Ahead of tonight’s matchup in the desert, we reached out to sister site Arizona Desert Swarm to give us some insight into this season’s incarnation of the Arizona Wildcats. Again, Brian Pedersen was kind enough to answer our queries about this team and tonight’s game in Tuscon.
You can read our answers to DZ’s questions here.
ATQ: Different team, different season, but this year’s Arizona Wildcats appear to be the same juggernaut as last year. What are the things working well that are keeping Arizona’s place as a top basketball power?
Brian Pedersen: Arizona’s ability to play fast and pass the ball will always make it a dangerous offensive unit, as well as having two tremendous scoring bigs.
This team hasn’t been as explosive as a year ago, though, and also lacks a go-to perimeter scorer. But Tommy Lloyd’s recent changes to the lineup and rotation have helped weather a mid season lull and the Wildcats are back to their old selves.
ATQ: Although the Wildcats return some familiar faces from last year, this is a different team with new faces. Would you share some thoughts about the new players and your perceptions of how they are doing this season?
Brian Pedersen: Transfers Courtney Ramey and Cedric Henderson Jr. have provided veteran leadership, with Ramey the defensive stalwart on the perimeter. Freshman Kylan Boswell is the future at point guard, but he’s still 17, so he’s being eased into a bigger role.
ATQ: How important has been the impact of returners Azoulas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo to this year’s success?
Brian Pedersen: Even though Arizona has played more ‘small’ since the last Oregon game, with only one big on the floor at a time, the ability to have both Ballo and Tubelis be able to dominate inside like they do is what makes this offense tick.
Tubelis is the best big man in the country, while Ballo will win Most Improved Player in Pac-12 in a landslide.
ATQ: Arizona’s losses thus far have been at the hands of a very unlikely trio - Utah, Washington State, and Oregon. All three losses are stumpers. What in the world happened that the Wildcats would lose to these teams?
Brian Pedersen: The Utah game was a perfect storm of complacency, a long layoff after winning the Maui Invitational and just not looking interested in playing a meaningful conference game on Dec. 1.
The other two were much more about breakdowns, mostly on the offensive end and with rebounding. Arizona turns it over a bunch every game, so that wasn’t as huge a part of those losses as some have made it seem.
ATQ: Please let us know how you think this match will play out and what your score prediction is.
Brian Pedersen: Last week Arizona got revenge for the Washington State loss, correcting the mistakes from that previous game. I expect the Wildcats to do the same this time around, going all out to keep Oregon from dominating again on the boards. Home team wins by 8.