The Cats were given Monday and Tuesday off, and came back on Wednesday with what Jim Rosborough called, an "intense" practice. In fact at one point the Wildcat coaches swallowed their whistles in an attempt to get the team used to the more aggressive, physical way Pac-10 officials have been calling games.
The Cats seemed to be losing their "fire" and "competitive edge" that they had earlier in the year. Maybe a practice of this nature was needed, who knows. What I do know is that the Cats are going to need their best effort and showing on Sunday. Yes, I said it. They will need their best effort and showing to date.
Here's a look at this Sunday's match up:
Arizona State (7-19, 1-14): You may be looking at what I said a few sentences back while seeing that the Cats play Arizona State and are probably thinking…what!? But in all seriousness, this game is a big one for the Cats. They win this game, and their hopes of a 23rd consecutive NCAA tournament bid are still alive. But if they lose this game, things could get quite interesting. A loss and the Cats are probably looking at the other tournament in March.
The Sun Devils are coming off their first Pac-10 victory of the year. They defeated a USC team that swept Arizona this year, and have been playing much better basketball as of late. The Devils play a blend between a 2-3 and 1-2-2 zone that absolutely stifled the USC offense. This is something the Cats cannot let happen. ASU forced turnover after turnover while forcing USC to take some bad shots. Arizona will need to remain patient, attack the zone, and simply knock down their shots.
The Cats hold a statistical advantage in a lot of key categories. Rebounding, assists, turnovers, field goal percentage, three point shooting, free throw shooting, points per game are all statistical categories that the Cats have the advantage in. But after seeing the Devils play against USC, and watching them slowly gain confidence, even for a three win team, it's going to take a lot more than advantages on paper to win this game.
StatFreak101's Key to Victory: Attack the zone with dribble penetration while limiting turnovers. USC gave ASU plenty of easy break points and opportunities in their game last weekend, and it resulted in a Sun Devil win. The free throw disparity will also be crucial. The Sun Devils have attempted 409 free throws on the year while Arizona has made 475. Getting to the charity stripe could be, well, charitable for the Cats on Sunday.
As Brad Allis mentioned in an article earlier this week, the Cats need a player or players to establish themselves as the leader(s); the go-to guy when the Cats are in desperate need of a score or a defensive stop.