Line: Arizona -5
Arizona has so far run a clinic in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii by devouring East Tennessee State and Miami, but today the Wildcats will face their toughest challenge yet in the Championship game against #17 San Diego State.
1. Tonight’s starting lineups
Arizona will start Mark Lyons (6’1″), Nick Johnson (6’3″), Solomon Hill (6’7″), Brandon Ashley(6’9″) and Kaleb Tarczewski (7’0). The Aztecs will go with Xavier Thames (6’3″), Chase Tapley (6’3″), James Rahon (6’5″), Jamaal Franklin (6’5″) and JJ O’Brien (6’7″). Instead of one of the guards, it is also quite possible that the Aztecs will go with Deshawn Stephens (6’8″), because it is clear that San Diego State is at a bit of a size disadvantage.
Both teams do a solid job on defense, holding their opponents to an average of less than 40% from the floor and from three point range. The Aztecs, however, do a better job than Arizona at defending the three pointer, holding their opponents to just 33%. Though the Wildcats have a lot of size, the inexperience of their big men has often led to mild production scoring down low. Arizona has typically responded to this weak spot by relying heavily on the three point shot, so the Wildcats will either have to break down San Diego’s solid perimeter defense or find a way to get it done with their size in the paint.
On the other end, of course, Arizona will have to do a good job of defending San Diego State’s guards. Like Arizona, San Diego State is a good three point shooting team (36%) and takes almost as many shots from long range as the Wildcats do. Because the Aztecs are at a size disadvantage, they will have to take quite a few jumpers to succeed.
3. Rebounds and Turnovers
Sean Miller himself was quoted saying that he is surprised how successful Arizona has been considering the amount of turnovers they cough up per game. Against East Tennessee State, the Wildcats had 18 turnovers to ETSU’s 13, and against Miami, 16 to the Hurricanes’ 9. This is not ideal, but Arizona has made up for by getting extra opportunities via rebounds. Arizona out-rebounded ETSU 46-24 and Miami 44-19. It would be nice to see Arizona control the ball more, and San Diego State is a disciplined team, but if the Wildcats can dominate the boards again they will be just fine.
4. Players to Watch
Junior and Senior guards Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley. The two veterans lead the team in scoring (17.9 and 15.5 points per game, respectively). Interestingly enough, Franklin–as a guard–leads the team in rebounds as well (9 per game). If Arizona can contain at least one of these players, they should be ok. If not, however, it could get interesting.