Elite 8 Match-Up Analysis: Arizona v. UConn

Posted on March 25, 2011 by


At the beginning of this season, hopes were not too high. Arizona fans were hopeful just to get back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time missing it in a quarter century. March was an awkward month for Wildcat fans just a year ago. However, in a miraculous defibrillation of the Arizona program, Coach Sean Miller has not only restored the Arizona Wildcats basketball program, but he has revived it to elite status, literally “Elite Eight,” in just his second year.

The ‘Cats are not through yet. After yesterday, 120 (three forty minute games) minutes of basketball stands between them and a, hold up, NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP! It takes longer to do laundry, cook chili, or even watch a movie. The fact that we, as Arizona fans, are able to make that statement just two years removed from an elite program left in shambles is nothing short of absolutely unbelievable. Sean Miller deserves National Coach of the Year for his tremendous work and is now, undeniably, mentioned in the same breath as the best in the business. The future looks bright for the program in the long-term. Let’s look at our next challenge, UConn.

The University of Connecticut Huskies play in the big bad Big East Conference often thought of as the best conference in the nation. However, the 14 team conference had 11 teams enter the tournament only to have 3 advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Many have rejected this turn of events as making any statement of having any impact on the quality in the conference. I beg the differ. The fact that the so-called best conference in the country berthed 11 teams into the tournament and failed to have even half emerge through the 2 round makes an incontrovertible statement about the overrated quality of teams in the Big East. It necessarily means that, for if they were as good as they were said to have been, they would have proceeded on, at least half of the teams, but no. Thus, this is a plus in the Arizona corner for the game.

Leading Scorer and Player to Watch: Kemba Walker @ 23.5 PPG and 4.3 APG

Walker is a walking killer on the court. He is shifty, fast and strong to finish around the basket. He has a solid outside shot and high basketball IQ. He is a contender for National Player of the Year and just happens to be best friends with Arizona’s point guard, Momo Jones.

I actually love this match-up. For any other team, they should be worried with matching up against Kemba, but given that Momo knows him so well, I am sure he knows his style, knows his moves, and knows how to guard him better than anyone in the entire country. Kemba will undeniably get his points, that will happen, but to limit him is a possibility and Momo is just the guy to do it.

X-Factor: Jeremy Lamb (6-5; Guard)

Lamb has been a serious scoring option for the Huskies since the Big East Tournament and even threw up 24 points against San Diego State. With Kyle Fogg being back to just about his regular form, I see him limiting Lamb quite a bit.

Wrap Up:

With the East Coast bias in sports and erroneous notions many hold on the weakness of west coast teams, I think this plays into Arizona’s favor. We are strong and physical. As Miller says, “Nastiness; It’s required.” And, we have it in good supply. Look for Derrick Williams to have a field day in the post, as UConn seriously has no one to contend with him. If Duke didn’t have an answer with both Plumlees and Kelly, UConn has nothing on DWill. Their defensive strategies on him will be interesting to see. Like many have said, it is crucial that the Wildcats’ supporting cast show up for both halves of this one. 25 first-half point by DWill is not something the Wildcats can rely on twice in a row. I see Solomon Hill really stepping up and taking advantage of a UConn team that might send some double-teams Williams’ way. Hill has the ability, size, and poise to have a career game.

Game Plan:

Limit Kemba and force the rest of the team to beat us. They don’t have the muscle in the post to effectively eliminate Derrick Williams and with his determination on not only competing, but completing the season, i.e. National Championship, I would not want to be the guy guarding him in the post tomorrow.