MBB game preview: No.10 Arizona vs. No.14 Indiana

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Nathanial Stenchever | The Daily Wildcat

Head coach Tommy Lloyd of the Arizona men's basketball team points during a game on Nov. 17, in McKale Center. The Wildcats won their third game against Utah Tech University 104-77.

Two historic programs full of rich history and immense traditions will collide for a marquee matchup at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Mike Woodson and his Indiana Hoosiers have a date with head coach Tommy Lloyd’s high-octane Arizona Wildcat offense in what could be the game of the year in the college basketball world on Saturday, Dec.10.  

McKale North will be back, as fans will travel from Tucson, looking to remain undefeated in Sin City since Lloyd's arrival in the fall of 2021. The Wildcats have a record of four wins and zero losses. Three of the program's wins date back to last year's PAC-12 tournament run, while the other came against the University of Michigan last November. The city has undoubtedly been friendly to the Wildcat fan faithful.

Mike Woodson has a unique group of talent, predominantly upperclassmen, but a few diaper dandies join the group, as Dick Vitale would add. The Hoosiers are highlighted by forward, Trayce Jackson-Davis. The senior had received a plethora of accolades before the 2022-2023 season, a few to name the Big-10 conference Preseason Player of the Year and was appointed to the John R. Wooden award watch list. 

Out of the entire country, Jackson-Davis separates himself from others given his unique skill set, able to impact the game on various levels compared to your average forward. His size, athleticism and balance allow him to live above the rim. 

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The senior is at his best when he gets downhill, using his left hand, but can switch to his right when getting deep in the lane. When catching the ball, his patience plays dividends, always playing off two feet while being an above-average interior passer for someone 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds.  

Jackson-Davis has yet to show he can do damage within the mid-range area, especially lacking a face-up game. Given the typical modern NBA forward, inconsistent shooting beyond 15 feet has kept the star in school despite averaging over 18 points per game since his sophomore year. 

Nonetheless, there will be other talents who will accompany Jackson-Davis. Race Thompson will round out the Hoosiers' frontcourt. Arizona’s Lloyd acknowledges the challenge he is presented with. 

“They are really good players. We have a great scout team; they'll do a good job simulating what they do.” Lloyd said. We'll do the best job getting ready to prepare our team to play a traditionally great program. It's going to be a great atmosphere. It's an opportunity we need and are looking forward to."

Luckily for Lloyd, he has the tools to counter the talent of the Hoosier's big man. You may ask why? The nation's most talented frontcourt may be in Tucson, given the combination of Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis. 

Coming into the game, the Wildcats have shown to be challenged defensively, not living up to the standard of Lloyd, especially guarding the perimeter. Since Woodson’s arrival in Bloomington, Indiana, the group has had difficulty finding the bottom of the net from a distance. 

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In his first season, Woodson made a splash in the transfer portal landing Miller Kopp, yet the wing lacks athleticism and is not a threat putting the ball on the deck. 

Additionally, Kopp saw his fair share of shooting woes last season, only shooting 36% from 3-point land, an area that makes his floor presence less effective if shots are not falling. 

How Indiana looks to operate within the half court within the first few minutes of the half will be interesting, given the lack of shooting threats combined with the length and shaky start of Lloyd’s group defensively. 

Indiana freshman star Jalen Hood-Schifino has been sidelined the past two games with a back injury; however, the guard seems to be progressing throughout the week. Hood-Schifino is dynamic due to being interchangeable at both guard positions, able to play on and off the ball and keeping the Hoosiers' free-flowing offense in rhythm. 

The freshman's patience, finishing ability for his size and scoring ability within the mid-range area are where he can impact the game the most. There are question marks with his perimeter shooting, but with in-season development, his name could be found entering the NBA Draft come the spring. 

Xavier Johnson will carry the bulk load of minutes in the backcourt, orchestrating the offense for Woodson. Johnson is one of the more all-around guards in the Big-10 conference as he plays both ends of the ball. Johnson checks off almost all the boxes, being able to score, pass and defend, and is an underrated rebounder for someone at 6-foot-3. 

A fifth-year senior, Johnson has averaged double figures in his previous collegiate seasons, starting his career at the University of Pittsburgh. Given his physicality, Courtney Ramey is a candidate who could be seen as his primary defender. If Hood-Schifino remains sidelined, Trey Galloway will join the starting five and play next to Johnson.  

This matchup will be the Wildcats' toughest test of the season so far. If Arizona wants to come out victorious, playing to their tempo, winning the rebounding margin and limiting extra possessions will go a long way. The game will start at 5:30 p.m. live on FOX.


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