After defeating the fifth-seeded Colorado Buffaloes in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon, the fourth-seeded Arizona Wildcats will square off against the top-seeded Oregon Ducks in the semifinals on Friday night in Las Vegas.
A win would put Arizona into the Pac-12 Tournament championship game for the second-straight year, and it'd serve as redemption after Oregon snapped Arizona's vaunted 49-game home winning streak earlier in the season. Not to mention that it could help improve its seeding heading into the NCAA Tournament.
But that will be easier said than done as the Ducks represent a challenging matchup for the Wildcats. Here's who and what to watch for plus viewing info:
Who to watch
The Ducks aren't the deepest team in the conference, as head coach Dana Altman usually employs a seven or eight-man rotation, but they sure are talented.
Their best player is Dillon Brooks, who averages over 16 points and five rebounds per game and was named to the Pac-12 All-Conference first team. He's not a great 3-pointer shooter, as he's shooting around 31 percent from that range, but he's a dangerous slasher with a lethal mid-range game. How lethal? Take a look for yourself.
Similar to Allonzo Trier, he uses his size and ball handling ability to get to his spots on the floor. And against Arizona earlier in the year, Brooks torched the Wildcats, scoring 24 points on 10-19 shooting. He's one of those players that makes you wish that Arizona still had a defender like Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, or Stanley Johnson at its disposal to throw at him.
Another important player to keep an eye on is Chris Boucher, Oregon's French-Canadian center. Oregon plays small ball, using one big man and four guards/smaller forwards, and Boucher is an ideal fit for the system. He uses his length and athleticism to protect the paint, averaging over three blocks per game, and is also tough to handle on the glass. And offensively, he's a matchup nightmare. He can finish in the pick-and-roll, on offensive rebounds, and, most importantly, can shoot. Boucher has shot over 90 3-pointers this season, and is shooting a respectable 34.1 percent from behind the arc. His ability to stretch the floor allows Oregon to have five players on the court at all times that can shoot from perimeter without compromising its interior defense.
And that's not it. The Ducks have two other players that average double-figures in scoring -- former Arizona commit Tyler Dorsey and Elgin Cook. Plus they have two other shooters in Casey Benson and Dwayne Benjamin (you know, the guy that Bill Walton refers to as "Snoop Dogg").
Basically, this isn't Joe Young's Oregon Ducks team where if you slowed him down the wheels would fall off. This is a balanced team that will require a team effort to defend.
What to watch
This is a game of contrasting styles. Oregon is going to play small and look to space the floor, while Arizona will try to take advantage of its massive front court of Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski. Obviously the differences can lead to problems for both teams. For Arizona, it's likely going to have a difficult time keeping Oregon off the 3-point line, especially since we know that Arizona's bigs aren't eager to have to close out on 3-point shooting big men like Boucher and Cook. And it could force someone like Chance Comanche, a big man that's more mobile, to play more than usual, while Dusan Ristic, who isn't laterally-gifted, might very well be unplayable. If the Wildcats focus too much on running Oregon off the perimeter, then the Ducks can use their quickness advantage to slice up Arizona's interior defense.
At the same time, however, if Arizona is committed to playing big, it should have a major advantage on both the offensive and defensive glass, and in the paint in general. Boucher might be able to nullify Tarczewski, but the Ducks don't have anyone that can match up with Ryan Anderson, as evidenced by Anderson's 22 and 10 game against Oregon the last time these two teams matched up. He'll again get more than his fair share of rebounds and I'm sure he'll be fed the ball in the post repeatedly since he'll be matched up with Cook, a 6-foot-6 forward.
It will be interesting to see if Arizona is committed to playing big, though. Gabe York admitted after the team's win against Colorado that it might not be possible to keep Zeus and Anderson on the floor together against Oregon. The Wildcats could elect to use Mark Tollefsen or Comanche at the four to give them more mobility on the perimeter, but frankly, I think that'd be a mistake. Oregon has perfected its small-ball approach, hence it winning the conference, while that's not Arizona's forte. Arizona's best asset is its size. Sure, it might be hard for Arizona's bigs to guard on the perimeter as they'll be forced to do, but, it'll also be difficult for Oregon to defend Anderson and Tarczewski in the paint.
And that's the beauty of this matchup. It's two teams with different philosophies, and while Oregon won the only game between the schools this season, it was tight game all the way through, and it easily could've gone both ways. And perhaps the end result will be different this time.
Time: 7:00 PM MST
TV: Pac-12 Network
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