Arizona basketball: AP poll drops Wildcats to No. 7, three-point differential key and ASU is no joke

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The Arizona Wildcats fell to No. 7 in the AP poll heading into a matchup against ASU, and they'll be looking to improve their three-point defense moving forward.

  • The Arizona Wildcats' loss to the Oregon Ducks wasn't seen as all that awful of a thing. Nobody expected the Wildcats to keep cruising, especially when they looked so bad in the two games prior. So falling from No. 4 to No. 7 doesn't seem so bad. In fact, most people might agree that this is where Arizona should've been for the last three or so weeks. ESPN's power rankings has Sean Miller's team at No. 8 while CBS Sports has UA at No. 6 in their power rankings. There are eight one-loss teams in the top-eight, and human nature for undefeated basketball teams reared its head when Duke and Michigan followed Arizona's lead and both lost early conference play.
  • We've chronicled Arizona's problems with three-point defense already, but it's just catching on nationally as the biggest issue for the Wildcats. ESPN's Jordan Brenner (Insider required) breaks it down, revealing that 33.5 percent of Arizona's opponent's points come by way of three-pointers, well above the 27.4 percent average. Now, this is a big concern because UA has been very good at three-point defense in the past. It only make sense that it's lagged this season because teams can get Arizona in rotation to force its bigger lineup to defend the three-pointer -- something Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley aren't accustomed to at this point. Is this a big deal? In my mind, not so much. That's because Miller knows it's a big deal -- winning the three-point differential in basketball is important in this age of analytics. He'll do what he can to figure it out. The issue is not being ignored.
  • Still on the three-point issue: Bruce Pascoe points out that the Wildcats had a great day themselves beyond the arc against the Oregon State Beavers. Arizona is shooting an impressive 38.6 percent from three-point range, best in the Pac-12. That somewhat negates the defensive inabilities. That said, the Wildcats may have fixed the three-point defense as is; Oregon State is shooting 37.7 percent on the year -- not bad at all -- but hit 5 of 15 against Arizona. Pascoe's story also has a tidbit about former Wildcat Isaiah Fox, who appeared on one TV shot during the game (he lives in Beaverton, Ore.).
  • So the Arizona State Sun Devils are up next. This isn't your old ASU team, nor the one that Arizona probably should not have lost to in the regular season finale last year. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson is a big deal, averaging 17.1 points and 5.2 assists per game. He arguably could be the best point guard in the Pac-12. I interviewed Carson for Dime Magazine two summers ago, when he was the only high school player on Team USA's U-19 team. I know, blasphemy. Point is, he's not all talk. The bigger surprise about ASU is that 1) they're actually playing not-Herb Sendek ball (maybe it's Eric Musselman ball) and 2) have key role players in Jordan Bachynski and Carrick Felix. They're also 14-3 after falling by three points to Oregon.
  • Andy Katz says it's been a long time since the Wildcats and Sun Devils had a game that deserved this type of anticipation. Jay Bilas also says this is a game to watch (subscription required), though I think the editor's mixed up Sun Devils/Wildcats at one point. Ah, the East Coast bias.
  • You remember Kevin O'Neill, correct? He was fired at USC on Monday. My personal memory of him was getting suspended in the last Pac-10 tournament ever for getting into it with a pal of Lute Olson. Good memories.
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