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Arizona Wildcats at Washington Huskies: A ticket to the tourney

Time: 1 p.m. MST


Pessimists say the Pac-12 Conference deserves a single bid to the NCAA tournament. Optimists think that perhaps as many as three squads could make it should the regular season winner, runner-up and Pac-12 Tournament champs happen to be three different schools.

Reality might set the number at two. In yesterday's NCAA basketball media mock draft, it became ever more clear of such, and the Arizona Wildcats were in, then out, then back in as the last team selected to make the Big Dance.

If two is the answer, then Arizona's 1 p.m. bout with the Washington Huskies in Seattle all of a sudden is a ticket to the NCAA tournament.

With nearly identical records of 19-8 (10-4 Pac-12) for the Wildcats and 18-8 (11-3) for the Huskies, keeping up with the 21-6 (11-3) California Golden Bears is necessity.

Last time out, the Huskies stole a 69-67 victory from UA at McKale Center.

Looking back at that game, here are three things Sean Miller's team must do to beat the Huskies.

Defend the three.

Though Washington can beat Arizona inside with Aziz N'Diaye, the biggest issues for the Wildcats were on the wing and guard spots. Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten Jr. torched Arizona for 48-of-69 points, or 70 percent of the offensive production.

Perhaps the Wildcats were worried about N'Diaye down low, but running out and defending the three can't be overstated in their second meeting.

As we saw in Thursday's win at Washington State, Brock Motum's 28 points weren't enough of a problem to put the Wildcats out of the game. And considering N'Diaye is less of an offensive threat, my bet is picking that poison is the safer bet than allowing Washington's talented wings to catch fire.

Scratch it out.

Sure, Arizona's own three-point shooting and offense would benefit from a fast-paced game like it did against WSU, but not against Washington. Fatigue at this point in the season and on this complicated of a road trip could come into play -- running up and down with the athletic Huskies doesn't sound like a good idea.

For one, that magnifies Arizona's troubles in defending the paint against guards, as Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill aren't the shot-changing presence that could alter shots in the paint.

A few choice pushes will be there for Josiah Turner to find shooters like Brendon Lavender and Kyle Fogg, but if nothing's doing, Arizona should keep the game in the halfcourt, allowing their defense to make Washington work for its buckets.

A big game from Turner and Johnson

With the Huskies' guards scoring the brunt of the points, a good defense for the Wildcats would be a strong offense from its own guards.

By that, I mean Arizona needs to make Wroten, Wilcox and Ross defend. Aggressive play from Turner and backcourt mate Nick Johnson is a necessity. Fogg's offensive skills are limited to catch-and-shoot situations and he struggled to drive against the length and size of UW in the teams' first meeting.

So that puts the onus on two freshman to attack off the dribble and tire the Washington guards out a little bit, thereby indirectly affecting their offensive output thanks to tired legs.