Ryan Anderson had his worst game of the year against the Trojans, but is also coming off a Pac-12 Player of the Week performance in Washington. So something has to give.
We talk about that, and one of the more confusing players on the team in this week's roundtable!
Jason Bartel: If you were explaining Parker Jackson-Cartwright to someone who had never seen him play before, how would you do that?
David Potts: Imagine the best freshman basketball player possible. Imagine him playing games against other high school freshmen and destroying them. He's small - smaller even than the high school freshmen he's playing against - but the size difference is more than made up for by his skill and confidence.
Now imagine that you dropped that high school freshman into a major conference college basketball game. The size difference is now tremendous and he can't guard anyone. He regularly gets his shot blocked when he drives to the hoop, he is hesitant to shoot against the much bigger players closing out on him, and his confidence is gone. Even the things he's good at - ball handling and distributing the ball, for example - he loses confidence in, causing him to defer to other people. And he eventually gets so discouraged that, in a crucial spot, he doesn't even try to run back on defense after a turnover. I think that's how I'd describe PJC right now.
Brandon Hill: Your typical undersized point guard, nothing more and nothing less really. A player that can be effective at times and a liability at others, particularly on the defensive end. PJC was lauded as the best prep point guard prospect out of Southern California since Baron Davis by ESPN. He certainly hasn't lived up to that hype. I think Ulis is a great analogue because of their size and skills. And Ulis' freshman campaign and PJC's current sophomore campaign are very similar in terms of production (Ulis: 5.6 points per game, 3.6 assists per game, 44% shooting in 23.8 minutes per game; Jackson-Cartwright: 5.0 ppg, 3.6 apg, 38% shooting, 21.5 mpg). Ulis has made an enormous jump this year. Time will tell if PJC can see similar improvement in his game. I don't think he'll ever be much of a shooter but he has shown he can be a good floor general... if he can be consistent.
Ryan Kelapire: A fundamentally sound and smart point guard, but also incredibly undersized. Not only does that hinder him on the offensive end, making it tougher to finish through traffic or shoot over a defender, but it limits him significantly on the defensive end as well. "Normal-sized" guards have success creating their shot against him. But despite of his limitations, Parker Jackson-Cartwright is still a useful player. Sure, he won't light it up on either end, but he (usually) won't kill you on either end either, and he's also been Arizona's best distributor in Pac-12 play.
Ivan Leonard: Someone who can be tremendous in small stints like he showed last year, but can be a liability during long stretches. He can be highly effective in transition but somewhat meh in the halfcourt game. I agree with what Brandon said in that he is your typical undersized speedy guard for better or for worse.
JB: Ryan Anderson's worst game this year came against USC. How do you think he'll do this time around?
DP: Much, much better. To harp on a point I make a lot: it's much easier to win games at home than it is to win on the road. Anderson has been on a tear lately, and I expect he'll put on a much stronger performance against the Trojans than he did the first go-round.
BH: I agree, I expect a much better performance. Following the USC loss, which coincided with Allonzo Trier's injury, Anderson really stepped up and re-established himself as Arizona's alpha. The game immediately following that career-worst performance at USC (vs. Washington), Anderson went for 21 and 9 on 7-10 shooting and has been on a roll ever since. I expect a strong double-double almost certainly.
RK: That game was just one of two games that Anderson failed to score in double-figures this season, so odds are he'll play much better this time. Not to mention that he's playing the best basketball of his season -- and probably of his career -- right now. Having a raucous McKale Center crowd behind him certainly won't hurt either.
IL: The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week should be able to keep the momentum going against one of the few teams he has struggled with this year. If Arizona wants to win, it starts with Anderson, and he puts up a lovely double-double on Valentine's Day to beat the Trojans.
JB: Will Arizona continue to gain momentum and sweep this weekend?
DP: Probably. Arizona barely lost to these two teams on the road, so I'm confident that the Wildcats will be able to win both games down in Tucson and move a little closer to Oregon in the Pac-12 standings.
BH: I will continue to approach each game with a level of caution and these games are no exception, especially with the home winning streak currently at one. But to David's point, both games in L.A. were toss ups and given how much better the Cats play at home I agree a sweep is probable (but far from a certainty). That said, it would be great to see Arizona play with a significant chip on its shoulder and avenge those losses. Cal is the only other team they've lost to that they will play again for sure. Perhaps most importantly, the USC game in particular presents Arizona's best opportunity to get a quality win on their NCAA Tournament resume, albeit at home, depending on how the Pac-12 tournament shakes out. The Cats' best win right now is Oregon State (RPI 33) or Gonzaga (BPI 31), respectively (USC is currently top 20 in both RPI and BPI).
RK: Yes. I think the Wildcats will beat UCLA rather handily, but I expect the USC game to go down to the wire. The Trojans are particularly dangerous because they are a solid offensive team, and their style allows them to capitalize on turnovers, and we know taking care of the ball has been an issue for Arizona all season. That said, I realize the home-winning streak is over, but it's still incredibly difficult for opponents to go into McKale Center and come away with a victory. And I don't expect either of the L.A. schools to do so.
IL: Yes they will because in order to lose both those games so many things had to go against them. Bryce Alford is a career 39% shooter but he scored 25 on 50% shooting, while I still think Arizona beats USC if Trier does not get hurt. USC won fair and square but Trier likely hits both free-throws and more shots down the stretch if his hand was fine.