Arizona's defensive versatility is a good reason why it ranks 11th in opponent field goal percentage, and its length has something to do with that as well. The latter won't be the same advantage it usually is on Wednesday when the Wildcats host the New Mexico State Aggies.
Speed might be, however.
That's because the Aggies make Arizona's NBA-sized frontcourt look small. Though NMSU runs outs a three-guard lineup much of the time, it's the two bigs that get all the attention. 7-foot-5, 360 pound center Sim Bhullar and 6-foot-10, 268 pound Tshilidzi Nephawe will be physical test for Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon.
The Aggies are off to a 7-4 start to the season but have lost three straight to more-than-legitimate opponents. They fell by single-digits to Colorado State and New Mexico, then lost to the No. 19 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 80-68, in their last game.
NMSU has done an excellent job forgoing the traditional recruiting tactics. Instead of fighting the big boys around Division I, coach Marvin Menzies has gone international in his efforts. Four players are from Toronto, and three others are from other continents.
The two most important are junior Daniel Mullings and Bhullar, both Canadians. Mullings, a 6-foot-2 guard, is one of the most-utilized players in the country. He's top-20 in minutes played, top-10 in two-point field goals attempted and made, and one of the most frequent performers at the free throw line. Getting to the fouls stripe 7.1 times per game, Mullings scores 17.6 points per game but also is a decent-enough passer, averaging 3.5 assists per game. He'll have the ball in his hands much of the time.
Mullings isn't a great three-point shooter -- teammates D.K. Eldridge and K.C. Ross-Miller are -- and Arizona's size combined with Nick Johnson's hounding could be enough to neutralize him to a degree.
What about those bigs, though?
Bhullar is averaging 3.5 blocks per game and is one of the most accurate two-point shooters in the country for obvious reasons. The combination of his length and that of Nephawe will make Sean Miller's team work for their buckets, but it doesn't necessarily mean Arizona will need to settle for jumpers.
Gonzaga only took 10 three-pointers against NMSU on Sunday. Bulldogs center Sam Dower, who stands 6-foot-9 and 255 pounds, didn't seem too bothered by the bigs and went 10-for-18 from the floor. The Zags shot 48 percent from the floor, and their speed more than made up for the towering New Mexico State big men.
And considering neither Bhullar nor Nephawe play more than 25 minutes per game, the Wildcats' ball movement and tempo will be key. The rebounding advantage should also go Arizona's way. NMSU has struggled to control the glass of late, and it's no doubt due to speed outplaying size.
Of course, not many problems can't be overcome by Arizona's versatility, size and athleticism. But there could still be a lingering hangover that the Wildcats suffered from in the UNLV game. Like Miller told Sporting News this week, he doesn't want the Wildcats becoming worried about getting teams' best shots.
"We're not walking around saying, ‘God, we're going to get everybody's best shot,' or, ‘It doesn't mean anything," Miller said. Instead, Arizona will walk onto the court proud at having positioned itself to be recognized.
7 p.m. MST