Samford serves a purpose

Many would assume that playing a team from the Ohio Valley Conference would not do a lot to help an elite level basketball team other than give it a winnable game. That is not true of Samford. Sure the Wildcats should beat them, but playing the Bulldogs may pay benefits down the road.

Samford may be 1-2 right now, but they will provide a challenge for the up-tempo Wildcats. The Bulldogs play a deliberate style in the mode of the infamous "Princeton offense".

They like to slow it down, use a lot of back door screens to get easy buckets. It's an offense that makes you work on defense and have to be focused at all times. One mistake and a the Bulldogs will pounce.

Why the game is important is that it is an offense similar to the one that Washington State employs and has some similarities to what ASU will run. That is why the Wildcats scheduled Samford. Not to get an easy win, but to work on defending the deliberate offense.

The Wildcats are shaky on defense as it is, but they could be in for a rude awakening the first time they see the slow down. It is better to work on the kind of focus against the caliber of athletes that the Bulldogs possess, than to slip up against a Pac-10 foe.

It is better to work out the kinks in late November than risk an upset in the Pac-10. This is all part of the Wildcats' scheduling philosophy. Lute Olson always tries to schedule games again high quality teams. What better way to prepare for league play and the NCAA Tournament than by scheduling a half dozen top-25 teams?

Olson also likes to get a number of neutral court games on the slate. This too is on preparation for the NCAA Tournament. While most teams are still in awe of the NBA arenas while preparing for their first round games, the Wildcats can boast games at the US Air Arena and Madison Square Garden.

Since you can't fill a non-conference schedule with all elite teams, you have to find smaller programs that serve a purpose. San Diego State, in addition to being a very good mid-major team with Tournament experience, is also the hometown team of freshman Chase Budinger. The Cats get a team who was in last year's NCAA Tournament and a chance to let their heralded freshman play in front of his family.

The same was true of Houston. Last year the Cats went to fact the usually solid Cougars, in a game that was intended to get Jawann McClellan and Fendi Onobun a chance to play at home. This year the Cougars venture to Tucson, but the game will be broadcast back in Houston, a hotbed for Wildcat recruiting.

New Mexico State was a chance for the Cats to face an up-tempo foe, such as Washington. NAU provided a fundamentally sound team with a good perimeter game, while Samford, as discussed above, gives the Cats a chance to prepare for a team similar to ASU and WSU.

While a number of programs are just looking for easy wins for the home court, the Cats have a plan. Some teams just want to stockpile "W's" before getting into their league play. Arizona wants to stockpile various experiences before conference play begins.

Wildcat Authority Top Stories