The Arizona Wildcats play their final home game of 2021 on Saturday when they host Cal Baptist at McKale Center.
After this game, 8th-ranked UA (10-0) will hit the road for a scheduled 4-game trip with the first three against teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. Before that happens, though, the Wildcats have to contend with a Cal Baptist squad that’s started 8-2 and features one of the top freshmen in the country.
Here’s what to watch for on Saturday at 4 p.m. MT, with the game being shown on the Pac-12 Network.
Wheel of leading scorers
Sports books tend not to offer prop bets on the individual stats of college players—you can guess why—but if they did it wouldn’t be a good idea to wager on which Arizona player would leave the team in scoring during a particular game. That’s because there are so many options.
Through 10 games, four different players have been the Wildcats’ leading scorer and all four—Bennedict Mathurin, Azuolas Tubelis, Christian Koloko and Kerr Kriisa—have done so at least twice. Mathurin is the leader, with four instances, but after being the top guy in three straight games he dipped to sixth-most against Northern Colorado with 11 points.
Koloko was the leading scorer on Wednesday, joining his career-high 22 against Michigan in Las Vegas, while Kriisa and Tubelis have been the top scorer twice apiece.
The UA has four players averaging at least 12.4 points per game, which last happened in 2003-04.
Arizona leads the nation in assists per game, at 21.9, and is third nationally in assist rate with 65.8 percent of its made field goals coming off passes. But Cal Baptist is even better, sitting 1st overall at 68.9 percent.
But there’s a huge difference in how each team distributes the ball. Or, rather, who does it.
While Kriisa is Arizona’s top assist man, averaging 5.4 per game, Dalen Terry is not far behind at 4.0 and three other Wildcats are averaging more than 2 dimes per game. Tubelis already has 29 assists, three fewer than all of last season, and against Northern Colorado had a career-high 8.
For the Lancers, the dishing is mostly being done by 6-foot-5 freshman guard Taran Armstrong, who leads the nation with 8.3 assists per game. And many of them are of the highlight-reel variety.
December 8, 2021
This is a pretty insane pass by Taran Armstrong. On the money, too. pic.twitter.com/sWY47NkYdZ— ⚡️thunder draft (@thunder_draft) December 10, 2021
Armstrong, from Australia, is getting some NBA Draft buzz thanks to having four 10-assist games (including a program-record 15 against North Dakota) and a triple-double of 16 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against San Jose State.
Arizona has scored 100 or more points in a game 103 times in its history, with three of those coming this season. The school record is eight in 1990-91, and with the Wildcats averaging a Division I-leading 91.7 per game that mark is in serious jeopardy.
Consider: the UA hasn’t topped the century mark this many times in November and December since 1993, but the third instance happened in the 11th game. Same goes for the 1990-91 team.
You have to go back the 1973-74 squad to find one that hit 100 in three games quicker than the current Wildcats unit. That Arizona team, coached by Fred Snowden and featured school career scoring average leader Coniel Norman (23.9 per game), went 17-9 and averaged 89 points.
Cal Baptist is allowing only 63.3 points per game and hasn’t allowed more than 71 this season, but Arizona has showed that so far isn’t a defense that can slow it down.
Arizona can move to 11-0 for the sixth time in school history, and first since starting 12-0 in 2014-15. Four of the previous five instances have seen the Wildcats end up winning their conference regular-season title and three times they made it to the Elite Eight or better.
For Tommy Lloyd, another win will move him up the ranks of best starts to a coaching career at a Pac-12 school. He’s already the first UA coach to win his first 10 games since JF ‘Pop’ McKale won his first 21 games (over three seasons), and his 10-0 start is the best by a first-year Pac-12 coach since Johnny Dawkins at Stanford in 2008-09.
That Stanford squad finished 20-14, going 6-12 in the Pac-12 and losing in the CBI to an Oregon State team that won that tournament with an 18-18 record.
Beat Cal Baptist and Lloyd matches Stanford’s Walter Powell, who won his first 11 games all the way back in 1920-21.