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Get to know the Paradise Jam opponents for Arizona women’s basketball

What to expect and how to watch as the Wildcats take the court three times in three days

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 19 Women’s - Marist at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One benefit of holiday tournaments is getting used to a tournament environment. Preparing for multiple non-conference opponents over a short period of time can help later in the season. Arizona women’s basketball will get plenty of opportunity for that as it faces Vanderbilt, DePaul, and Rutgers over the next three days.

“It prepares us for the Pac-12 tournament and for the NCAA tournament,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “It also is good because we’re playing completely different types of teams. Vanderbilt has a new coach, a friend of mine who’s a good coach. Then we can play against a super-aggressive defensive style just like ours with Rutgers, and then DePaul’s a three-point shooting, high octane offense. So those are three teams that are really different and good preparation for us going into the Pac-12.”

What exactly does Arizona face beginning on Thursday?


Vanderbilt Commodores (3-2, 0-0 SEC)

The storylines for the Vanderbilt game start with Arizona transfer Koi Love. The Commodores canceled their season after just eight games last year, so few on their roster have played a full season in two years. Multiple changes since then mean that Love won’t be facing the exact program that she left.

In the offseason, Vanderbilt hired former Connecticut assistant Shea Ralph as head coach. It’s a rebuilding project for Ralph, much as it was for Barnes when she took over at Arizona. Ralph just doesn’t have as much time to get her program back on track before facing daunting competition.

The Commodores have gone 3-2 against an unchallenging schedule. They already have losses to Arkansas Little Rock and Middle Tennessee State. It’s an understatement to say that this game will be a huge jump in the competition level for the team. Taking on the No. 9 team in the country in just their sixth game might not be what a rebuilding program hoped for in the first season under a new head coach.

Her Hoop Stats gives Arizona a better than 94 percent chance to win even if this game was held in Nashville. On a neutral court, that number jumps to 96.7 percent.

The reasons are simple. Arizona has the eleventh-ranked offensive rating and is No. 4 in defensive rating in the country in the early going. Vanderbilt stands at No. 137 scoring the ball and No. 150 defending.

The Wildcats average 79.8 points per game while holding their opponents to 44.3 ppg. The Commodores are scoring 61.4 ppg while giving up 57.2 against a slate of mid-major teams.

Vanderbilt is led by senior guard Brinae Alexander who averages 13 points and 4.6 rebounds. At 5-foot-10, Alexander brings some size to the position, but her success is mostly inside. She is shooting 42.1 percent from the field but is not much of a threat outside the arc with just a 20 percent success rate out there.

When and where: Thursday, Nov. 25 at 1:15 p.m. MST in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

TV/streaming: ESPN3

Radio: 1400 AM (KTUC) with Brody Dryden

Stats: The tournament is providing live stats via Sidearm Stats


DePaul Blue Demons (3-1, 0-0 Big East)

The Wildcats and Blue Demons have one common opponent so far this season. DePaul opened its season against the Texas Southern team that Arizona defeated 93-38 on the day it raised its Final Four banner. The Blue Demons also won but gave up 71 points to that same team in a 114-71 victory.

Does it mean anything? Although transitive properties aren’t terribly reliable in sports, it is an indication of the general tendencies of the two teams. In short, Arizona has been much stronger on the defensive end than DePaul has.

DePaul’s only loss came when the team ventured away from Chicago. They were dominated in a 95-75 defeat at the hands of No. 23 Texas A&M in College Station. They rebounded in their next contest, defeating Northwestern 78-75 back home in Wintrust Arena.

The Blue Demons are still receiving votes in the AP poll, so from the outside looking in, they will be the toughest competition of the week for the Wildcats.

They are definitely an offensive power that will require Arizona to guard everyone on the floor. All five DePaul starters average double figures in scoring. Aneesha Morrow leads the team with 17.3 ppg. Just behind her are Deja Church and Sonya Morris at 16.3 ppg. Lexi Held scores 13.5 ppg, and Darrione Rogers is accounting for 10.8 ppg.

Where the Blue Demons have problems is keeping their opponents from scoring. On defense, they have allowed their opponents to score 73.5 ppg. It will be strength against strength with the Wildcats holding opponents to just 44.3 ppg while scoring 79.8.

According to Her Hoop Stats, the result should be an Arizona victory. The stats service gives the Wildcats an 87.2 percent win probability on a neutral court.

When and where: Friday, Nov. 26 at 1:15 p.m. MST in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

TV/streaming: ESPN3

Radio: 1400 AM (KTUC) with Brody Dryden

Stats: The tournament is providing live stats via Sidearm Stats


Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

The Wildcats will face a different kind of team but a similar level of competition on Saturday when they go up against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are playing this season without legendary head coach C. Vivian Stringer, but they are still finding success on the court.

The 73-year-old coach has not been with the program since April and took a leave of absence until the end of the season due to her concerns about COVID-19. Associate head coach Tim Eatman has been leading the Scarlet Knights since that time.

According to Her Hoop Stats, the Wildcats only have an 85.2 percent chance of winning this game on a neutral court.

The Scarlet Knights will have an even bigger step up in competition, as they will be facing their first major-conference opponent this season. Even some of their wins have been close, with Rutgers sneaking out a 48-42 win over Fairfield and a 68-65 win over Harvard. The team has yet to leave the friendly confines of Piscataway, NJ this season.

The team’s lone loss comes to a Stony Brook program that Arizona dominated in the opening round of last year’s NCAA Tournament. The 6-0 Seawolves went into Rutgers and walked out with a 53-44 victory.

Like Arizona, Rutgers rates higher on the defensive end of the court than the offensive. They have the No. 28 defensive rating and No. 74 offensive rating according to Her Hoop Stats. Both numbers are significantly lower than Arizona’s No. 4 defensive and No. 11 offensive ratings, though.

The Scarlet Knights are winning games, but at a much smaller points margin than the Wildcats despite not facing a ranked team yet. Rutgers has an eight-point margin this season compared to Arizona’s 35.5 points margin per game.

When and where: Saturday, Nov. 27 at 1:15 p.m. MST in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

TV/streaming: ESPN3

Radio: 1400 AM (KTUC) with Brody Dryden

Stats: The tournament is providing live stats via Sidearm Stats


How to follow along with us

Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm or on our Facebook page for regular coverage during the week. For live tweets during games and other coverage, follow our deputy editor on Twitter @KimDoss71.

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