Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett is looking forward to Saturday’s matchup with Arizona knowing that the Wildcats are considered the favorite, despite many believing the game will be close.
“They can be really dangerous in transition and they're big on the boards, very similar to VCU that way,” Bennett said. “They have a few more ways to score. I think they have a lot of guys -- they're pretty balanced.
“They have a lot of guys that can make a basket on that team. They get in transition. Some guys get baskets in transition. I think it gets back to those two things.”
Bennett and Sean Miller have known each other for years and Bennett speaks highly of Arizona’s head coach.
“I had a respect for him just watching him from afar and watching his teams,” Bennett said. “It’s really well coached and defensively they're really good.
“We were sitting there in Vegas recruiting and we struck up a conversation and he had studied what we do, which caught me off guard a little bit. He'd studied McConnell and Dellavedova and that group. We talked about that and we talked about how we got to where we were offensively.
“We decided we'd scrimmage each other. He was doing us a favor that way. That's kind of where it started and I think it was a mutual respect there. It was good for us to scrimmage them early.
“We did it I think three years in a row. We didn't this year. We were going to, but they needed to play an exhibition game instead. We got to know each other through those scrimmages and going against each others' team and sharing information.
“He's a class act. He's a really good, really good coach. And I have -- he's a friend. So it's -- you don't get in a situation often where you're playing one of those guys that you're friends with, you have a good relationship with in the NCAA tournament.”
The Wildcats present a unique combination of young and old, but Bennett does not like to differentiate between the two.
“I don't know if I separate them that way when I watch them,” he said. “We've seen Kadeem. He's really improved as a player. I saw him when he come in as a sophomore, JC transfer. All those guys we've seen, we've scrimmaged them for three years. Saw Cartwright come through, all those guys.
“I don't know, we haven't gone against their freshmen, and they're good, talented. I think that's how a lot of those top five, top ten programs in the country are.
“They get those freshmen that are probably one and done or two and done, and Sean has, Arizona has, they've had them. He knows how to mix that in.
“For me, at this point in the year, they're just -- they're all players. Obviously their freshmen have been exceptional. They play off of them. But when they're that good that's what you do with them.”
One of the most crucial aspect of Saturday’s matchup is how each team handles the other’s front court.
“We'll need our depth on that,” Bennett said. “We'll need our depth inside. Jordan Hunter will be a factor, and Dane Pineau, Fitzner, Kyle Clark. We'll need our depth inside.
“They have depth inside and they're big inside. I'm sure they have a plan on how they're going to defend Jock and our bigs, but we'll adjust to it, wherever they go with it.
“We've seen teams with this size before. We have two in our league. BYU is big and Gonzaga is big. Gonzaga is real big. It will be like that. It's not like it's something we haven't seen. We know they're good. We know they're big and they're more than that, their guards are good.”