Arizona returns home to host Washington on Wednesday. The Huskies are coming off a rare win, as they downed Oregon State 72-62 Saturday. Prior to the victory, Washington had dropped seven out of eight matchups.
On the surface, Washington appears to have all of the pieces for a solid NCAA tournament team. C.J. Wilcox is a dynamic scorer. Abdul Gaddy is a solid senior point guard. Aziz N’Diaye is a seven-foot tall rebounding machine. Scott Suggs is a capable complementary player.
However, a closer look reveals flaws Washington has been unable to overcome. Gaddy, who is only a moderate threat as a scorer, turns the ball over more times than Mark Lyons does. Gaddy does dish out four assists per game, but his 1.3-1 assist to turnover ratio is far from stellar.
N’Diaye, though a strong defensive presence, brings a limited offensive arsenal. Furthermore, his atrocious free throw shooting (43%) renders him a liability any time he touches the ball. Suggs, meanwhile, puts up a solid 11.3 points per game, but does so while shooting a dismal 39% from the floor.
It’s hard to knock the explosive Wilcox, who is a shoe-in for the all Pac-12 team. However, the junior guard hasn’t been without his struggles. He shoots 44% from the floor, including a good-but-not-great 37.9% from deep. Over the last six games, he has only connected on seven of 32 three-point attempts while failing to reach double figures twice (and barely reaching it two other times). A look at the numbers:
Seniors Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons have been consistent offensive threats. Hill has now scored in double figures for 14 consecutive games, dating back to the victory over San Diego State. Lyons has scored in double figures 12 of his last 13 games, including breaking the 20-point barrier five times.
On the other side of the spectrum, Nick Johnson has gone cold. He has failed to reach double-figures for five straight games, which is reminiscent of the late-season slump he suffered his freshman year. However, Johnson has helped his squad in other areas. During the same period of time, he has dished out a team-high 21 assists while routinely drawing a tough defensive assignment. Coming Full Circle:
The Arizona Wildcats are right back where they started: ranked 12th in the AP poll. The early season was abuzz with talk about Arizona exceeding expectations, while the latter portion has centered on the Wildcats’ inability to meet those same expectations. After 25 games, it has all evened out. The way Arizona plays from this point forward will determine if the regular season is viewed as a success. Outlook:
Washington isn’t a particularly intimidating team. They play decent defense and have some capable players, but lack a scoring punch outside of Wilcox. It will likely take a top-level performance from its star player (like what Allen Crabbe did for Cal), for the Huskies to pull off the upset.
On the other side, Arizona’s biggest opponent remains Arizona. Stagnant offense, quick shots from outside, and occasional defensive lapses nearly doomed the Wildcats in Provo. Arizona has weapons all over the court. Furthermore, it’s shown the potential to be a lock-down defensive team. The big question, as always, is will the Wildcats put it all together for long enough to win?