Scouting the Beavers

Arizona managed to pull out a three-point victory on the road in Corvallis the last time these two teams squared off. Wildcats Will Bynum and Isaiah Fox were suspended for that game but are back now. The trouble facing Arizona this time is that its most valuable player, Luke Walton, is out.

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Both Arizona and Oregon State are coming off bad losses and are hoping to salvage their weekends with a win on Sunday. The Wildcats have the better players and the homecourt advantage but the Beavers are the team with nothing to lose.

Key Players-
PG Jason Gardner-The 5-10 junior has struggled a bit lately with his shot but most of that is due to the fact that Luke Walton isn't in the lineup to free up space for the explosive Gardner. JG should have little trouble against anyone the Beavers put on him and could very well have a huge game if he can find his stroke.
SG Will Bynum-This electric freshman looked as good against Oregon as he has all year and he needs to build on that performance with another solid outing against Oregon State. No one creates his own shot as easily as Bynum does for Arizona and he could score a career-high if he takes good shots.
F Dennis Latimore-Defending OSU's Philip Ricci is no easy task and that's why Latimore will be so important tomorrow night. The immensely talented, yet uncomfortable, Latimore has been waiting all year to ignite and show Arizona fans why he was rated so highly out of high school. He'll be the key guy off the bench to defend Ricci and should get some easy points on the poor-defending Ricci as well.

Oregon State:
PF Philip Ricci-He has been far and away the most valuable player for the Beavers all year and proved it again vs. ASU Friday night when he scored 23 points and grabbed nine boards in the OSU loss. Channing Frye will be matched up against Ricci a lot of the time and will give him fits with his four-inch height advantage. He'll still get his 15 points and eight boards, though.
C Brian Jackson-For a guy who is 6-10, Jackson sure doesn't like playing in the post. The one-time Arizona recruit is more comfortable on the perimeter and because of that, he is only averaging four rebounds per game. That's not going to get it done for a frontcourt guy. He does have a reliable outside shot and Rick Anderson will have to get out on him quicker than he did in Corvallis.
F Adam Masten-Good shooter from the outside who can also drive the lane at times for baskets inside. Very good rebounder for a guy his size and will have a big size advantage over either Salim Stoudamire or Will Bynum, whichever is assigned to him defensively.

Keys to an Arizona victory:
*Ball movement/Patience on offense-
The coaches have been stating publicly for weeks now that Arizona is a far more effective team shooting the ball after passing the ball at least three times on each possession. Apparently only Luke Walton understands that concept because during the last two games without him Arizona has rushed numerous shots and stood around on offense instead of cutting or setting screens. That has to change and it has to change now.

*Improved perimeter defense-
Oregon's ball movement is as good as this college basketball fan has seen in the Pac-10 since the '95 UCLA team that won the National Championship, so maybe Arizona really shouldn't be judged on how Oregon shot the ball. Oregon State, however, is average at best and definitely nothing special on the perimeter. Arizona needs to improve its rotations and pressure on the shooters if it's going to be competetive for the remainder of the season.

*Get a new freshman to bust on to the scene:
The best choice would be Latimore because of the matchup problems he would create if he all the sudden gets comfortable on offense. Wildcat assistant coach Jay John told me recently that Latimore is "about to be scary good". Well, what better place than here and what better time than now?

Prediction: Arizona 77, Oregon State 65.

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