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Head Coach: Roy Williams
2001-02 Record: 3-1
Last Game: Beat Pittsburg State 105-62
Scoring: Drew Gooden (22.0 ppg); Nick Collison (19.7)
Rebounder: Gooden (10.0 rpg); Collison (9.0)
Assists: Aaron Miles (6.3 apg) Kirk Hinrich (5.3 apg)
Field Goal Percentage: Chris Zerbe (1.00); Collison (.667)
FRONTCOURT: Drew Gooden and Nick Collison form one of the best front court duos in the nation. Gooden is a multi-talented bigman. At 6-10 he can play either facing the basket or with his back to the basket. Like Gooden, Collison can knock down the mid-range jumper or put the ball on the floor and create. Collison has a knack for stepping up in the big game.
True freshman Wayne Simien should provide a stellar back up for either post position. The McDonald's All-American is strong and agile. Jeff Carey will see spot duty in the post as well.
BACKCOURT: Kirk Hinnrich can dish out the assists, but hasn't been the pure point guard that Roy Williams envisioned. That opened the door for freshman Aaron Miles, a player the Wildcat's seriously recruited. Miles was one of the top high school players in the country last season and has all the skills to be an instant impact player for the Jayhawks.
At first glance Jeff Boschee appears to be the odd man out, but that may not be the case. Williams may go with a three-guard lineup against the Wildcats. Freshman Keith Langford has played some key minutes for the Jayhawks early in the season while Bryant Nash and Michael Lee could also find some time in the backcourt rotation.
OUTLOOK: Kansas is Kansas, one of the elite programs of all time. The only knock on the Jayhawks has been their tournament performances of late. The ‘Hawks have a great frontcourt and some good backcourt players, but their lack of a true small forward could hurt them. The Jayhawks should be good from the outside and few teams can match the size and skills of Gooden and Collison. Expect the Jayhawks to be playing on the tournament's second weekend and maybe later.
KEYS: First, let me say you can throw out KU's loss to Ball State in the Maui Classic. Collison and Gooden are not likely to suffer leg cramps in McKale Center and, unless they get into foul trouble, both will play more than 35 minutes. They'll be a load for the young Wildcat front line to handle.
There are two keys to Arizona winning this game:
1) The Wildcats must neutralize KU's front line.
In past years Lute Olson has prepared his teams well against dominating front line players, i.e. Kansas, UCLA, Stanford. In 1997, Arizona shut down KU's Scot Pollard and Raef Lafrenz by doubling the post player everytime he received an entry pass. You can expect the same kind of defense Saturday.
However, unlike the 1997 Arizona team that went on to win the National Championship, this Wildcat team does not have the quickness of a Bennett Davison nor the experience of A. J. Bramlett to execute the double team.
The outcome of the game will rely greatly on the success of Arizona's young front line players to execute on defense. While Isaiah Fox, Channing Frye and Dennis Latimore will have to step up big on the defensive end of the court, it will be the leadership of Luke Walton and Rick Anderson that could make the difference. Anderson, in particular, must stay out of foul trouble and have a big defensive game.
Gooden and Collison are also strong rebounders. If the Jayhawks are allowed second and third shot opportunities by dominating the glass, the Wildcats could be in for a long afternoon. Arizona must limit the Jayhawks to one shot.
2)Shooting percentage will also be a factor in this game and the outcome could rest on each team's ability to hit the outside shot.
Kansas' Boschee is a streaky shooter and Hinrich has never been a big time scorer. Thus, freshmen Miles and Langford could be the difference makers for the Jayhawks. Both will be coming into a raucous McKale Center and facing a true road game for the first time. Miles might also have a few more jitters since the Wildcat fans he's playing in front of might feel somewhat jilted by his choice of KU over Arizona in last year's recuiting war.
Playing on the road is never easy for a freshman. However, if Miles and Langford play a steady game (limiting thier turnovers) and give KU a boost by adding some scoring, Kansas can win this game.
However, that might be asking too much of the KU freshmen. If it comes down to a shooting contest, the Wildcats have been a better perimeter shooting team.
Jason Gardner has been nothing short of spectacular this season, hitting 52% of his three-point attempts. Freshmen Salim Stoudamire and Will Bynum have also stepped up and hit some key shots for the Cats.
The "X-factor" in this game could be the shooting of Luke Walton who has been in a miserable shooting slump since last season. If Walton's shooting woes continue and KU is allowed to play off him to double Gardner, Arizona could have some major difficulties. Walton must hit some shots for UA to be successful.
PREDICTION: Arizona 85, Kansas 80