Ezra Amacher Player of the Week: Solomon Hill.
Hill provided Arizona with some much needed consistency, as he scored 16 points and racked up six rebounds against both Oregon and Oregon State. The senior forward knocked down a career high five 3-pointers against the Beavers, showing that he has become a perimeter threat as well as a guy that can attack the lane. What Did We Learn? The freshmen bigs are still adjusting to the physicality of the college level.
After transferring from Arizona to Kansas, Jeff Withey averaged three minutes of play in his first full season as a Jayhawk. Today, he is one of, if not the best center in all of college basketball. It takes time for any freshmen to develop but especially big men like the Catsí Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and Grant Jerrett. All three have been instrumental to the overall record of the team but as seen against the Oregon schools, none are there yet.
In what has become a recurring theme, Tarczewski was unable to provide much of a defensive threat at center, this time versus Oregonís Tony Woods and Oregon Stateís Joe Burton. Ashley and Jerrett didnít look much better and both got into foul trouble against the Beavers.
While the three accounted for over half of Arizonaís offensive rebounds, one can only ponder where this team will be in a few months if they continue to develop at a steady pace. Solomon Hill is the most dependable scorer, but has room to grow offensively.
Hill put together two very solid outings on the road trip but one glaring fact became apparent as the Oregon State game wore on: he has become overly dependent on the long ball. Very few wing players in the Pac-12 can match Hillís size and athleticism so it was a little mystifying to watch him take 10 attempts against the Beavers and eight of them come from behind the perimeter. When the threes are falling like they were in Corvallis, all is well but when they arenít, it is a troubling characteristic. Arizona has trouble gaining separation from opponents.
After Arizona opened up an 11-0 lead versus Oregon, the game could have gone one of two ways. The Cats could have pounced and created an insurmountable margin to silence the Nike sponsored student section. Instead, the Ducks responded with a huge run of their own that eventually left Arizona with too much to make up in too little time.
Then versus the Beavers, a team already far inferior to Arizona before their leading rebounder Eric Moreland was suspended, the Cats were never able to truly put away the game with a defining second half run. Perhaps itís just not in this teamís DNA to overwhelm opponents but it would sure be exquisite if the outcome of a game was decided prior to the final TV timeout. Two Predictions for the Arizona State Rivalry Matchup Jordan Bachynski will create havoc for Tarczewski.
This is a matchup Arizona fans have been cringing over for weeks, maybe longer. ASUís Jordan Bachynski tormented the Cats in the post in Tempe last season and while Arizona now has a seven footer of its own, Tarczewski hasnít yet shown that heís capable of defending or scoring against opposing centers. Now in comes Bachynski, a guy who is third in the country in blocks and is actually two inches taller than Zeus. It spells trouble for Arizona. Nick Johnson will bust his slump.
After struggling in nearly every aspect of his game the last couple weeks, Johnson will get to play in front of many childhood friends and family this coming Saturday in Tempe. The Gilbert native will also be facing his longtime friend and rival Jahii Carson for the first time in the Arizona-ASU rivalry. The trash-talk between the two former high school standouts leading up to this matchup has been years in the making so Bunnies wonít need any incentive to step up against his dadís former school. One Parting Thought
Heading into Pac-12 play, many pundits assumed Arizona was going to run away with the title and for fair reason. The Cats were coming off their second top 25 out-of-conference victory, one fewer than the other 11 teams had combined.
But through the first two weeks of the new year, it has become evident that it will be at least a three horse race, maybe four or five.
UCLA and Oregon have more than enough talent to capture the regular season title while Washington and ASU are still unproven but could become potential darkhorses.
The Pac-12 needed Arizona to get off to the start it did but the Cats losing to Oregon actually helped the perception of the conference, even if it prevented its top team from claiming the No. 1 ranking.
Want to know what itís like to be the overpowering favorite to win every conference game? Go talk to some Utah State fans.
There had to be some drama and interest awarded to the west coast and Arizonaís loss did just that. Itís now quite possible that both the Ducks and Bruins will crack the rankings on Monday.
So if you were looking for something positive that came out of the Oregon loss, there you have it.