GameNight: Kansas at Arizona

December 23rd, 2008
Dec 23 2008 - 10:30pm

Preview & Prediction: By Fairway Jay






Kansas (8-2) travels to Tucson to take on Arizona (7-3) Tuesday night.  The Jayhawks rebounded from their surprising home loss to Massachusetts to take out Temple on Saturday, 71-59.   Arizona upset Gonzaga at home nine days ago, but struggled in a 79-64 loss in Las Vegas Saturday to UNLV.  I was able to see that contest, and the Wildcats were never a factor in the second half as UNLV bombed away from the 3-point line and hit 14 of 31 shots from the arch.  That’s the same UNLV team that has struggled with their shooting this season, but the Rebels were very motivated following last year’s home loss to Arizona.  UNLV was able to shred the Wildcats zone defense and Arizona only attempted four 3-point shots themselves while making just one. 


Kansas is down from their national championship team last year after losing six of its top seven players.  However, the Jayhawks are getting some solid production from last years role players and some young stars of the future.   Sherron Collins is back at point guard and has doubled his scoring to 18ppg along with five assists per contest.  Freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor has stepped right into a starting role and chipped-in over 10ppg while hitting 48% of his shots and dishing out four assists per game.  Both players will take turns guarding Arizona’s quick point guard Nic Wise.  Sophomore center Cole Aldrich has really developed and averages a double-double (14ppg/10rpg) for Kansas.


The Arizona Wildcats are adjusting to new roles and a new coach in Russ Pennell, who likes to play zone defense yet wants this team to run when it gets its chances in transition on offense.  Forwards Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill each average nearly 19ppg while shooting over 54% from the floor with Budinger playing away from the basket and the ‘Cats top 3-point shooter.  Hill hauls down 12 rebounds per contest and point guard Nic Wise completes the Big 3 for Arizona, who lack any additional real scoring option. 


Kansas has played a fairly light schedule and this is their first true road game.  Collins is the only Kansas player with significant experience playing on the road.  Arizona proved they are capable by knocking off a top-5 team in Gonzaga at home in the McKale Center.  The Wildcats have a very efficient offense with three solid shooters and scorers, but they play at a slower pace.  Arizona has also played some solid defensive teams which should serve them well in a likely defensive tussle in Tucson tonight.  However, Arizona will need to play more inspired on the defensive end against the Kansas guards after being torched by the UNLV outside shooters.  Kansas is also an efficient shooting and scoring team with a solid presence on the defensive end as you would expect under coach Bill Self.  This is a tough call, but if Arizona attacks the basket more they will have a solid shot to prevail while getting to the free throw line more often.  Kansas may be the more talented team overall, but even coach Self doesn’t know what to expect from his young team in a hostile road environment for the first time.  Kansas is just two possessions away from being 10-0 this season, but this is their toughest challenge to date.  The Jayhawks should show solid improvement through the Big Xll schedule, but not ready to support them in their first big road test just yet.  Arizona gets the call in a lower scoring close contest.


Winner:  Arizona              Margin 2-5 points