When North Dakota coach Brian Jones was asked about what the key personally is for him in Thursday’s game, he cracked a joke.
“We talked, just tongue in cheek, we talked about what are some things we can do,” Jones said. We can beat them to the laundromat.
“We've got whiter skin, more pasty skin, as coaches bigger bellies and more bald spots. That's what we can beat as far as the staff, I don't know about the team.”
As relaxed as Jones seemed Wednesday, he knows that facing Arizona is no laughing matter, which is why he is looking for every advantage.
“I'm a film junkie, so I try to watch everything,” Jones said. “That was more our level, type of bodies that we present against them, but it was so long ago.
“Obviously Northern Colorado played well, but Bakersfield played them very well, too. They both played a lot of zone, that's something we don't do. That's why it's a little different for us.
“For me I try to look at -- I'm a coach that looks under every rock I can, just to find an advantage, whether it's the first game of the year or the last game of the year. I've watched everything. I've tried to call some coaches, even just to pick their brain.
“It's still -- it's going to be a tremendous task for us, but at the same time I'm very confident in who we are and what we've been about, and what the young men will do once they step on the floor.”
If everything goes as planned, North Dakota will get in transition as much as possible.
“Running is a big part of what we do,” Jones said. “The thing that I want to stress to our guys is we've got to be who we are.
“You don't get to the big stage and all of a sudden forget about what you've done through 31 games. We want to be able to get out and play fast, because that's what we've done.”
Jones believes that the Wildcats may be undervalued defensively.
“I think the key for us is we've got to be able to rebound, obviously, with their length, and value the basketball. They are so good defensively.
“I don't know, maybe they do, and obviously we're just getting the first time we're playing them, but obviously in the PAC 12 and watching them from afar, I don't know how much credit they get defensively, how good they are.
“Not just their guard play, as far as knocking the ball loose, but once you do get a chance to get your feet in the paint their length at the rim. We're going to have to do a great job of finding ways to get great shots, and that's not always easy against a superior defensive team.”
With that being said, North Dakota does not want to push the issue too much.
“It has to be at a good pace, but the thing is you can't -- the old John Wooden, be fast, but not in a hurry,” Jones said. “We've got to be who we are, but because of their athleticism and speed we can't be sped up by that.
“We've still got to be under control and be able to get the ball reverse side to side and stay within what we're trying to do.
"We want to play that way. I have no interest in playing the game in the 50s, I don't know many fans or coaches or players that like to play in that style. I
“I want to be true to who we are and who I am as a coach. I don't care if it is Arizona, it could be somebody else, I'm still going to try to play that way.”