Arizona Wildcats (11-2) at Oregon Ducks (7-5)by Javier Morales on Dec. 30, 2010, under Sports
A quick look at what to expect tonight at MacArthur Court in Eugene, Ore., for the start of the Pac-10 season (get other facts about the game at WildAboutAZCats.com):
Matchups (Tipoff 8 p.m., Tucson time)
What’s going right: Malcolm Armstead, a junior point guard who started 27 games a year ago, is Oregon’s defensive tone-setter on the perimeter, with a team-leading 24 steals.
What’s going wrong: Senior guard Jay-R Stowbridge, a transfer from Jacksonville State and Nebraska, was inserted into the starting lineup seven games ago and has shown flashes of brilliance (15 points against Missouri) but mostly unproductive performances (only 29 points total in the last four games against the likes of Willamette, Jacksonville State, Virginia and Idaho). Also, a bit of a shakeup in the lineup with struggling shooter Garrett Sim (26.8 percent from three-point range) relinquishing his starting spot in the last game against Idaho after starting the first 11 games.
What’s going right: UA sophomore Lamont “MoMo” Jones has seven assists in the last two games after registering only eight in the previous six games combined.
What’s going wrong: Kyle Fogg, counted on for leadership and good shooting as a junior shooting guard, has the worst percentage from the field (34.7 percent) of all of the 10 players in Sean Miller’s rotation.
Who has the edge?: Neither backcourt has played particularly impressively so far this year, but Arizona gets the slight edge because of its potential. Jones has room to improve and mature as only a sophomore. Fogg, a double-digit scorer a year ago who is now averaging only 7.8 points a game, is bound to have some breakout games after starting the year in a funk.
What’s going right: Senior forward Joevan Catron has now played in 108 career games averaging career-bests for points (17.5 points per game), rebounds (6.6 rebound per game) and field goal shooting percentage (.538, 71-of-132). He leads the team in scoring, rebounding, shooting percentage, field goals attempted and field goals made, and is second in minutes played (27.6 minutes per game). Catron, who was awarded a medical hardship in the offseason, has scored in double-figures in 11 of the 12 games in 2010-11. Four of his five career 20-point games occurred this season. E.J. Singler, a sophomore forward who resisted the temptation to leave Oregon after Ernie Kent‘s departure, is also developing into a potential all-Pac-10 player by the time he’s a senior, averaging 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds a game.
What’s going wrong: Oft-injured junior forward Jeremy Jacob cracked the starting lineup for the third time this season in the last game against Idaho but managed only six points on 3-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes.
What’s going right: UA sophomore forward Derrick Williams has scored 90 of his team-leading 251 points from the free-throw line, where he is shooting a very respectable 82.6 percent. Usually post players and power forwards are a liability at the charity stripe. Not Williams, which makes him that much more dangerous.
What’s going wrong: UA sophomore forward Solomon Hill, as a wing player, should be more of a shooter, especially off penetration. Hill has only 66 field-goal attempts in 13 games (a scant five attempts per game). By comparison, Jones has 86 tries and he’s the point guard. Those numbers should be reserved.
Who has the edge?: Catron’s story makes for good copy; Williams is good, period. With Oregon center Michael Dunigan, a nemesis of Williams’ last year, gone to Israel, Williams should have more room to operate around the basket against the Ducks. Also, Jesse Perry inserted into the starting lineup in place of Jamelle Horne by Miller before the Pac-10 season was a good move. Now, the Wildcats can concentrate on improving upon this new rotation without many surprises.
What’s going right: New coach Dana Altman, an expert of handling personnel, is distributing minutes fairly evenly among his 10-player rotation. With the massive player defections the one saving grace is Altman has good character guys coming off the bench like junior guard Teondre Williams and freshman guard Jonathon Loyd who don’t mind that role. Interesting note: Loyd, from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, was a teammate of Class of 2012 UA targets Rosco Allen and Shabazz Muhammad last year.
What’s going wrong: Most of Altman’s reserves are not experienced at the Division I level. The 22-year coach will endure a lot of trial by fire with his young player this seasoin.
What’s going right: If I am Horne, I look at my new reserve role as a positive. That’s how Jason Terry has always approached being basically a career reserve (including at Arizona on the 1997 national championship team). Horne’s experience and athleticism off the bench can positively impact the Wildcats. Horne is still shooting extremely well from the field (49.3 percent) and can be a threat at the free-throw line (84 percent shooter) if he was more active around the basket and drew more fouls.
What’s going wrong: With his size at 6-5 and long reach, Brendon Lavender should have more than five steals this season. UA coach Sean Miller relies on Lavender to assist on difficult defensive assignments on the perimeter. Lavender should have double that amount.
Who has the edge?: Arizona has more experience, athleticism and overall talent on the bench with Horne, Lavender and the always-dangerous Kevin Parrom. Jordin Mayes adds stability despite being only a freshman.
Altman is in his 22nd year as a head coach and Miller his seventh, so Altman has the obvious experience advantage. He is also 3-1 vs. Miller when Altman coached at Creighton and Miller at Xavier. But the measure of a good coach is how far he can lead his team in the postseason. Altman’s furthest advancement in the NCAA tournament at Kansas State and Creighton is the second round. He has coached in eight NCAA tournaments and all he has to show for it are two second-round appearances. Miller already has an Elite Eight and Sweet 16 appearance on his resume. Tell me which coach you would rather want on your bench?
In the years to come, if Oregon and its players buy into Altman’s pressing and trapping style — which should catch on in Eugene with its exciting style — this will be a highly competitive series. But right now, Arizona has a decided talent advantage with Williams, Jesse Perry, Hill and Parrom, and Miller’s system is starting to take shape. Arizona will come out of Eugene with a 12-point victory. The Wildcats better enjoy that kind of success there while they can.
WildAboutAZCats.com and another partner — SteveRiveraVentures.com — have a promotion this season with Tino’s Pizza in Tucson. During any UA men’s hoops game (like tonight), order any large pizza (dine-in or carryout) get a discount of $2. Tino’s Pizza was voted as the Best Eastside Pizzeria by the Tucson Weekly last year. If you take advantage of this opportunity at Tino’s save your receipt and mail it to: TINO’S PIZZA / WILDABOUTAZCATS.COM CHALLENGE, c/o Javier Morales, P.O. Box 531418, Henderson, NV 89053 (include your full name, address and phone number). The person who spends the most during this promotion over the UA’s 18-game Pac-10 schedule wins a free Lute Olson-autographed “UA Basketball Vault” book (valued at $50)