man situations. On the defensive end, the Wildcats are looking better and better each game, but still haven’t shown that Miller defense yet this year. Hopefully, on Saturday they will click on all cylinders and rotate together as needed to win this contest. They must close out on their shooters quick and contest each shot to not let the Gators get in any sort of rhythm. The big men will need to be ready to rotate out on screens (the improvement over this year has been exponential with each game) and get back in position to box out for a rebound on shots. Should the cats execute these points appropriately they will find themselves ranked in the top 5 come Monday’s new rankings.
Crowd: Finally, finals are over and the students can really be an impact, right? Not so fast, many students are going home for Christmas break, which means the Zona Zoo will not be so rowdy. The good news is that McKale has sold out for Saturday’s contest and should be a great atmosphere. The Tucsonans attending the game will need to be ready to get the arena bumping to create that hostile environment we are known for. Look for Nick Johnson to continue his break out sophomore season with another great performance. Johnson, Solomon Hill and Lyons will lead the way for the cats and will be huge for getting the crowd on their feet with their play. If the crowd is standing for more than half the game, cats win, GUARANTEED (Rasheed Wallace Voice).
Predictions: The Wildcats find themselves in a top-ten showdown with #5 Florida. The Cats will Beardown and win a close one, 78-74.