*The recurring problem with Gardner is that he doesn't play a complete game anymore. He may be the "King of Second Halves" but if he would only bring his "A" game from the tip-off, Arizona would be that much better off for it. Instead, it has been Luke Walton who has set the tone for the Wildcats with his consistency over the full 40 minutes. Gardner had an absolutely horrible game against Washington, going 3-12 from the field with five turnovers. He did manage to get seven assists but if he plays like that against Moore, the Cougar point guard will win this match-up, especially with his nine-inch height advantage. For Arizona to be at the top of its game, it needs Gardner to come out and play well the entire game. If he does, there really isn't anyone in the nation capable of matching the Wildcats' bantam flash.
*EDGE: Gardner (Arizona)
SG-Salim Stoudamire (6-1, 180 Fr.) vs. Jerry McNair (6-2, 175 Jr.)
*After watching Salim for 22 games (but especially since the first Oregon game) it has become more than obvious that he is Arizona's next Super Guard. His shooting ability, mid-range game, above-the-rim athleticism and tenacious defense already make him one of the nation's premier freshman. Imagine him two years from now. Damon might be the less heralded Stoudamire in the family by that time. Salim's match-up with McNair will likely come down to whether or not Salim makes his outside shots. He is clearly superior to McNair but both are athletic enough to get into the lane for scores. The smart money (but remember NOT to bet!) is on Salim with the game in McKale.
-EDGE: Stoudamire (Arizona)
SF-Luke Walton (6-8, 235 Jr.) vs. Mike Bush (6-6, 195 Sr.)
*Bush was a terrific wide receiver for the Cougar football team this past fall and he led the basketball team in scoring as a junior in 2001. He is capable of putting points on the board in a hurry but Walton has made his reputation for outplaying supposedly more athletic small forwards all year. In a small prediction, I will go out on a limb here and say that Walton will approach his second triple-double against the Cougars on Saturday, especially if people like Rick Anderson can finish some of his passes under the basket. Walton should be the best player on the floor…again.
-EDGE: Walton (Arizona)
PF-Rick Anderson (6-9, 220 Jr.) vs. Pawel Stasiak (6-11, 220 Jr.)
*The Wildcat junior is a walking mystery to me. He has fantastic games filled with intensity and toughness and then he completely loses all focus and plays like your typical freshman with games like the one he had against Washington (0-5 on free throws, several misses from close range). There is just no way that Arizona can expect to make a deep run in March without more consistent efforts from Anderson. He is a very good offensive rebounder and does his best with aggressive play, but it is pretty clear that he is an awkward athlete who never really seems stable on his feet. He should win match-ups like the one against Stasiak every time because he only struggles against really athletic players while faring well against the bigger, slower power forwards he has faced. Everyone is waiting for Anderson to show all the things the coaches raved about last year when he was a redshirt practice player.
-EDGE: Anderson (Arizona)
C-Channing Frye (6-10, 225 Fr.) vs. J Locklier (6-10, 235 Sr.)
*Locklier dominated the first meeting between these two and looked like the reincarnation of Bill Walton in doing so. The Cougar center had a career-high 28 points against Frye with constant easy left-handed baby hooks and up-and-under moves against Frye. Since that meeting, it has been Frye who has improved the most, however. As long as Frye plays even with Locklier, Arizona should have no trouble winning big over the Cougars this time around. Here's guessing Frye plays much, much better against Locklier this time around.
Keys to an Arizona victory:
*Start playing like "Arizona" and stop playing like the competition. Very simple. Come out, recognize the name across your chest is synonymous with greatness and play with intensity the full 40 minutes. That goes for Jason Gardner all the way down to Andrew Zahn. There is absolutely NO reason why Washington State should be within 30 points with under five minutes to play.
*Work on everything that went wrong against Washington. That means making free throws, stopping dribble-drive penetration, keeping the entry passes away from the low blocks on defense and playing with a purpose. The only three guys that you can count on for a full 40 minutes of consistent effort are Walton, Frye and Stoudamire. Gardner turns it on later but Arizona will never be a "great" team until he treats the first half with the same importance he does the second half.
Prediction: 102-73 Arizona