Elite Eight: Starting frontcourt players Arizona Wildcats vs. Connecticut Huskiesby Javier Morales on Mar. 25, 2011, under Sports
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PREVIOUS MATCHUP ANALYSIS: THE STARTING PERIMETER PLAYERS
A look at what to expect from the starting frontcourt players Saturday at approximately 4 p.m., Tucson time, at Anaheim between No. 5-seed Arizona (30-7) and No. 3 seed UConn (29-9) in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament:
What’s going right: UConn sophomore post player Alex Oriakhi has the same size as Arizona’s Derrick Williams (6-8, 240), and he is a threat the most on the glass. He averages a team-leading 8.7 rebounds a game, including a respectable 3.8 on the offensive boards. He also leads the Huskies with 61 blocked shots. Freshman forward Roscoe Smith (6-8, 205) is one of the most versatile players on UConn’s roster, the type of player Sean Miller likes. Smith averages 5.2 rebounds a game and is tied for second on the team with 47 blocked shots. Offensively, he can extend to the three-point line, where he has made 25 of 80 attempts (31.3 percent. That’s not a great percentage but his attempts can stretch the defense for Kemba Walker’s penetration.
What’s going wrong: Freshman Tyler Olander (6-9, 225) started against San Diego State but only logged five minutes. The quick hook by UConn coach Jim Calhoun is routine. Olander has started 18 times this season but averages only 10 minutes per game. He averages only 1.5 points and 1.9 rebounds a game. Oriakhi and Smith have subpar field-goal percentages, especially considering how they could use their size to maneuver for high-percentage shots. Orakhi is shooting 49.3 percent (a starting big man should be in the 55-percent range) and Smith is at 38.8 percent.
Oriakhi said Friday: “I think I know what I have to do and that’s rebound because that’s what this team needs from me, but I’m not the only rebounder on the team. I think we do a great job of game rebounding. Kemba is able to get the long rebounds, and Roscoe does a great job of rebounding and so does (reserve) Jamal (Coombs-McDaniel). So I feel if we can rebound tomorrow we’re going to be fine.”
What’s going right: Sophomore sensation Williams increased his season total to 721 with his 32-point performance against Duke on Thursday. He is only the third Arizona player (now accomplished four times) to reach that level in a single season behind guard Khalid Reeves’ 848 in 1993-94, and two years by forward Sean Elliott who scored 743 in 1987-88 and 735 in 1988-89. Williams scored 486 points as a freshman. No Arizona player has scored more points in his first two seasons than Williams, who now has 1,207 career points. Solomon Hill has elevated his play at the right time, averaging 12 points and six rebounds a game in the NCAA tournament. He is also shooting 60 percent (15 of 25) from the field, with most of those shots created because of assertive play around the basket.
What’s going wrong: Jesse Perry showed good effort against Duke but he is still trying to find his offense. In the three NCAA tournament games, Perry has almost as many turnovers (3) as field goals (shooting 4 of 15 for 26.7 percent). If Perry concentrates on his rebounds (respectable 4.3 a game in the NCAA tournament) and allows others to create scoring opportunities, Miller would likely be in favor of that. But the concern is there about Perry taking an ill-advised shot or not converting when another player can.
Williams said Friday: “Jesse Perry was a big part of us doing well this season. When he came on his visit we needed a guy just like Jesse, somebody that doesn’t matter about points, he’s going to do the dirty work, get rebounds, going to have put-backs, do anything that Coach asks of you. Solomon, he doesn’t do anything great, but he does everything good. He rebounds the ball, put-backs, shoots the ball really well. He’s a great passer as well. That’s just something you need on your team. You can compare his game to Lamar Odom, and he does everything well.”
Who has the edge? Arizona. A major aspect of Saturday’s game is Williams should not have the stress of shutting down the opposing big man defensively. That was also not a challenge against Duke. In games against Washington with Matthew Bryan-Amaning, UCLA with Joshua Smith and USC with Nikola Vucevic, Williams’ overall game was affected somewhat because his questionable defensive skills were put to the test. Arizona struggled along with him in those games. The combination of Williams and Hill offensively, on the other hand, is a serious challenge for Oriakhi and Smith, both of whom must guard against getting into foul trouble.
NEXT BLOG: A MATCHUP PREVIEW OF THE BENCH PRODUCTION OF EACH TEAM