The Arizona Wildcats haven’t fallen much this season. Their record sits at 9-2. But those two blemishes on their record both came against reputable opponents on a neutral floor.
On Saturday morning, the Wildcats have to travel to Houston, Texas to take on yet another solid opponent on a neutral floor, as they square off against the Texas A&M Aggies.
Here’s three things to watch:
BEWARE OF FOULS
Texas A&M’s best player comes off the bench. Robert Williams, the 6-9 forward who is climbing up NBA draft boards everywhere, is the Aggies’ sixth man and most terrifying competitor.
That might make it seem as if the Aggies have depth, but beyond their top six, they really don’t. Their starting five and Williams are the only ones that average more than 14 minutes per game.
And, as has been talked about ad nauseam, the Wildcats only sport seven scholarship players and have proven to be prone to depth struggles.
This game could very well come down to whichever team stays out of foul trouble. Each team’s lack of rotation could cause a ton of problems. Whichever team pushes their opponent’s rotation players to the bench the fastest should walk away the winner.
NO SIZE ADVANTAGE MEANS SHOOTING IS NEEDED
Texas A&M sports a frontline just as large as Arizona’s. The Wildcats big men may have an inch or two but A&M’s overall size is reminiscent of Gonzaga. And, you may remember, the Wildcats had a heck of a time stopping the Bulldogs inside.
A&M’s interior defense is also accustomed to bullying their opponent, headlined by Williams who is averaging 2.6 blocks per game thus far. They also don’t allow many free throws, a key cog to Arizona’s offense.
So the Wildcats may need a repeat performance of last Saturday morning when they went off for 13 three pointers against Missouri. While 13 is honestly too much to ask for, the Wildcats must knock down their wide open shots.
And there should be a fair share of opportunities. Texas A&M is 255th in the country (out of 351 teams) in opponent’s 3-point percentage. The occasional hot hands, Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons, are going to need to hit their shots. Or hope they can win a low-scoring, knock down, drag out fight.
MARKKANEN NEEDS TO STRETCH THE FLOOR
For all the reasons already mentioned above, the Wildcats are going to need Lauri Markkanen to step up after a rough week.
Scoring inside won’t be easy so the Wildcats 7-foot sharpshooter could be the difference on Saturday morning. If he’s hitting his outside shots, he can bring some Aggie big men out to the perimeter and open up the paint for his fellow giants, Dusan Ristic, Chance Comanche and Keanu Pinder. That could be the biggest key to a Wildcats win.
Markkanen’s last two games haven’t gone well, but the Wildcats were able to come away with victories. I don’t think Arizona can afford a poor performance from Markkanen in Houston and win.