In the biggest test yet of this young season, Arizona faces a talented and tough San Diego State team looking for vengeance after losing to the Wildcats three times in the past two seasons, including last year in the Sweet Sixteen. Facing a defensive minded team ranked 15th in the country, the Cats will have to have a better start than their past few games to win what should be a low-scoring, intense affair.
What To Watch For
Bad Blood: Here is a great stat: In non-conference games since the beginning of the 2012-2013 season San Diego State is 31-2 against teams not named Arizona but is 0-3 against the Wildcats. Expect a lot of highlights of past Wildcat-induced Aztec heart-break and certainly expect some good shots of Nick Johnson celebrating.
Announcers worrying about San Diego State having tired legs: This is of course, because the Aztecs are playing their third game in three days including a 2OT game against BYU to open the tournament. This is of course, a stupid thing to worry about. Something tells me the 18-22 year old world-class athletes who are currently at the very beginning of the season will be all right getting through this one. Don't expect fatigue to be a deciding factor of this game, but do expect one team being able to overcome the other teams excellent defense to play a major role in the outcome of this game.
Battle of the Big Men: SDSU blocked 10 shots in the semifinals against Pitt and blocked 9 in their opener against BYU. Of course, none of those teams have anywhere near the size and athletic ability of Arizona's front court, so it will be interesting to see if those gaudy blocked shot numbers continue for San Diego State or if Arizona's size will overpower the interior defense of SDSU.
The Rise of The Shooter: Gabe York, Stanley Johnson and T.J. McConnell all hit 3's in the same game for only the second time this season against Kansas State. This is going to be a continuous theme all year but if our guards and wings can make teams pay for packing the paint, it makes this Arizona team very, very difficult to beat.
Stray Observations and Random Musings
The official ZonaZoo Twitter account has been using #Meowii during this tournament and I can't lie... I love it.
How is Arizona so good at scoring off of inbounds plays? I have never seen a team score so often and so easily when inbounding the ball from the baseline. My theory is that Sean Miller is one of the rare coaches that designs plays with the intent to let the full play develop and he will allow his team to use the full 4.99 seconds if need be. This has led to a bevy of easy points in the paint as I believe Miller is the best in the nation at drawing up these plays.
I know everyone says this every year about a whole bunch of different players in college basketball but there is no way Thomas Gipson on Kansas State is 21 years old. I think him and Greg Oden fought together in Vietnam.
I love when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Parker Jackson-Cartwright are on the floor together because they both bring such great energy at all times. I think the entire team should be required to hyphenate their names, Kaleb Wyand-Tarczewski has a nice ring to it. And yes that is his mother's actual last name. And yes, the internet is very creepy when it comes to how easy it is to find information.
8 PM Mountain