Ezra Amacher Player of the Week: Mark Lyons.
Arizonaís senior point guard was nothing short of spectacular for much of the 71-54 win over the Sun Devils. Although he characteristically forced things at times, Lyonsí drives to the lane and machine-like free throw shooting were the dominating factor of why a close game through 30 minutes turned into a rout. He smartly exploited Jahii Carsonís foul vulnerability and finished with a team high 24 points. What Did We Learn? Arizonaís defense can match any in the country when it plays like it did Saturday.
When the Cats execute the suffocating man-to-man defense they used against Arizona State, they donít lose very often. Arizona completely shut down the Sun Devilsí top shooter, Carrick Felix, and forced do-it-all Carson into detonating foul trouble. Meanwhile, ASUís big men were ineffective against Arizonaís three freshmen in the paint. The goal Sean Miller will now set in practice is consistency. Nick Johnson has his confidence back.
Bunnies looked like Bunnies again after a multi-week slump. He knocked down a couple transition three pointers and dazzled the crowd with some acrobatic drives to the hoop. In one particular instance when being guarded by Carson, Johnson recognized that his long time off the court friend was in foul trouble and got him to back off just enough to lay it in. Bunnies finished with 19 points, the second most he has scored in a game all season. The best point guard in the state plays in Tucson.
Heading into the matchup, all the talk was about the point guard duel between Lyons and Carson. Despite the similar box scores, there wasnít much argument about who was the better of the two when the final horn rang out through a mostly silent Wells Fargo Arena. Afterwards, Lyons was quoted, ďHonestly, I donít want to be the best point guard in the Pac-12. I want to be the best point guard in the country.Ē
That is up for debate but thereís no question of who is the best point guard in the Grand Canyon State. Two Predictions for the Southern California Schools
Arizona will contain Shabazz Muhammad and UCLA.
In case you havenít been paying attention to whatís been going on in Westwood, Shabazz Muhammad and the Bruins are on a tear, although they lost to Oregon at home. The former top high school player in the country is leading the way with 18 points per game. However, UCLA has yet to face a true road test all season nor a defense like what Arizona displayed against ASU. In a nationally televised affair in Tucson, thereís a fair chance Ben Howlandís squad will succumb to the hostility of the White Out.
UCLAís big three of Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, and Jordan Adams along with the Wear Twins are tough to defend but as the Ducks just showed, it can be done. What gives Arizona the significant edge is depth. UCLA doesnít go more than seven deep so if one or more of the aforementioned guys gets into early foul trouble, it could be a long night at McKale for the Bruins. Arizona Will Struggle Offensively Against USC.
From afar, USCís 8-11 record gives the impression of a pushover. Look closer, however, and one will find that only three of the Trojansí losses have been by double digits. Even more telling is that they held San Diego State to just 66 points and were a three pointer away from beating Oregon last weekend. USC may have an interim head coach but their defense and knack of keeping things close remains.
As seen in Arizonaís remarkably close victory over Utah, the Cats are prone to playing at the tempo of the opposing team. If USC can limit the number of Arizona offensive possessions and force a turnover prone squad into giving the ball away, things could get very interesting in McKale. On the other hand, if Arizona routs the Trojans in the way the bookies in Vegas will likely expect, it will show how far Sean Millerís club has come in a short time. One Parting Thought
Oregonís remaining Pac-12 schedule includes zero games against its top two challengers, Arizona and UCLA. That bodes extremely well in the Ducksí favor to win the regular season title.
However, Oregon could very well win the Pac-12 but finish the season with a much less convincing case for a top seed than Arizona.
As it stands now, the Cats have the #2 RPI in the country and the #4 Strength of Schedule. Thatís bit better than Oregon, who has an RPI that just cracks the top 25.
But as for the Ducksí Strength of Schedule, which is often times just as important to members of the selection committee, Oregon comes in at #82.
Thatís one spot below Savannah State.
The fact that the rest of Oregonís schedule consists of two games versus Washington, Washington State, Colorado, Utah, California, Stanford, and another matchup versus Oregon State may mean that the Ducks will win the Pac-12, but their resume can only weaken.
Meanwhile, Arizona still has two games against a NCAA Tournament bound UCLA team and another shot against Colorado, who despite their recent woes still has a top 20 RPI.
Come Selection Sunday, winning the Pac-12 regular season title will be insignificant. Thatís not to say that Arizona shouldnít or wonít win the conference but the Catsí three wins against Florida, San Diego State, and Miami mean a whole lot more. Last Day of PGU Private Forum Special - Click Below