Analysis: Bahama breeze sweeps Arizona's mojo
The Arizona men’s basketball team traveled to Paradise Islands, Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, and it might’ve well been lost in the Bermuda Triangle. The Wildcats looked nothing like the part of a No. 2 ranked team, in fact, it was the lone team to leave the Bahamas without a win.
The last leg in the trio of games possibly being the worst, an 89-64 thumping by the No. 18 Purdue Boilermakers.
Is it cause for concern or a bump in the road?
One might caution the former.
One game is understandable through the course of a season, two can even happen from time to time, but three in three days? Well, the last—and only— time that a team ranked No. 2 lost three times in a week was the ’87-’88 Louisville Cardinals according to ESPN. To make matters worse, outside of effort, nothing appeared to get better day-to-day, in fact, things only got worse. Let’s break it all down piece by piece.
The offense was as lost as I’ve ever seen an Arizona team. Movement with no purpose, meaning no one was cutting expecting to have the opportunity to score or set someone else up to. Players didn’t seem to understand that each action causes another and though they, themselves, may not receive the pass it may set someone else up for an easier opportunity.
Screening was also another problem during the weekend. Players were seemingly putting themselves in position to screen for a ball handler, but either bail at the last second or the person they screened for wouldn’t come off the screen hard enough to make it effective. It almost looked like each screen was a “flash” meaning right before impact the screener would jump towards the basket, however, the never happened. Screens were useless the entire weekend making it far more difficult to create any easy offense.
If you want to be the man, you have to take the criticism that comes with it and for that sophomore guard Allonzo Trier deserves plenty. Offensively no one had a worse week more than him. A constant barrage of forced shots, poor shooting and turnovers plagued the junior in the three games. In the final game against Purdue, Trier opted to not pass to open teammates in favor of forcing up his own shot. It never worked out. He would finish the game with a season low eight points on 3-of-10 shooting and four turnovers. He had five turnovers the day before against SMU.
Lack of a third scorer
A lot was heard about this team being great once sophomore Rawle Alkins comes back into the fold, but until that happens this team will need a solid third option. They may have found it in Brandon Randolph during the Purdue game. The freshman scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes off the bench. However, with Trier being Inefficient, the Wildcats were still in search of a third double-digit scorer which would never come.
A lot has been said about Alkins possible contributions, especially if you watched any of the streaming on ESPN3. His return to the lineup is apparently vital and suddenly this team isn’t as deep as it once appeared in the preseason.
Arizona fans have been spoiled by hard nosed defenders and great defense under Sean Miller. This year may be his biggest test yet. There isn’t one player on the roster currently that has the ability to shutdown or even slowdown a perimeter player as of now. Braxton Beverly (NC State), Ben Emelogu (SMU), Dakota Mathias (Purdue) and Vincent Edwards combined for 81 points on 28-of-44 field goals including going 16-of-27 from three.
Constant room for shooters to get open shots off, wide open shots, or even basic curls into the lane would throw Wildcat defenders into an abyss of which they could never recover. Hedging screens, help defense and solid rebounding, all Sean Miller staples, were inexplicably absent this week. This is a young team, but they also had several extra days and practice in Spain. Have to wonder where their heads are at right now.
Arizona was out rebounded through three games in Atlantis. Some of it was bad bounces, while the remainder was lack of boxing out, plain and simple. Relying on athleticism, the Wildcats never realized that other teams may have similar abilities and were constantly beat to the boards for second chance points.
In the end, the Battle 4 Atlantis should be left where it was and never to be spoken of again. There are four days before Long Beach State comes into McKale and takes on the Wildcats. Then Arizona has road games at UNLV and a neutral site game against Texas A&M. Those are three games that could get the mojo back in a hurry, especially A&M.
After that it’s Alabama,, at New Mexico, North Dakota State and home for UConn who beat Oregon in the PK80 Tournament. Win ‘em all and you’re looking at 10-3 heading into the Pac-12 opener versus ASU no worse for the wear. Lose a couple and things, such as NCAA Tournament seeding, get decidedly worse, though at this point it should be the furthest thing from anyones minds.
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