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Some Notes On Arizona

p>Apparently Arizona's Red-White game last night didn't
go as well as Arizona people would have liked
. Jim Rosborough, long-time
assistant coach, said that "[g]uys are maybe reading their press clippings
a little much. Everybody was sluggish in the first half.'' Eugene Edgerson
says they were
"just rusty,"
likely true in his case since he did the highly
unusual (and admirable) thing by taking a year off to do his student teaching.

To an extent, that's understandable, given the clippings. Arizona has a
truly monster team this year. Duke and the Wildcats tend to be 1-2 in most
polls, and they flip around depending on which one. We can completely understand
voting this team #1, though they do have some minor question marks.

First of all, they have Loren Woods, who is recuperating from his
Valley-fever induced back injury. He is apparently playing very well
though and pretty much recovered and is a very agile and focused shotblocker.

They wrap Richard Jefferson and likely Eugene Edgerson, who is doing his dead
level best to bring back the afro,
around him at the
forward spots, and Luke Walton, son of you-know-who, is a pretty handy player (and
you can pick him out of a crowd, too

They have a superb backcourt in Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arena, guys who
were good enough last season to drive off other players.

This is a fast, aggressive team with depth they lacked last season, and they
are capable of being a wrecking crew. Like the Celtics of old, they can force
the action in to the big man by overplaying, and either letting him alter the
shot or double (or triple) teaming the ball in the lane. Having a shotblocker
really can make a defense better because the defenders - very quick in this case
- can really gamble.

How to attack this team? Well the classic advice is to take it at the
shotblocker, and with
the new emphasis on reducing rough play,
that might work if you get Loren in
foul trouble. It's well known that he's a bit brittle, a perfectionist, and
rattling him on the court is one strategy.

And if you can get him out of there, the rest of the team isn't huge.
At 6-7, 6-6, 6-3 and 5-10, the other starters are not huge by the standards of
the sport.

Another option is what Duke fans know as the Laettner option, to take the big
man outside, as Laettner did to Shaquille O' Neal. If your big man can shoot the
3, Woods is largely negated.

And one other option is just to move so fast that he can't get in place to do
what he'd like to do. This is similar to what Florida might do, for
instance, just press and run so fast that he can't get in place and trying to
wears him out.

Whatever you do, you can't get around him, you have to deal with him
first. And to complicate things is that superb backcourt.

One place where Arizona might well be vulnerable is on the boards.
Woods is an adequate rebounder, no more, averaging 7.5 last season. Richard
Jefferson averaged 8.7. Arenas averaged 4.3, and Gardner grabbed 3.7, suggesting
perhaps a lot of long shots last season, which would make sense since Woods shut
down the inside fairly often, and Arizon led the PAC-10 with 5.7 blocks per
game. For comparison purposes, Maryland blocked 6.7 and Duke 5.6 per game
respectively. But Edgerson returns, and he is a gutty boardman.

So how to attack? Possibly the way to go after Arizona is somewhat
counterintuitive - attack their guards. For all their success last season,
Arizona averaged 15.8 assists per game, gave up 6.6 steals per game, and overall
averaged 1.50 turnovers per game, more or less negating their assists.

To compare them to a ball control team or two, Indiana averaged 16.5 assist
per game to 14.5 turnovers. Wisconsin averaged 13.3 to 11.3.

Duke averaged 17.2 to 14.1

What else? Well, maybe outside shooting. Arizona managed 45.7 from the
floor overall (no one in the conference shot above UCLA's 48%), and only 32%
from the three point line. Pitino argued that 33% from three point land is
the same as 50% from inside the line, and it's an interesting point. But
Stanford shot 40% from behind the line, Utah, shot 38.7, and Oklahoma shot

Attacking this group won't be easy. There are very legitimate reasons to
think these guys will be the national champions. But given what they have coming
back, and what might be weaknesses, we wouldn't be particularly surprised if
Stanford, which plays rugged defense and is huge, and has a 3 point freak
shooter in Casey Jacobsen (43.5%), outdueled them first. Anyone else who wants
to take them out will have to do it on defense and guts. They're going to
be extremely tough.

Aslo worth mentioning - Arizona has two sons of NBAers, Luke Walton, of
course, and Truck Robinson's kid, Mike Schwertley, who is a walk-on from Mark
Alarie's former high school.