It was the Wildcats' first game against a tournament-type opponent, and it gave us some insight about what type of team they are.
The defense is a major work in progress
It's weird to say this, but Arizona's offense is far ahead of its defense. In the first half, the Wildcats scored 44 points, yet found themselves up by just two heading into halftime. Boise State was able to shoot 48.5% from the field and 6-13 from behind the arc. One reason for it is that Boise State's center, Nate Duncan, was able to stretch the floor and force Arizona's big men to cover him all the way out the three-point line. Not only did it make Arizona's front court do something that they're uncomfortable doing, it created wide open driving lanes for Duncan's teammates, as well. It also gave me horrible flashbacks of Frank Kaminsky too.
Duncan finished with 21 points and made five threes, and the Broncos as a whole shot 43% in the game. They were knocking down perimeter shots, and used the space that Duncan created to carve up Arizona's interior defense. James Webb III, who Sean Miller called "an NBA-type player", had 27 points of his own.
It's the first time in a while (excluding the Wisconsin games), that I can remember a team having so much offensive success against the 'Cats. Perhaps the defensive struggles were because of a matchup problem that Boise State presented, but Miller says the defense simply needs work.
"Our defense isn't as good as it's been," he said. "From where we are as a defensive team, we have to grow and get better. We don't want to be in these shootouts. That's going to be win two, lose one, win three, lose two."
That said, Miller is confident the team will turn it around on that end, but they need some time to gel.
"We have the makings of a better defensive team," he said. "You have to realize how many new faces are out there, new rules that they're in. We'll learn a lot from tonight's game and we'll be better."
The team's strength is its depth
Sean Miller used nine different players in this game, and all of them did something to help the team win, he mentioned after the game. Each player scored at least three points, and Miller believes the team's depth is its biggest strength.
"The strength of our team is our depth and versatility," he said. "There's not a big drop off between our second and third best player -- whoever that is -- and our ninth."
"I think we have ten guys who could play anywhere," Gabe York added. "That’s a great thing about this team. If one guy gets in foul trouble, it’s next guy up and there’s no drop off."
It was certainly true in this game. Kadeem Allen didn't have a great performance, but Parker Jackson-Cartwright was phenomenal. Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski struggled, but Dusan Ristic added eight points and five rebounds in just nine minutes. Allonzo Trier had 13 points off the bench. Not many teams in the country can have three of their starters have off nights, yet still come away with a win against a very good team as Arizona did tonight.
Miller obviously loves having so many players and lineup combinations to choose from, but at the same time, he has to make sure that it doesn't prevent the team from getting into a rhythm.
"The negative is, there's a lot going on with that. There's guys [constantly] coming in and out of the game," he said.
This team loves to shoot the ball, but perhaps too much?
The Wildcats attempted 15 three-pointers in the first half alone, and 21 in total. They made 10 of them, which makes for a spectacular 47.6%, but Miller felt the team fell too in love with the three ball.
"We shot way too many threes in the first half," he said. "When you play a team like Boise [State], you can sometimes get caught up in their game, and we did."
Like anything else, Miller stressed that it's a learning process.
"That's the inexperience. We took -- not ill-advised -- but we took three or four in the first half that you say 'come on, we can get that shot anytime.'
"You don't want to be a victim of taking bad shots, because it's almost like a turnover," he added.
While Miller wasn't a fan of all the jumpers, I personally didn't mind it, especially given the quality of shooters Arizona has. And I didn't feel as though they were chucking up unnecessary shots. Most seemed to be good, clean looks. Plus, with the team starting as hot as they did, I was fine with them trying to ride the hot hand. Now, if they were taking contested, off-the-dribble threes, I would've had an issue with it.
That's just my opinion, and as it stands, the team has taken 55 three-pointers in three games -- which is an average of about 18 per game. They've made 21 of them (38.1%). That's a solid percentage, but should they still cut back on how many they take?