Friday, January 25, 2008

Washington State at Arizona

Another day at the office in the Pac-10. It looks like every week seems to have at least a couple of NCAA-caliber games, even though there are only 9 games per week in the Pac-10.

Two years ago this game would have been the definition of contrasting styles, with Dick Bennett slugfesting the fest out of a slugfest, and the Arizona Moody Blues running and gunning with Olson and Rosboro turning a blind eye to a defense-optional mentality.

Fast forward to today, the teams are a lot closer in style than one would think. Both teams employ their own neo-slugfest style of play, with lots of defense, but running when having the advantage.

FSN took a "fair and balanced" approached to the basketball analysis, as they brought in both the FSN Arizona analyst (accountant Bob Elliot) and the FSN Northwest analyst (coach Bob Weiss). Just like their other fair and balanced program, it wasn't balanced, Elliot was the Hannity and Weiss was the Colmes ;-)

Arizona defended its home court and rained 3s like crazy to defeat the Washington State Cougars. Both coaches tried to create favorable matchups in the game by adjusting their rotations. O'Neill played more Zany Johnson and Kirk W and less Fendi and Armani. Washington State started Arizona "killah" Harmeling. And if Lute Olson was coaching, Harmeling would have probably scored another 31 points with 7 three-pointers and Wazoo won the game.

But unlike Lute, once Harmeling hit a couple of early shots in a row, the soft-spoken O'Neill took a time-out before even the first TV time-out and gave his team a red-in-the-face Sopranos-style "pep talk". That was effective as they managed to to shut off Harmeling's water for the game.

Arizona hit an unusual number of threes, as if the buckets Arizona was shooting at were adjusted to be wider. That more than the net 3-4 "home court" calls earlier in the game was what gave Arizona a dominant victory over Wazoo.

On the other hand, D-Low did not have his usual second half performance and was only able to score in D-Low fashion when the game was almost decided. Kyle Weaver tried to stem the tide, but the Arizona threes caused a team-wide "daggerization" effect and sealed the game.

And this is where I have my questions with Washington State. While Arizona is not a top 10 team at the moment, they played like a top 10 team last night, thanks to a strong home court, a parade of threes, Jordan Hill not getting in foul trouble, and a net of 3-4 favorable "home-court" calls - along with Kevin O'Neill defense. And guess what, Washington State behaved the same way they did when they played UCLA. And that brought back Vandy flashbacks too. Which reinforces what I thought before: they may not be able to beat a top 10 team. They'll probably get at least one more chance (UCLA at home) before the post-season.

And this is where Arron Baynes may be the key to a Wazoooo run to the Elite 8. If Baynes can become a consistent scoring threat inside, he can open up the perimeter game for someone like D-Low or Harmeling to sink a 6-pack of three pointers.

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