The Arizona Wildcats' body clocks will think it's 10 a.m., and it'll be snowing and 25 degrees outside when they tip against the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Then they'll remember -- these are the reasons why they chose to attend Arizona.
But seriously, the Wildcats' early tip in the Michigan cold is just as threatening as the distractions of New York City.
A fast start has also been a problem for John Beilein's Wolverines, but there's decent-enough motivation with what should be a stellar crowd and an opponent with a No. 1 target on its back.
The Wildcats have been through a bit so far. A comeback against Drexel and steady looking performances at San Diego State and against Duke were proof enough. They'll have another chance to build up what's already a pretty strong nonconference resume against the 2013 NCAA national runner-up.
Michigan comes into Saturday with a 6-3 record, but only one of those losses could be considered any sort of bad. The Wolverines lost to a winning Charlotte 49ers team but also fell to No. 17-ranked Iowa State and No. 8 Duke.
The bad news for Sean Miller's crew is that it doesn't match up all that well with sophomore Nik Stauskas, a 6-foot-6 guard who has the passing skills of a point and one of the most deadly shots in the NCAA. Stauskas has burst onto the scene this season and leads Michigan by averaging 18.9 points per game and 3.3 assists per game. He's a 50 percent three-point shooter, which is impressive until you realize he launches six threes per game -- then it becomes sensational.
Which Wildcat gets the matchup will be interesting.
Beilein has run out a small lineup with Stauskas essentially acting as the small forward, but it's Nick Johnson who might get the assignment while giving up a good four inches to the shooter. It's become clear Miller won't alter his starting lineup, and if Michigan does the same, Aaron Gordon would be forced to chase either Stauskas or fellow 6-foot-6 guard Caris LeVert around the perimeter. And that's a tad cringe-worthy.
Expect more Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, for defensive matchups if nothing else.
LeVert is UM's second-leading scorer at 13.9 points per game and is also a fine three-point shooter, hitting 37.5 percent on the year. Freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr. can also knock down triples (38.7 percent) as can reserve Zak Irvin. Arizona will be busy chasing the Wolverines off the three-point line.
Will the frontcourt get going?
Mitch McGary came on for the Wolverines as a freshman during last year's tournament, but he's been hampered by a back injury and is still working his way back into a rhythm. McGary did some damage against the small frontline of the Blue Devils earlier this year in a 10-point loss, putting in 15 points and 14 rebounds. Still, it'll be quite intriguing to see if he can score against Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley
Arizona is allowing opponents to shoot 36 percent overall this season, a fantastic figure. More impressively, let's turn to some stats courtesy of Synergy Sports via College Chalk Talk.
According to Synergy Sports, Arizona has allowed only 36 points on 64 possessions from 17-feet and in; equating to .56 points-per-possession, which is excellent!
More impressive is the Wildcats' ability to defend post play. On 49 possessions, teams have scored a meager 32 points, which gives way to .65 points-per-possessions.
In other words, 32.7 percent of opponents' scoring comes from 7-feet and in.
Beilein went on the radio earlier this week and said he'd like to get McGary more involved in the paint, but that seems like a tall task against the Wildcats.
McGary's wingman in the UM starting lineup has been small forward Glenn Robinson III, the talented sophomore who is averaging 12.2 points per game but has been inconsistent in the last four games. He failed to score in double-figures in the losses to Charlotte and Duke. ESPN's trio of Andy Katz, Myron Mecalf and C.L. Brown don't see the frontline getting going against Arizona, giving it a "No," a "doubtful" and a "on paper maybe ..."
10 a.m. MST