What Have You Been Up To?: Arizona Wildcats

Kevin "Kevo" Danna provides the faithful with his preview of the Arizona Wildcats, including a look at their season since facing Stanford in January, who has been hot and not so hot for U of A, and the keys to a Cardinal victory as they look to rebound from a tough loss versus the Arizona State Sun Devils on Thursday night.

Since it is common knowledge that the outcomes of basketball games are clearly decided by those who write articles on upcoming opponents, let me try to get this one right.  While Eric Boateng will be on the other side of the Bay Area on Saturday afternoon, there are still plenty of athletes on the opposition that can give the Card some trouble.  With a Wednesday night bye on the line in Saturday's contest against the visiting Arizona Wildcats, can the Farm Boys get back on track and inch back to one game below .500?  Let's take a closer look at the ones that like to "bear down":

Since We Last Spoke - 2-5 (2-2 H, 0-3 A)

When these teams met for the first time in Tucson, the Wildcats were in the midst of their best stretch of play thus far in the 2009-2010 campaign.  After dismantling Stanford 76-68 in a Thursday night game, Arizona had an extra day to prepare for the Golden Bears, and it paid off big-time.  Their 76-72 victory over Cal was not only their season-high fourth consecutive win, but it also placed them in a tie for first place with Monty and company. 

The team was firing on all cylinders and looking like a frontrunner for the conference crown, and they took that confidence with them on the road to Washington.  However, their swagger didn't last for too long.  After taking a lead into the locker at the half at Washington, the Cats saw the Quincy Pondexter Show take full effect in the second half, as his 30 points and 12 rebounds propelled the Dawgs to an 81-75 win.  Arizona had another solid road showing go for naught two nights later as the Cougars blew open a close game in the final minutes for a 78-60 decision.  After a 70-57 win over the Ducks, Arizona dropped one at home to Oregon State and then lost a hard-fought contest against the Sun Devils in Tucson last Sunday before falling to the Golden Bears 95-71 on Thursday night.

With the loss to Cal, Arizona has dropped five of their last six games and is now at 7-8 in conference play, just one-half game ahead of the Farm Boys.  Despite their recent disappointing results, this is still a team that is dangerous and explosive, and we have already seen how good they can be firsthand one time this season.  And one more thing - until the Wildcats played Stanford on January 28th, Sean Miller's crew was 4-0 in conference play on Saturdays and 0-3 on Thursdays.  That trend reversed itself after the Cats beat the Card, as they have done better on Thursdays but haven't won a Saturday since their fourth conference victory.  Let's hope the trend doesn't go back the other way on February 27th.

The Wildcat Brotherhood

When the Farm Boys first took on Arizona earlier this season, Nic Wise was the end-all and be-all of that team, and that much really hasn't changed (as expected).  There are plenty of other dangerous weapons (which we will get to in a bit), but Nic is still the one to make this offense go.  After going off for 30 on the Bears on January 31, however, Nic has been a little cold from the field.  In Arizona's last six games, the elder Wise is just 19-65 on his field goal attempts and has failed to reach double-digits in the scoring column in two of their last tilts.  Also a little bit disturbing is that he also only has 11 assists compared to 15 turnovers in those past six games.  But don't let those stats fool you - he can still be the best player in the conference on any given night and could be due to break out of his slump.  He is one of, if not the, quickest players in the Pac-10 and can get to the hoop at will.  He can start-and-stop with the ball very effectively, and the Cardinal perimeters will rest assuredly have their hands full on the defensive end.

While Wise has hit a rough patch in this portion of his senior season, the freshman big man Derrick Williams has been very solid all season long and his consistency has carried on into the second half of the Pac-10 season.  Outside of the Washington State game in Pullman where he fouled out after just eight minutes of floor time, Derrick has scored in the teenage-range or above in every game since January 10th (when he scored 12 in an 87-70 win over the Huskies) and has hit more than half of his shots in the past five contests.  He is an athletic big man that is active and aggressive down low, but has also shown on rare occasion that he can step back and knock one in from distance (he is 3-4 from beyond the arc on the season, including hitting one against Stanford in Tucson).

Stanford might have caught a big break for Saturday when it was ruled that Wildcat frosh Kevin Parrom would not travel with the team to the Bay Area.  Parrom went down with a sprained left foot after the Arizona State game, the same foot that endured a stress fracture that kept him out of the first ten games of the season.  This is a pretty sizable loss for the Wildcats - while the 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game won't wow you, he became a regular in the starting rotation and is a very good defender, one of the best on the team.  That's not to say that the Red Sea is going to part for Stanford with Parrom out of the line-up, but at 6-6, Kevin is a big guard that has the lateral quicks necessary to be a very effective perimeter defender in this conference.

Kevo's Keys to Victory

•     Play Big - Eric Boateng did the Cardinal in on Thursday night with his 24-point, 11-11 FG performance, and the Wildcats' bigs are at least just as talented the Sun Devils' primary big man.  Jack Trotter and Andrew Zimmermann have a big task ahead of them, and neutralizing the likes of Derrick Williams, Jamelle Horne, and Kyryl Natyazhko will be essential for Cardinal success.

•     Use your fouls wisely - Foul trouble has been a serious issue at times for the Stanford posts, with Zimmermann most recently fouling out of the Arizona State game.  Trotter picked up four in Tucson and Daian and Bullock each picked up two.  That's eight fouls in 46 combined minutes among the three bigs, which is pretty solid.  While fighting for good position down low will be just as important for the Cardinal bigs, there will be times where they are going to need to use a foul or two.  Thus, it is going to be paramount that our altitude-inclined guys not pick up any offensive or reach-in fouls.  And when they look to take the charge, which they will most certainly do (Zimmermann is especially very good at taking those charges), they have to get to that spot early and take the call out of the officials' hands.

•     Destroy that record, Jeremy - Just because the single-season record for made three-pointers in a season is his doesn't mean that Jeremy Green's work from beyond the arc is done.  He needs to re-work the magic of March 7, 2009, when he dropped in 22 against the Cats in the final regular season Pac-10 game.  He made six threes in that game, and if he can do that again on Saturday, Stanford will take a giant step towards sitting pretty.

Get your popcorn ready, folks.  It's going to be a battle Saturday afternoon.  Don't forget to wear black at Maples tomorrow, head on over to Burnham Pavilion after the game for some Men's Gymnastics action on their Senior Night against Big Blue, and then get back online for post-game thoughts and analysis on TheBootleg.com!

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!

The Bootleg Top Stories