No 9 Texas A&M (7-0) will face a huge road challenge Sunday night when they travel to Tuscon to face the Arizona Wildcats (4-2).
Arizona will be coming off their most impressive win of the season, dominating previously unbeaten Cal State Fullerton 91-65 on Wednesday night.
Arizona was ranked No 17 until they lost at home to Virginia 75-72 on November 17th. The Wildcats traveled Lawerence and gave No 4 Kansas all they could handle last Sunday, eventually losing 76-72 in overtime.
Arizona will be playing its seventh straight game under coach Kevin O'Neill, while Hall of Famer Lute Olson remains on a leave of absence for personal reasons,
Jerryd Bayless is averaging 18.8 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.8 rebounds a game. Bayless was rated by Scout.com as the No 2 ranked shooting guard in the country, coming out of Phoenix St. Mary's high school. Bayless is an aggressive scorer and said to be most comfortable when attacking the basket and scoring points. Bayless has led the Wildcats in scoring in three of his first six college games. Bayless has been susceptible to turnovers, giving up seven in the loss to Kansas.
Chase Budinger is averaging 18.3 points, 3.8 assists, and 5.0 rebounds a game. Budinger was rated by Scout.com as the No 3 ranked shooting forward in the country, when he graduated from california's La Costa Canyon high school in 2006. Budinger is a very good perimeter player with excellent 3-point range. Budinger is very athletic, as he demonstrates being a national team level volleyball player, and uses his athleticism effectively both in running transition and in finishing plays above the rim. Budinger is not an inside force, given his 205-pound frame.
Once you get past Bayless and Budinger, Arizona is still searching for the right combination. On paper, the next most productive Wildcats are sophomore forward Jordan Hill (6-9, 211) and senior guard Jawann McClellan (6-4, 211). Hill is averaging 11.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in just 23 minutes a game, while McClellan is averaging 9.7 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists a game. Against Cal State Fullerton, O'Neill started his fourth different lineup in six games, with forward Brett Brielmaier replacing center Kirk Walters.
In the overtime loss to Kansas, Arizona rallied from an early deficit and kept it close to the end, thanks to Budinger and Bayless. Budinger hit six 3-pointers and had 27 points to help the Wildcats come back from an 11-point deficit, and Bayless hit some key shots down the stretch to finish with 19. What hurt the Wildcats was turnovers. Arizona turned it over 25 times, including seven by Bayless. Somehow, the Wildcats still had a chance to win. It is amazing that Arizona almost defeated Kansas even with this high number of turnovers.
In Wednesday night's win over Cal State Fullerton, Jerryd Bayless scored 21 points and Chase Budinger added 17. The Wildcats bolted 20-4 lead as Budinger scored eight of his team's first 10 points. O'Neill has stressed defense since taking over for Olson. Arizona blocked four shots in the first four minutes against Cal State Fullerton and limited the Titans to 37.5 percent shooting from the floor in the first half. Cal State Fullerton had been averaging 85.3 points in its first three games.
The Aggies should have a significant inside power advantage with DeAndre Jordan (7-0, 240), Joseph Jones (6-9, 250) and Bryan Davis (6-9, 245), as with only Bret Brielmaier (6-6, 237) from the Arizona starters Wednesday night weighing over 211 pounds. The Wildcats will probably try to counter this Aggie size advantage with bodies off the bench in Kirk Walters (6-11, 254) and lightly used Mohamed Tangara (6-9, 241).
It will be interesting to see if Arizona starts slow, as they did against Virginia and Kansas, or fast, as they did against Cal State Fullerton.
We look for the Aggies to try to take advantage of their inside size advantage to play aggressive defensive from the start in an attempt to get an early lead and to take advantage of Arizona's susceptibility to turnovers.
This should be a great game and a true test of where this Aggie team is at.