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Posts Tagged ‘Russ Pennell’

Die-Hards Rewarded

Posted by naterb on January 25, 2009

Budinger - You wont like me when Im angry.

Budinger - "You won't like me when I'm angry."

Die hard Arizona fans were given the biggest reward of the season and perhaps the past three years as they witnessed the ‘Cats overcome a 9 point deficit with 54 seconds remaining to force overtime en route to a 96-90 overtime win on Saturday. After dropping three-straight the Wildcats showed more heart and determination than they’ve displayed perhaps all season long. Plagued by turnover woes all season long, the Wildcats have suffered 8 losses a direct result from them Saturday against Houston was no difference as the Wildcats had nearly three-times as many (24-9) as the Cougars, but were able to force four Houston turnovers in the final nine minutes which left the door open for the come-back win.

The Wildcats have seen several bad calls go against them the past few games and have been incapable of overcoming them. This time, however, that was not the case. Aubrey Coleman literally bowled over Chase Budinger with 9:51 remaining and then proceeded to maliciously step on his head. The McKale crowd grew restless and angry chanting “Throw him out! Throw him out!” while the officials reviewed the play before granting the crowd’s wish – and deservingly so. That decision was perhaps the turning point of the game for the ‘Cats as Coleman had dissected the ‘Cats perimeter defense and Houston wasn’t the same without him on the floor. The door was left open by late missed free throws and turnovers on the Cougars behalf, and for the first time all season it was the Wildcats taking advantage of late-game mistakes rather than being victimized by them.

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Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Recap, NCAA Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Road to Twenty-Five

Posted by naterb on January 23, 2009

With two historical streaks broken in the past three years the Wildcats are on the brink of another, perhaps their most prestigious, as they appear to be NIT bound this year. During the 2005-2006 season, under Lute Olson, the Wildcats saw their 141 consecutive weeks in the AP Poll end on December 20, 2005 after defeating Utah on the road 73-43 three days earlier. The streak was the ninth-longest streak since the AP Poll was created on January 20, 1949.

Two years later, Arizona saw it’s streak of consecutive seasons with 20 wins or more come to an end. The streak spanned over two generations beginning in 1984-1985 and finally ending with the 2007-2008 season under Kevin O’Neill as interim coach.

Now after Lute Olson has officially retired and the Wildcats have a second interim coach in as many years, it appears as though the 24 years of consecutive NCAA Tournaments won’t become 25. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi doesn’t include the Wildcats anywhere near the NCAA Tournament – not even as a team on the bubble. Gary Parrish has only four bids going to the PAC-10, ironically he has one representative from each rivalry excluding the Oregon schools. Jerry Palm predicts how things will shape up in seven short weeks and the ‘Cats aren’t dancing. And Bracketville ’09 believes that Arizona needs to win 12 conference games (season + tourney) in order to find their glass slippers.

But maybe, just maybe, everyone is getting ahead of themselves because of the despairing drop in Arizona basketball that they’ve witnessed over the past year and a half. With an 11-8 record and only 12 regular season games remaining plus at least one in the PAC-10 Tournament the what do the Wildcats does the road look like for Arizona to reach their 25th consecutive NCAA Tournament?
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Simple Mistakes Costing 'Cats

Posted by naterb on January 22, 2009

A frustrated Russ Pennell during the Arizona/Arizona State game. Picture from azcentral.com

A frustrated Russ Pennell during the Arizona/Arizona State game. Picture from azcentral.com

The lights just got a lot dimmer for the Arizona Wildcats tonight as they notched their 8th loss in their first 19 games. The 11-8 mark that the ‘Cats will go to bed with tonight is their worst record after 19 games since Lute Olson’s first year at Arizona when they were 5-14. Not only is the low mark disappointing, but the Wildcats must now win 9 of their remaining 12 games to reach the magical 20th win that is considered the cost of an NCAA Tournament Ticket. Despite being feasible, that is no small task by any standards and will likely end up with their dancing shoes having NIT written on the label rather than NCAA for the first time in 24 years.

The Wildcats have lost three straight games, as well as losses to the four teams in the top half of the conference they have faced. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially considering how hard they’ve played only to have a questionable whistle play a deciding factor in their last two losses – against USC and last night against ASU. From an offensive standpoint, the Arizona State game was simply ugly. Too many turnovers, poor shooting, missed lay-ups, the whole-nine-yards. But for as bad as the Wildcats were offensively, the Sun Devils were right there with them. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, PAC-10 Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Rivalry

Posted by naterb on January 20, 2009

the-rivalryThere hasn’t been this much drama in the Arizona/Arizona State Rivalry since some audacious ASU fans’ horrendous chants towards Steve Kerr back in 1984. Yes, even more drama than last year when Arizona State seemed to turn the tables by sweeping the ‘Cats. More drama than in 1998 when Arizona left Tempe with a 1-point victory. More dramatic than when ASU won three straight between 1994 and 1995 – their longest during the Lute Olson era in Tucson – to which Arizona responded with 11-straight wins over the Sun Devils.
There have been some great match-ups, Ike Diogu vs. Channing Frye and Eddie House vs. Gilbert Arenas to name a couple. But something is different this year. Arizona State fans are ready to declare that the tables have turned in this rivalry and that they are now the premier team in the state. They’re nationally ranked, have a better record, an impressive road win at Pauley Pavilion and many other arguments to support their case.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats are in the midst of their rockiest two season with Lute Olson first taking a leave of absence followed by being forced to retire due to medical conditions. The ‘Cats had a fall-out with their 2008 recruiting class and have turned to searching for hidden talent to produce big performances.

These are all circumstances that perhaps won’t play out beyond this year after Harden departs from ASU and the Wildcats start to rebuild beginning in just a few months when they look to hire a premier head coach to replace Olson on a permanent basis. The Sun Devils will lose a majority of their talent (ie James Harden) after this year and will need to put together some solid recruiting classes if they truly want to turn the tables rather than just repeating their 3-rivalry-game win streak. The Wildcats future is more uncertain and will likely contain a few years of bumps and bruises, but with the right hire they should be able to keep history on their side and continue to dominate this rivalry again down the road. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Preview, NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Hansen – Getting it Right?!

Posted by naterb on January 19, 2009

Typically when I head over to azstarnet.com I read through the articles about the Wildcats followed by the reader comments. After getting annoyed by some of the narrow-sighted articles and reader comments (not all of either are that way, but there are plenty of them to be had) I grit my teeth and check out what Greg Hansen has to say for something to supplement my blog with to fire back at.

As I was going through my normal “routine” Hansen threw me a curve ball. As I was reading what he had to say, I had to agree with more than I usually do. Sure, he was still getting a good share of his pessimism about the ‘Cats in there, but he had two points that I agreed with (and that’s two more than I usually do).

 He’s a caretaker who is doing a terrific job at public relations as he nurses a flawed team through a predictably bumpy season that is most likely to end with an NITgame or two. – Greg Hansen on Russ Pennell

I like what he has to say here. Pennell is doing exactly what should be expected and handling the pressures with great poise. He’s not spitting vulgarities and anger towards reporters, fans, or players like Kevin O’Neill did last season. But I’m not sold on the NIT ending… yet. Arizona has a chance to make a spurt the rest of the way out to make the NCAA’s, but it’s getting more and more difficult with each game.

Yes, the refs goofed on the intentional foul call; at best it was a no-call or a double foul. It put Pennell is a precarious spot and from there his fragile team couldn’t hang on. – Greg Hansen on the Intentional foul

He nailed this one – though I’m sure he views the team as far more “fragile” than I do.

Until then, this is just practice. – Hansen on the season

Surprisingly this gives more insight to the fans who follow and agree with Hansen on a regular basis than it does to Hansen himself. I’m sure Hansen has packed it in and is just filling space and time when he writes about the ‘Cats this year. But the people that are typically in agreement with him aren’t caring about the kids on the team and seeing player progression and enjoying what they’ve got. They’re already jumping ahead and looking into 2009. Quitters and fair-weather fans.

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Must Win Situation

Posted by naterb on January 17, 2009

Disclaimer: You may not like some of the parallels that I claim in the first two paragraphs. It sounds as if I’m really down on the ‘Cats right now. I’m not, and you’ll catch up with my thinking around the end of the second paragraph. So just strap in and grit out the Greg Hansen-esque comments for the time being.

Arizona and Oregon can both be trademarked with the same label this season – inconsistent. With young teams and inexperienced freshmen taking on major roles for a team, that is something that can be expected. You can argue all you want that Arizona has more realized talent than Oregon does, or that Oregon has more potential talent in their young players. You won’t get an argument out of me on either point, but to say that one team is better because of it is quite narrow-sighted. Yes, I did say it. Arizona is in the same boat as the #10 team according to my power rankings right now. That’s because both teams have struggled mightily with consistency because of inexperience.

The Wildcats are in a better position to turn it around this season because of their realized talent. But unless they manage to pull out a nice winning streak down the home stretch they may as well have finished 0-18 in the conference this season. I feel this dramatically about the ‘Cats situation because if you think this season was bumpy just wait until the rebuilding begins. Arizona is currently holding on to their NCAA Tournament hopes with a two-finger grip right now and without that bid this season will be a huge disappointment.

The Wildcats have two future NBA players, one a solid lottery pick the other needs to step up his performance to get back there, and are playing in a weakened conference with an easier SOS than in previous years. If they don’t make the NCAA Tournament I believe this team will have underachieved – freshmen and all.

 

What’s perhaps the most disappointing is the work that Russ Pennell & Co. have put into this team. They aren’t the greatest coaches in the world, and they’ve had their struggles. No one is arguing that. But they have done a fantastic job with this team considering the circumstances they have been handed. In an e-mail I received from Pennell last week he made me respect him as a person and a coach even more – even if the results aren’t what we as fans would want.

“I have enjoyed the tough challenge and hope to continue to lead in a positive way until my time here is finished. My main goal for all these players is to improve their overall skills and understanding of basketball. We may only have them for a little while, but we work with them like they are ours for years to come. I believe that is why they improve, because they know we care about them on and off the court. As a coach, you are a teacher and you want to influence those around you daily. Hopefully, we are living up to those standards.” – Russ Pennell

For me, that was more important in my analysis of an interim coach than his abilities with x’s and o’s. It shows class and a determination to do the job that is set out before him regardless of the circumstances. Pennell is taking this job personally, and seriously, and success is measured beyond wins and losses.

Unfortunately, this type of character doesn’t earn you an NCAA Tournament bid. X’s and O’s do that for you. So, the ‘Cats have found themselves with their backs to the wall and needing to scratch together a solid rest of the season. The must-win games started a few weeks ago, but with three losses in their past five games, and no true road wins – the ‘Cats absolutely must win tonight against USC.

With a loss, Arizona would be 11-7 overall with only 13 remaining games. That means Arizona would need to finish 9-4 the rest of the way out to reach the 20 that is considered to get you a dancing ticket. But even if Arizona is capable of finishing 20-11, they’ll need some additional signature wins to separate themselves from other teams vying for the same spot in the tournament. Those wins would need to be over USC, Washington twice, Arizona State at least once, and a win over CAL or UCLA at home.

The other problem that Arizona would face is a road loss today would put them 0-6 on the road with only five remaining road games. Of those road games there is only one chance for a noteworthy road win, which would be Arizona State in Tempe on Wednesday. At some point Arizona needs to prove they can win on the road against good competition.

So make no mistake about it, if Arizona doesn’t win against USC and put together a nice streak the rest of the way, it won’t make any difference if Jordan Hill is a lottery pick. We’ll be in the same spot as Oregon – without a dance ticket come march. A loss puts the Wildcats 3.5 games out of first place in the conference, and either 1.5 (with an ASU loss) or 2.5 (with an ASU win) games out of fourth place. Remember, most ‘experts’ and self-proclaimed ‘experts’ believe that only four PAC-10 teams make the tournament. So if Arizona is going to make it, they need to not only win, but they need to set themselves apart from ASU, USC, and Washington. That starts with winning tonight at the Galen Center.

Buzzer Beater Thought:

“That’s one of the things I want this team to understand: We’re not playing our best basketball now but that doesn’t mean we can’t at some point.” – Russ Pennell

And that point better be sooner, rather than later.

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Take it Personal: Arizona @ USC

Posted by naterb on January 17, 2009

The threat level of Arizona’s NCAA Tournament streak coming to an end has been heightened to critical after a blow-out loss to UCLA on Thursday. It’s not the single game that has put it there, it is a large accumulation of things. Ineffective defense, poor shooting and decision making, mostly non-existent bench players, points given up in transition, and a big donut in the road wins column. Arizona will get a chance to put a vertical number in the left column when limp into the Galen Center later today.

I’m going to keep this preview short, as in my mind there is really only one pressing issue for Arizona that will make or break any remaining hope for an NCAA Tournament bid. I’m sure you can figure what that is, but we’ll get there in a minute.

USC has shown significant strides over the more recent portion of the season. They hung tough against UCLA, and beat ASU – which should be no surprise to anyone that really pays attention to PAC-10 basketball. Sure they lost to OSU, but teams have bad games, mental lapses, or get caught looking ahead – don’t expect that to happen tonight at the Galen Center. You can expect Tim Floyd to have a defensive scheme to throw at Budinger, Hill, and Wise. Most likely a triangle and two with Hill and Budinger receiving heightened attention throughout the game.

Tim Floyd is known for catering his defensive schemes to individual schools based upon their strengths and weaknesses. Because of it the Trojans are ranked the ninth best defense according to pomeroy.com. They have built that ranking by being the 5th best team in the nation in blocked shots with 5.2 per game, and hold teams to 39% shooting from the field. DeMar DeRozan is being a very tough defender for the Trojans, but his inexperience may cause him problems against Budinger.

Offensively the Trojans are led by Dwight Lewis, Taj Gibson, and Daniel Hackett. Hackett is a tough-as-nails player who gets in opponents faces, dives for loose balls, and leaves it all on the court. But despite shooting over 51% as a team the Trojans have shown signs of inconsistency due to selfish play. The Trojans average 15.6 turnovers per game, only Oregon with 15.7 turns the ball over more in the conference, and have a 0.87 a/to! Their lack of cohesiveness as a team has led to some late game problems when the game is on the line. The Trojans’ turnover problems bring me to the pressing issue I alluded to earlier and my keys to the game.

Keys to the Game:

  1. Defense, Defense, Defense (Part 1)- USC, as I mentioned is the 5th best defense in the nation. Arizona… well… 111 before the thumping by UCLA on Tuesday. Arizona’s “Claw” defense is so ineffective the Wildcats may as well be sitting in lawn chairs while on the defensive end. Arizona needs to crank up the pressure and make some changes. I don’t care if it is going to a man defense, a 3-2 zone, or a 1-3-1. Just find something that works and do it!
    Projected Need: Force USC to shoot less than 40% on the night, and less than 35% from beyond the arc.
  2. Defense, Defense, Defense (Part 2) – Not only do they need to find a defense that works, they need to find one that can give them more opportunities to get out and run. The ‘Cats have been drastically outscored in points off turnovers during their three of their five conference games, and in five of their six losses of the season.
    Projected Need: Force USC into 15 turnovers, and limit their transition points to fewer than 8.
  3. Defense, Defense, Defense (Part 3) – It’s not just Arizona’s lack of perimeter defense that has been appalling, it’s how easily teams are able to break the zone defense and get the ball for wide-open jumpers around the free throw line. If that isn’t bad enough, they are allowing opponents to dribble penetrate past them which leads to offensive rebounds as Hill is forced to defend the ball leaving the weak-side rebound up for grabs.
    Projected Needs: Hill 6 defensive rebounds, Limit Gibson to 3 or fewer offense rebounds
  4. Battle on the Blocks: Jordan Hill and Taj Gibson, the conferences best two big men, will be going head to head. Gibson leads the conference in blocked shots (3.1 per game), and is second in rebounding (10.3 per game). Meanwhile, Hill is second in the conference in blocked shots (2.3 per game) and first in rebounding (11.8 per game). The Wildcats have gone away from Hill when he had a significant advantage over each team in conference play this year, they better not do the same tonight.
    Projected Need: Hill 16 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocked shots, 35 minutes
  5. Take it Personal: The Wildcats have seemed to have a ho-hum attitude ever since conference play began. I know they haven’t given up on Pennell & Co., but they certainly aren’t firing on all cylinders and aren’t playing with emotion. Arizona needs to take it personal if they want to keep their slipping chances for an NCAA Tournament bid within grasp. Defensively they need to be more aggressive. They need to take the shots they are given, and they need to play with a fire in their eyes as if this were the game that could burst their bubble.

 

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Bruins De-"Claw" Cats

Posted by naterb on January 16, 2009

 

 

 

 

Arizona’s make-shift 1-3-1 “Claw” defense was methodically ripped to shreds in an 83-60 mauling at the hands of the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion. This isn’t the first time that the Wildcats have seen their Dunlap brainstorm defense look this bad – Cal did it, Stanford did it, and most dramatically so did UNLV. The ‘Claw’ is designed to pressure opponents front court into making what Oregon Coach Ernie Kent deemed as ‘basketball plays’ but not necessarily to trap or create turnovers. After a player is able to make a tough play (splitting a double-team, reversing the ball, finding the open skip pass, etc.) their teammates are able to find easy looks from beyond the arc or in the middle of the court right around the free throw line..

 

 

That major flaw in the zone was exploited at will by the Bruins who shot nearly 60% from the field, and had 9 of their 28 buckets come from right in the center of that gap. When the Bruins weren’t passing into the heart of the defensive gap, they were using dribble penetration to slip past Arizona’s perimeter players just about any time they looked to. If and when the defense collapsed, UCLA did a great job of kicking the ball out for 17 open looks beyond the arc. The ‘Cats have proven they can make this work, but have yet to do so against a good three-point shooting team, and UCLA made the defensive problems so glaring that Pennell and Co. may need to go back to the drawing board midway through the season.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the court the Bruins did just enough to disrupt the Wildcats and force them into the occasional turnover. UCLA’s defense wasn’t as stifling as it has been against the ‘Cats in previous years, but it was still enough to disrupt the Wildcats offensive flow and put them into a few two-minute scoring droughts over the course of the game. The Wildcats were able to limit their turnovers, as they had 9 before Garland Judkins’ 2 turnovers with under 4 minutes remaining. Unfortunately those 9 turnovers led to the Wildcats being significantly outscored in fast-break opportunities again – a common theme in each of the last six losses.

 

The Wildcats problems continued against UCLA when Nic Wise was limited to a paltry five on points on 1-for-8 shooting, and appears to be going head-long into a slump of his own. Wise, who is now 2-17 in the last two games, has been providing a significant portion of Arizona’s offense this season, was did have an impact on the game with 5 assists as several times he penetrated and dished off to the open man. I was very pleased with how Wise kept his head in the game and continued to find ways to help his team even if his shots weren’t falling. Occasionally, however, the Wildcats need Wise to become a scorer and not just a playmaker, particularly when Jordan Hill is on the bench due to foul trouble.

 

Wise wasn’t the real problem offensively tonight, that comes down on Arizona’s “hustle” guys – Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg. I’m not bashin’ on the kids here, but they have both seen better games. Horne and Fogg thrive on picking up loose rebounds, coming up with the occasional steal, and doing all the intangibles that make every team “stick.” The ‘Cats two hustle guys came up with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal. If you take away the final two minutes they only combined for 3 points before the UCLA bench was cleared. Big stats aren’t typically something you expect out of the hustle guys, but unfortunately with this roster against a team like UCLA, it is a must-have if they want to win.

So it’s not that the Wildcats had a horrendous night, but they clearly aren’t hitting on all cylinders right now. Perhaps that illusive first road-win won’t come until the ‘Cats travel to Washington or Oregon later this season. Perhaps they just can’t win on the road – period. Maybe it’s just that they’re unlucky when it comes to road games at the toughest venues the PAC-10 has to offer? Whatever the case may be, one thing is apparent: The ‘Cats still need a lot of work when other teams are fine-tuning and that spells trouble.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

With 54% shooting adding up to 14 points, it is safe to say that Budinger is out of his slump.

Jordan Hill was a monster inside the paint yet again. But once again the ‘Cats failed to look for him within 8 feet of the basket with any regularity. Hill handled the double and triple teams the Bruins threw at him quite well on the night though.

I can’t complain about the officiating. Sure there were a few bad calls and a few blown ones. That’s basketball, and PAC-10 basketball at that.

I really like what I’m seeing out of Zane Johnson the last several games. He’s been putting in extra time in the gym working on his jumper and it’s paying off. He could be rewarded with a starting job in the near future.

While UCLA’s defense was solid, it wasn’t as impressive as it has been in previous years. The Wildcats found themselves with quite a few open looks but for whatever reason just couldn’t knock ‘em down.

Another problem I have with Arizona’s defensive effort is the growing trend of long offensive rebounds. UCLA exploited every second chance opportunity that they had and turned them into points. Every single one of them.

Garland Judkins was back at practice this week, and back in the game tonight but is clearly on a short leash. I’d be amazed if he doesn’t transfer at the end of the season – if he’s still on the team then.

UCLA’s ShotChart:

 

ucla-shotchart

Posted in Arizona Wildcats, Game Recap, NCAA Basketball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

PAC-10 Power Rankings – Week 2

Posted by naterb on January 12, 2009

pac10-power-rankings

1. UCLA (E)
UCLA has shown great guard play and have maintained the top position despite the drop-off in talent from the previous few years. They’re aren’t a lock for the conference title by any stretch, even if the conference is weaker this year.
Last Week: W. @ USC 64-60

2. California (E)
Randle and Christopher have been sensational. They even got some help from Robertson this week too. Winning a close game on the road is a solid way to boost your confidence. Watch out UCLA, CAL just might have the best backcourt in the conference.
Last Week: W @ WSU 57-50, W @ UW 88-85 (OT)

3. Arizona State (E)
ASU remains solid at home, and put on a defensive clinic against Oregon State. We’ll see how good they really are when they travel to Pauley on Thursday.
Last Week: W vs. OSU 69-38, W v. OU 76-58

4. Washington (E)
Washington got a monster week from Jon Brockman and Isaiah Thomas this week. Can’t fault them for a 3-point OT loss to the hottest team in the conference right now.
Last Week: W. vs. STAN 84-83, L vs. CAL 88-85 (OT)

5. Arizona (+2)
The Big Three are starting to show the minutes they’ve played and it’s resulting in a slump passing from player to player. Zane Johnson has stepped up and could earn himself a starting role in the next few weeks.
Last Week: W vs. OU 67-52, W vs. OSU 64-47

6. USC (E)
The Trojans are lacking a lot of chemistry and are paying the price in close games. A close loss to UCLA isn’t a big deal, but they lack too much chemistry to be considered a serious contender at this point.
Last Week: L vs. UCLA 64-60

7. Washington State (+2)
Rochestie stepped up big for the Cougars this week, and were fortunate not to be 0-3 to start conference play before finally hitting the road next week.
Last Week: L vs. Cal 50-57, W vs. Stan 55-54

8. Stanford (-3)
A pair of 1 point losses is tough. Their guards can’t carry them much longer.
Last Week: L @ UW 83-84, L  @ WSU 55-54

9. Oregon State (-1)
They got man-handled by ASU & UofA this week, but they are organized and playing hard. That Princeton offense keeps them closer than they probably should be.
Last Week: L @ ASU 69-38, L @ UA 64-47

10. Oregon (E)
If inexperience is bad, then these guys are awful. Catron and Porter were nowhere this past week. Is the team giving up on Ernie Kent?
Last Week: L @ UA 67-52, L @ ASU 76-58

Posted in NCAA Basketball, PAC-10 Basketball, Power Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Oregon's Inexperience Leads to Cats Win

Posted by naterb on January 9, 2009

 

 

Budinger dunks over Michael Dunigan

Budinger dunks over Michael Dunigan

Michael Dunigan turning his back on Chase Budinger during a first-half in-bound play is the epitome of what is wrong with the Ducks this season. The Ducks aren’t a bad team with players who have no business competing in the PAC-10. By-and-large, however, they are a team filled with young players who have been thrust into key roles too early in their college careers. The Wildcats exploited this and despite their less-than-stellar performance rode it on their way to a 67-52 route of the Ducks at McKale Center.

The Good:

Russ Pennell and the Wildcats did a nice job of getting Chase Budinger good looks at the basket by having him along the baseline and making strong cuts towards the basket. The result was several dunks, lay-ups, and short-ranged jumpers. Budinger was also found in transition on numerous occasions. I’m not ready to declare Budinger out of his slump as of yet, especially in light of his 1-5 shooting from beyond the arc, but the quality looks he got against the Ducks is a great way to help him find his rhythm again. The mental lapses by Budinger, as well as the over-flow mentality onto the rest of the team seems to have dissipated as the ‘Cats regained some of that swagger and confidence back throughout the game.

The biggest indicator of the teams reaction to Budinger starting to come out of his slump is Jamelle Horne. Following one of his worst performance of the year (2 points, 5 fouls, 19 minutes), Horne returned to progressing as an offensive weapon and impact player with 15 points and 4 rebounds while playing 36 minutes. I believe the reason for this is because Horne was playing within himself and making good decisions rather than trying to do too much to compensate for Budinger’s slump.

A few other things I was impressed with was Arizona’s ability to counter the tempo and defensive changes that Ernie Kent and the Ducks threw at the ‘Cats. There were a few lapses and mistakes caused by these changes, but on the whole the Wildcats did a nice job of transitioning from one look to another. I was also impressed with Zane Johnson’s first-half performance off the bench. Johnson, who has seen inconsistent minutes for the ‘Cats, came in and grabbed 2 rebounds while posting 7 points over a stretch when the ‘Cats had begun to stagnate. With some more experience and progression I can see Johnson turning into a great role player like Michael Roll for UCLA.

The Bad:

Jordan Hill did not record a double-double since December 14th against Gonzaga. Considering the defensive efforts of the Ducks and Michael Dunigan, I can’t blame Hill on this. Hill still had a solid game with 9 points and 12 rebounds, but expect more defensive focus on Jordan Hill for the rest of the season. The reason Hill’s failure to reach a double-double lands in the “Bad” category has nothing to do with the effort he made – after all he didn’t hurt the team by finding himself in foul trouble or missing open looks. The problem I have is that when teams focus on Hill defensively, the Cats need to run some set plays to get Hill the ball deep in the paint where even the best center in the nation can’t stop him.

Kyle Fogg’s performance, however, is a result of his own doing. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not down on the kid, he had an off game which is to be expected from a freshman responsible for a big role. Fogg had several mental lapses leading to turnovers or fouls and failed to become an offensive threat against the Ducks.

The Ugly:

Nic Wise tops the charts of the ugly factor. The Wildcats were less than stellar in protecting the ball, and Wise was the core reason for this. Wise had 7 of Arizona’s 17 turnovers, and many of them were due to over-penetration and offensive fouls. Wise was also caught off guard by in-prompt-to traps across half court by the Ducks. As a veteran point guard, Wise needs to be prepared for these types of traps and be ready to hit the open man as he sees the trap coming at him. With such a sloppy performance by Wise, Arizona was fortunate that they weren’t facing a team clicking on all cylinders.

In conjunction with Wise’s 7 turnovers, the Wildcats committed 17 team turnovers. The Wildcats were fortunate that the Ducks weren’t able to capitalize on the turnovers the way that CAL or Stanford did. But the turnover situation has to be a major concern for the coaching staff. Since the Kansas game the Wildcats have seen their turnover rate rising as they’ve averaged 15.25 turnovers a game and have committed more turnovers than their opponent in the previous 3 games.

Back to the Ducks:

I was very impressed with the talent and glimpses of what the future holds for the Ducks. There were several points where the Ducks upped the defensive pressure resulting in nine steals and a few second-half mini-runs. A big concern for the Ducks has to be Tejuan Porter. Porter needs to be the leader on this team since Catron is completely unproven, but Porter is extremely inconsistent from game-to-game. With Porter being a focal point for the Ducks offense, they will see erratic scoring and inconsistent play from the entire team until he plays with consistency or another player steps up as the leader.

Despite foul trouble thanks to freshmen inexperience, Dunigan has the looks of a future stud for the Ducks. Ernie Kent would be wise to recruit complimentary players to Dunigan’s game as he will be one of the leading centers in the PAC-10 after the departures of Jordan Hill and Jon Brockman.

Game Highlights Video (Including the inbound play where Dunigan turns his back on Budinger)

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