Pac 10 Preview: #2 Arizona

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by Craig Yamada

8 teams down, two to go. Arizona grabs the #2 spot  in our Pac 10 power rankings. If there is any team in the Pac-10 that will push UW in all facets of the game, it will be UA.

UA’s sheer depth and experience will certainly play a factor in their future success. They return 4 of their 5 starters from last year. Sound familiar to any team you know? Zona is 2-0 following after completely owning New Mexico State on Thursday. After watching the highlights of this team, they have a wide arsenal of weaponry to deploy in each game. They can work it inside with their bigs and can launch with confidence from beyond the arc. Their sophomore class alone has really matured in a years timeframe and look primed to challenge UW for the crown.

Let’s take a look under the hood:

Key Losses:

  • Nic Wise (14.4 ppg) – Graduation

The Best of the Rest:

UA returns their leading scorer in sophomore PF Derrick Williams. Williams has looked dominant in his first two games as he has owned the post with a variety of moves. He also has been a one man highlight reel in the first two games throwing down slams in transition and even reverse jamming in the half court set. He is averaging over 21 ppg to start his sophomore campaign. Another sophomore who will play key role for UA this year is PG Lamont “Momo” Jones. With the loss of Nic Wise, who better to assume PG duties than his own clone? Momo runs the show on offense with a quick first step and great vision. He is averaging 9 assists per game so far. The other sophomore who has developed nicely from last year is SF Solomon Hill. Solomon looks much more comfortable in this offense and is actually tied for second in scoring. They are looking for him early and often in the high post and has developed a solid mid range game. Their lone senior, Jamelle Horne, figures to continue creating match up problems as he has NBA range from three and can work his way around the post. He is averaging 7.5 ppg thus far this season. Kyle Fogg rounds out their starting five as their sharp shooter from downtown. He has had a rough start as he is only 18% from beyond the arc. The wild card this year thus far is Brendon Lavender. Brendon cut his hair and now he is averaging 10 ppg off the bench. He’s also shooting 66% from three point land. He provides a nice boost for this UA team.

Fresh Faces:

Shooting guards Daniel Bejarano and Jordin Mayes headline the recruiting class for 2010. Both players are excellent shooters and provide the athleticism that Sean Miller needs to play a run and gun style of basketball.  Jordin is averaging 15 minutes per game for the Wildcats and is averaging 5.5 ppg. Bejarano has been used sparingly but look for his minutes to pick up if he can get his stroke going from deep. The last recruit for this class is Jesse Perry, a JC Transfer from Illinois. Perry is currently playing 13 minutes per game and averaging 6.5 ppg.

Likely Starting Lineup:

PG – Momo Jones

SG – Kyle Fogg

SF – Solomon Hill

PF – Jamelle Horne

C – Derrick Williams

Season Outlook:

This Pac-10 championship will likely be a two horse race between UW and UA. I expect to split the season series with these guys (both winning their home games).  UA is looking really good out of the gates as they can get up and down the floor with the best of them. If I could pick one team that most mirrors UW’s style of play, it would have to be UA. Derrick Williams is a force down below and is going to play a similar role as last year as their go-to. Jamelle Horne will have big games and will be silent in others. Horne is the X-factor for this team as he provides big play potential on each possession. The development of Solomon Hill may also be the edge they need to return to Pac 10 supremacy. They have much depth at all positions this year and after a year of playing with each other in 2009, UA looks to gel a lot sooner in 2010.

My guess is that UA goes 14-4 this year with losses to UW, USC, UCLA and WSU.

How UW beats them:

Romar will most likely approach this team as he did last year: Run and Run some more. UA deployed a mix of man to man and  zone defense on us last year. Time will tell what UA has in store for us. UW’s fear of the zone is becoming less and less as they approach the Pac 10 season. With the shooters of UW and the high post presence of Justin Holiday, look for UA to stay in the zone for only half the game. UW will need to get back in transition as UA can push the ball up the floor with the best of them.

On the defensive end, Romar will need to use his half court trap to the best of his ability.  UW may look to play small to match the speed of UA. It may be smart to double team Derrick Williams in the post. MBA and Aziz will have their hands full with him all night.  Venoy Overton will play a key role in disrupting their offensive flow. Look for him to switch up and guard Jamelle Horne on the perimeter if he gets hot.

Countdown Recap:

# 3: UCLA

#4: Arizona St.
#5: USC

#6: WSU

#7: Oregon State

#8: Stanford

#9: Cal

#10: Oregon