Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Knee-jerk reaction: Arizona has favorable matchup vs. Memphis

Josh Pastner has a playing rotation that includes five freshmen.

It’s the NCAA Tournament, and it’s all about the matchups. Did fifth-seeded Arizona get a favorable pairing against No. 12 Memphis?

I’d say yes.

The Tigers are a young team. They usually start four freshmen and play five. Like Arizona, they have only one senior. So, that’s one thing in Arizona’s favor: Memphis doesn’t have any kind of experience edge; in fact, it’s the opposite.

Memphis (25-9) is athletic but it can’t exploit the Wildcats’ lack of size in the paint, as many Pac-10 teams did.

The Tigers use a four-guard lineup, and haven’t received the kind of production they hoped they would from junior post Wesley Witherspoon because of suspension and a knee injury. He hasn’t regained his explosiveness and played just eight minutes in the Conference USA championship victory over UTEP.

Gotta like Derrick Williams‘ chances in this one.

And Memphis doesn’t exactly have a team of dead-eye shooters. Combine that with Arizona’s excellent 3-point shooting defense (opponents shoot only 28.8 percent from behind the arc), and the Tigers probably won’t make a lot of hay from long range.

Not to say the Tigers lack talent. They’re dangerous. They have blue-chip recruits. Arizona’s biggest chore will be stopping Memphis from attacking the basket.

Freshman guard Will Barton leads Memphis in scoring (12.3 points) and is second in rebounding (5.0). Memphis relies on balanced scoring. Freshman guard Joe Jackson came off the bench to be the MVP of the C-USA tournament, with 17 points and seven assists in the final. Freshman guard Chris Crawford has a balanced game. Freshman forward Tarik Black averages 9.2 points and a team-best 5.2 rebounds per game.

Notice all those freshmen.

Perhaps because of its youth, Memphis doesn’t always take care of the ball. The Tigers average 15.3 turnovers per game. (Arizona is at 12.7 per game.)

To recap: It seems unlikely that Memphis can take advantage of Arizona’s interior defense or the Wildcats’ inexperience. The Cats have been the more consistent team, and they shoot better than Memphis from all distances.

Overall, this is a favorable opening game for the Wildcats … and that’s even before you consider Arizona’s edge in coaching experience with Sean Miller going against former UA assistant coach Josh Pastner.

For what it’s worth, Arizona opens as a six-point favorite.

Other coverage from the TucsonCitizen.com Sports Network:

Arizona is No. 5 in the West, will play Pastner’s Memphis team

REPOST: Q&A with Josh Pastner (June 8, 2009)

Search site | Terms of service