This is a difficult one for us to assess because while we want to give Lyons the advantage, it is hard to with the way that he has been playing. Lyons is not good defensively right now and Johnson is extremely quick at getting into the lane. He reminds us of Larry Drew a bit in that he can get into the lane to set his teammates up, but you may want to play off of him a little because he is not a good shooter from range. The problem with this is that Drew absolutely lit up Lyons this season and while we don't think Johnson is going to do the same, we can't justify giving him the advantage right now. Our guess is that this matchup is pretty even and if not, the team with the advantage is more likely to be the one that comes out on top.
SG: Nick Johnson (6-3, 200, So.) vs. Ian Clark (6-3, 175, Sr.)
You won't find many more individual matchups that will be as fun as this one. Johnson is playing some of his best basketball of the season, especially defensively. Clark's offensive numbers are remarkable and he has been his conference's defensive player of the year two years in a row. The difference here for us is what Clark can do on offense. He is shooting 54 percent from the field, including 46 percent from three. Don't tell us it has to do with competition either. He went 10-10 against VCU, had 15 against Stanford, and dominated numerous other games. His worst game of the season was against Kansas and it is no coincidence that Belmont got run off the court. If Johnson can contain Clark and hold him to 15 points or so on decent but not great shooting, Arizona's chances of winning increase a ton. If he can match Clark offensively, the same holds true.
SF: Kevin Parrom (6-6, 220, Sr.) vs. J.J. Mann (6-6, 210, Junior)
Arizona has seen a few players like Mann this season in that if he is hitting from three, he can be dangerous and, if not, he becomes a lot less relevant. Mann is shooting 43 percent from the field on eight shot attempts per game, but five of those come from three, where he is making 38 percent. The key for Parrom will picking up Mann in transition and making sure he does not get going from three. The bigger issue here is that we don't see Mann having much success guarding Parrom. Parrom should be aggressive and let that open up his jumper. Mann does a good job at playing the passing lanes, but it is the lateral defense in which he could struggle.
PF: Solomon Hill (6-7, 220, Sr.) vs. Blake Jenkins (6-7, 210, Jr.)
Jenkins shoots a fantastic 60 percent from the field on about six shots per game. The good part about that is that he does not shoot a lot of threes and getting around Hill and to the basket should prove to be pretty difficult. Jenkins likes to slash to the basket and usually does a good job because of his long arms. You would think he would be a better defender because of his length, but he isn't great defensively. Hill should be able to score and guard Jenkins just fine, so it would not surprise us to see this become one of Arizona's biggest advantages.
C: Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0, 255, Fr.) vs. Trevor Noack (6-7, 240, Senior)
Neither player is likely going to have much success guarding the other. There's no way that Noack can guard Tarczewski in the post and if Arizona plays it right, Belmont will have no choice but to double team him. On the other hand, Tarczewski will have difficulty guarding Noack on the perimeter and the ideal situation for Belmont is to keep Tarczewski on the perimeter. In our opinion, however, Tarczewski is more likely to have a bigger impact on the game. If he can stay on the glass, run the court well, and score when given opportunities, Tarczewski changes the game dramatically. Those may not be easy, but he should be capable of doing each one with success.
Bench: Belmont goes eight deep, but it is really seven deep with confidence. Reece Chamberlain is a 6-1 guard that will see approximately 16 minutes per game. He only shoots 42 percent from the field, but his purpose is not to score as much as it is to defend and run the offense. Brandon Baker is a 6-6 forward that shoots 61 percent, but only takes two shots per game. He is a solid rebounder, but won't do much else. Basically, this is an area in which Arizona should have a big advantage. This is a great game for Brandon Ashley because he should do fine defensively and be a nightmare for Belmont when on offense. Arizona is not only deeper than Belmont, but the bench players are much, much better.
Coaching: Sean Miller vs. Rick Byrd
Rick Byrd is a great coach and Belmont has been the class of the Ohio Valley conference since he arrived there. Still, there is a big difference between the OVC and Pac-12 and although Byrd deserves credit, Miller has the tools to make his game strategy much more likely to work out.
Prediction: I have been all over with this game. For starters, Belmont can shoot the ball and is a decent defensive team. If you took the Arizona from a month ago and put it against this Belmont squad, it would be trouble. However, I liked how hard Arizona has played the past few weeks and even though it has not been all wins, that is saying something for me. The big key is how Arizona will be able to use its size. If it is forced to play to Belmont's strengths, the Bruins have a chance. If it is able to keep Tarczewski and Ashley in there, Belmont is in for a long night. Belmont is not good enough to withstand an off shooting night against Arizona and if the defense or dumb luck or whatever it may be causes Belmont's shooting to be off, Arizona is going to win going away.
Arizona 74, Belmont 68