A Closer Look at Arizona

BadgerNation takes a closer look at Arizona, the Badgers' Elite Eight opponent this Saturday night in Anaheim, California.

Here's a closer look at Arizona and Coach Sean Miller.

Head Coach Sean Miller

A four-year player at Pittsburgh, Miller scored 1,282 points in 128 collegiate games but was known more for his court vision, as he had 744 assists (5.8 assists per game) and 102 steals. After graduating from Pitt, Miller spent one year as a graduate assistant at Wisconsin and the next 11 years as an assistant, going from Miami (OH), Pittsburgh, North Carolina State and Xavier.

Taking over as head coach at Xavier after Thad Matta took the job at Ohio State, Miller spent five years in Cincinnati, winning three Atlantic 10 regular season championships, one tournament championship and taking the Musketeers to the NCAA tournament in his last four years. The highlights of those visits was earning a third seed in 2008 and eliminating 12th-seed Wisconsin in 2009.

Miller took over at Arizona in 2009, having led the Wildcats to two 30-win seasons, two Pac-12 regular season championships and two Elite Eight appearances. Like Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, Miller has never made it to a Final Four.

Starting five

Sophomore Guard – No. 1: Gabe York (6-3, 180)

Starting nine of last 11 games, York isn't the biggest scorer for the Wildcats, having scored in double figures only 10 times this season. He's also averaging only 1.6 3-point field goal attempts per game, but York is shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range and averages 36.8 minutes played per turnover committed. In the win over San Diego State, York had four assists to zero turnovers.

Junior Guard – No. 4: T.J. McConnell (6-1, 195)

A second-team All-Pac-12 and a Cousy Award finalist, McConnell has over 1,000 points and 500 assists for his career. Like York, McConnell pride himself on ball security, ranking 11th nationally with a 3.13 assist-to-turnover ratio. McConnell also averages 1.8 steals per game to rank fourth in the Pac-12, a big reason why he was named to the conference's all-defensive team.

Freshman Forward – No. 11: Aaron Gordon (6-9, 225)

A third-team All-American, a first-team all-conference selection and the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Gordon leads the team with 7.8 rebounds per game and has eight double-doubles on the year. Gordon broke a 40 year-old Arizona freshman record against Gonzaga with his 279th rebound of the season and added to that with six more rebounds against the Aztecs. Gordon ranks either first or second among both Arizona players and Pac-12 freshmen in six different categories.

Junior Guard – No. 13: Nick Johnson (6-3, 200)

First-team USBWA All-American, a first-team all-conference selection and the conference's player the year, Johnson's 602 points are the second-best single-season total in Miller Era. Johnson is shooting 45.2 percent (14-of-31) from 3-point range over last five games. Scoring all 15 of his points, and 15 of Arizona's final 16, in the last 2:46 of the Sweet 16 victory, Johnson went 10-for-10 from the free throw line in the final 90 seconds. Johnson 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference was the fifth best in the league. Arizona is 27-1 (.964) this season when Johnson shoots 40 percent or better from the field, and 55-9 (.859) in his career on those occasions.

Sophomore Center – No. 35: Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0, 235)

Shooting 58.1 from the floor in Pac-12 games to lead the league, Tarczewski – like Baylor's Isaiah Austin – does his damage in the low post. Fifty-two of 123 field goals on the year have been dunks and the sophomore averages 9.1 rebounds per 40 minutes played.

Off the Bench

20 Senior Guard Jordin Mayes (6-3, 190) – Has seen his minutes increase since sophomore Brandon Ashley was lost for the season in early February. Averaged 4.0 points per game at the Pac-12 Tournament and is fourth on Arizona's list for career games played (135).

23 Freshman Forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (6-7, 215) – A Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection, Hollis-Jefferson ranks third among Pac-12 freshmen in rebounds/game (5.7) and FG percentage (48.7). She also ranks fourth on Arizona's frosh blocks chart (34) and 10th in P12 (1.1/game). He's played at least 20 minutes in 34 of Arizona's games.

How they got here

No.1 Arizona 68, No.16 Weber State 59 (San Diego)

Arizona didn't make a field goal for the first five minutes, but the Wildcats shook out of their early slump with runs of 14-2 and 13-3 as Weber State cooled off by missing 12 of 13 shots. Arizona outscored Weber State 34-14 in the paint, improving to 18-0 when it scores at least its season average of 34 points per game in the paint. Shooting 55 percent from the floor as a team, Nick Johnson had 18 points, Aaron Gordon added 16 and Arizona blocked 11 shots while holding Weber State to 30 percent from the floor.

No.1 Arizona 84, No.8 Gonzaga 61 (San Diego)

After a slow start in the opener, Arizona ended the Bulldogs' upset hopes by scoring 47 first-half points and leading by as many as 21 points in the first half. Arizona was active defensively and forced Gonzaga into 21 turnovers – 15 off of steals – that resulted into 31 points. Although Arizona pushed the tempo, the Wildcats had only six turnovers and 24 assists on its 32 field goals. Five Wildcats reached double figures, including 18 points each for Gordon (8-for-10 shooting, six rebounds, six assists) and Hollis-Jefferson (5-for-7 shooting, five assists, zero turnovers, four blocks).

No.1 Arizona 70, No.3 San Diego State 64 (Anaheim, Calif.)

Down four at halftime, the Wildcats exerted their will in the second half in the low post, outscoring the Aztecs 20-10 in the paint, improving their shooting percentage to 47.9 percent and limiting the Aztecs to 38.9 percent for the game.

"We were just more focused and played more aggressively trying to get in and around and feed Kaleb a little bit more," Hollis-Jefferson said. "When we feed Kaleb it opens up our outside shots and it opens up drives."

The Aztecs were able to get as much as an eight-point lead, but the Wildcats never seemed to get rattled.

"We just stayed poised," Hollis-Jefferson said. "We know basketball is a game of runs. They are going to make a run and we are going to make a run, that is just how basketball is, but if you can stay poised and control it good enough, you will be fine."

The Wildcats hit 19 of 25 shots from the charity stripe, including 11-12 in the closing minutes of the game.

Miller on Wisconsin

"Well, number one is they don't beat themselves. Historically, Wisconsin, under Bo Ryan, leads the nation or is at the top or close to the top in terms of turnovers. Even us last night, one of the reasons that we're here today is we turned the ball over seven times against a team that's known for turning you over in San Diego State. Wisconsin historically they can play the game, a 5 or fewer, always seem to be under 10. They don't beat themselves.

"You listen to these guys talk about the three-point line. To me, the best part of Wisconsin's offense is their ability to shot fake. They get you up. That leads to drives. Drives lead to threes and fouls, and easy twos. As much as anything, the discipline of our defense staying down on fakes, staying down on shot fakes, not being so caught up in challenging the three-point line that we give that up.

"But it's equal discipline on defense and offense. I think the other unbelievable stat for Wisconsin is they never foul, historically each year low turnovers. They foul the fewest of any team in the country sometimes. So they don't beat themselves. They're very disciplined. They really understand their culture, and I think their system. You hear Kaleb say we want to do what we do. Wisconsin is the same. They believe in their style and they do it well."


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