Battles between Arizona and UCLA have become lore in each school's storied tradition, but the 2012-13 iteration provides a new twist on the old Wildcats vs Bruins archetype. While both teams have skilled perimeter players, it's their tremendous post depth and talent that make this year's matchup unique in history.
By now Arizona fans should be well acquainted with most of UCLA's significant frontcourt players. Josh Smith returns for his third season, while Travis and David Wear continue to bolster the Bruins interior. Joining them this year is 6'9 275 lb freshman Tony Parker, who combines a wide frame with soft hands and a high skill level.
Smith, who ended last season by fouling out in a loss to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament, is reportedly still dealing with weight and motivation issues that have plagued his career. The center had success when he stayed on the floor, but foul trouble has limited his minutes. Parker may log as many minutes as he can handle if Smith continues to struggle.
The Wear twins will once again be relied upon to man the paint, and will likely be the starting post tandem
. Between the Wears, Smith, and Parker, UCLA has a good blend of size and versatility to their big man rotation, and should be among the toughest Arizona faces this year.
How do the Cats match up? Arizona's unit of Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, and Angelo Chol are certainly not short on talent or size, though they're mostly untested. Tarczewski provides the size to match up with Smith and would hold the height advantage over the entire Bruin front line, while Jerrett, Ashley, and Chol's versatility can be deployed at the 4.
Arizona has to like their chances against UCLA's front line this year, as the Cats will be playing with size down low for the first time in the Sean Miller era. Getting bullied in the post was an all too familiar storyline the last few years, but this edition of Arizona Basketball is headlined by some big time talent in the middle. Unlike so many of the guard and forward dominated clashes between the two western powers in the past, this year the trenches appear to be in the paint.
Though it's too early to tell which team has stronger post play, fans can be certain that the Wildcats and Bruins will be vying for conference supremacy when the cards are on the table.