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Arizona to face SMU in Battle 4 Atlantis consolation bracket

The Mustangs lost to Northern Iowa on Wednesday

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-North Carolina State vs Arizona Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Just as expected, the second-ranked Arizona Wildcats will face the SMU Mustangs in their second game of Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.

Not as expected: they will do so in the consolation bracket. Arizona (3-1) was upset 90-84 by NC State in its opening game Thursday, while SMU fell 61-58 to Northern Iowa.

Both teams will look to bounce back Thursday.


How to watch

Game time: 7:30 p.m. MST

TV (sorta): ESPN3

Live stream: Watch ESPN


A look at SMU

The Mustangs are 4-1 this season with wins over UMBC, Louisiana Monroe, Northwestern State, and Arkansas Pine Bluff.

SMU has the No. 33 offense and No. 30 defense in the country per KenPom.com, placing them as the No. 29 team in the country.

The Mustangs are led by Shake Milton, a 6-foot-6 junior who is averaging over 19.8 points per game this season with a shooting line of .397/.390/.926.

Milton was named the American Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year and is a member of several preseason watch lists including the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Watch List, Lute Olson National Player of the Year Watch List, Wooden Award Preseason Top 50, and Naismith Trophy Watch List.

Like NC State, SMU is a small team with its tallest rotation player being Ethan Chargois, a 6-foot-9 center who is 6-15 from 3 this season.

The Mustangs presumably do have positional flexibility though as they have several players who stand between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7.

Arizona started Dylan Smith on Wednesday to combat NC State’s size, but that didn’t really work for the Wildcats, so it will be interesting to see what starting lineup Sean Miller goes with Thursday.

The Mustangs play at one of the slowest paces in the country — 345th of 351 in adjusted tempo — and don’t have a ton of glaring weaknesses.

Perhaps their biggest room for improvement is on the defensive glass as they rank 187th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. Northern Iowa outrebounded SMU, 37-27.

SMU shoots the 3 well, making 39.7 percent of its attempts, and takes a high percentage of them, as nearly 40 percent of its points come from behind the arc. For reference, only 24.5 percent of Arizona’s points are scored via the 3-point line.

In all, this should be another good test for Arizona’s defense which didn’t fare well in its loss to NC State.

Arizona’s offense should be challenged too, especially if it can’t hit shots from the perimeter. SMU has shown a penchant for blocking shots this season, posting a 17.0 block percentage, a mark that ranks 26th in the country.

Jarrey Foster, a 6-foot-6 forward, has nine blocks in five games and is also SMU’s second-leading scorer, averaging 15.4 points per game with a shooting line of .508/.350/.588.

SMU also forces turnovers at a pretty high rate, and opponents are only shooting .358/.292/.633 against the Mustangs this season, though Northern Iowa did have a bit more success, shooting .479/.364/.636.

SMU went 30-5 last season and won the AAC before losing 66-65 to USC in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. KenPom rated the Mustangs as the No. 11 team at season’s end, but they lost several key contributors from that squad.

KenPom gives Arizona a 65 percent chance of beating SMU on Thursday, predicting a final score of 73-69.

That Arizona has already lost one game in the Bahamas is surprising, and losing a second would be downright shocking.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire