For the second week in a row, the Arizona Wildcats can include their mid-week game as a means of preparation for a big Saturday showdown. The Wildcats finally got hot in the second half to roll Gardner-Webb last week before edging past No. 9 Gonzaga, and Tuesday they hope a matchup against Utah Valley likewise produces some learning lessons to take on Michigan over the weekend.
Utah Valley visits McKale Center on a three-game losing streak. The Wolverines have lost to UC-Davis, Sacramento State and Montana State, and they also have a loss to Eastern Washington.
Arizona will have a significant advantage in the size department. Kaleb Tarczewski will face a unique challenge of chasing around Zach Nelson, a 6'7 big man listed as a center. Nelson leads the team in rebounding (6.6 rebounds per game) but also leads the team as a three-point shooter who hits 39 percent of his treys. The Wildcats won't have to worry about much else on the perimeter considering no other rotation player for the Wolverines shoots better than 33 percent from deep (though the same could've been said about Gardner-Webb before point guard Tyler Strange drilled five triples against the Wildcats).
Utah Valley runs out several wings alongside Nelson. 6'5 swingman Mitch Bruneel leads UVU with 12.6 points per game, and guard Marcel Davis and Nelson average just less than 10 points per game each.
Into the numbers
The Wolverines could be in a bind considering they don't score well from the perimeter or at the rim. They shoot just 56.6 percent at the rim, 34 percent on two-point jumpers and 30 percent from three, according to Hoop-Math.com.
Nelson is by far the most efficient player on the team, while Bruneel comes in a close second. Bruneel excels in the midrange, where he shoots 56 percent on two-point jumpers. Expect heavy doses of Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on him, but after that, it could be quite tough for the Wolverines to score.
Matchup to watch
Tarczewski may not be comfortable hanging with Nelson, and Brandon Ashley might see extended minutes on the floor-spacing big man. How Sean Miller decides to use his rotation will be interesting because of how small the Wolverines are: does Arizona attempt to outmuscle them with size or do they match up and go small?
What Arizona can learn
The halfcourt offense for Arizona has been up and down. The Wildcats haven't gotten into transition often this year, but from a pure athleticism standpoint could do so against Utah Valley.
That said, Miller would probably like to see how his team runs its halfcourt offense. T.J. McConnell had a rocky game against the Zags before hitting big shots late, and he needs to be more aggressive to set up himself or teammates. Arguably, the Wildcats looked just as or more functional when Gabe York or Parker Jackson-Cartwright were running the offense in brief spurts against Gonzaga.
7 p.m. MST