Ezra Amacher Player of the Week: Mark Lyons.
Against the Stanford Cardinal, Lyons played perhaps his best all-around game in an Arizona uniform. He led the Cats with 25 points on a 9-13 makes from the field but more importantly, he distributed the ball with the accuracy and consistency of a true point guard. On Sunday versus Cal, Lyons didn’t perform as well but he came up with a number of key shots that kept Arizona within striking distance until the final minutes. What We Learned Arizona’s biggest weakness has been exploited.
It has been no secret that under Sean Miller, Arizona has greatly struggled against zone defense. Likely because the team doesn’t often defend against it practice, the Cats become flustered when facing zone in actual games. Mike Montgomery (a coach who uses zone about as much as Miller) implemented it to perfection against Arizona in the opening minutes of the second half. Cal went on a 16-2 run and the hole eventually became too deep for the Cats to climb out of. Kaleb Tarczewski needs to become more dependable.
After putting together a terrific stretch of three double-digit scoring games, Tarczewski was practically nonexistent throughout the home series. Against Stanford, he fumbled away a couple golden opportunities to score and in both games only pulled down two rebounds. With Grant Jerrett dealing with a minor foot injury, Arizona needed much more from Zeus, especially on the boards. With the prospects of facing two of the conference’s most imposing big men this coming week – Colorado’s Josh Scott and Utah’s Jason Washburn – Tarczewski must come out with the type of aggression the coaching staff knows he has inside of him. Angelo Chol may be the best 9th man in the country.
How many teams in the country can say that they go nine deep and the ninth player is capable of playing 24 adequate minutes off the bench? Angelo Chol did just that against Stanford when Jerrett was sidelined. Chol isn’t ever going to be the most lauded athlete but he plays with a nothing-to-lose type of attitude that fans can’t help but fall in love with. When he finally got his big opportunity on Wednesday, he made the most of it by collecting eight rebounds and hustling down a number of 50/50 balls. Come March, Chol could very well separate Arizona from being a national title contender or pretender. Two Predictions for the Colorado/Utah Road Trip Sabatino Chen and the Buffs will upset Arizona.
As the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold and in this case, Rocky Mountain cold. After rightfully feeling robbed on Sabatino Chen’s buzzer beater at McKale last month, Colorado will have no trouble finding motivation on Thursday night. The Buffs are also quite talented and have momentum, as they’ve won five of their last six. Andre Roberson is the leading rebounder in the nation, Josh Scott has a solid case for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and Spencer Dinwiddie is already a name Arizona fans cringe at. In front of a raucous home crowd, Colorado will be more than up for the challenge and will leave the Cats with two consecutive losses. Utah will provide a scare, but nothing more.
Although the Utes currently sit in a tie for dead last in the conference, Arizona won’t be taking them lightly after the previous meeting in Tucson. In the 60-57 last possession win, Utah was able to completely dictate the tempo and held the Cats to just 36% from the field. Expect much of the same when the two teams face off on Sunday. Utah will look to challenge Tarczewski in the post and force Arizona to jack up three pointers. But even in the comforts of their home, Utah will not be able to match up with Arizona’s depth and that should ultimately allow the Cats to escape out of Salt Lake City without a major blemish in their resume.