San Diego State hosts Arizona Thursday evening (10:05 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network) in a big game for both the Aztecs and the Wildcats. To get to know Arizona better in this early part of the season we reached out to SB Nation's Arizona community AZ Desert Swarm to get to know Arizona basketball.
1. After two games freshman Aaron Gordon seems to be the real deal. What makes him so good this early?
Everyone will talk about he's an incredible athlete, but really what sets him apart from the majority of freshmen and even most of his teammates is his "motor," that loosely-used word that for once might be completely applicable. Gordon hasn't forced anything and isn't playing above his teammates, yet he's crashing the boards, playing fast -- sometimes too fast -- and not taking plays off. If he makes mistakes, it won't be because he loses focus or isn't trying.
Also, you might look at the scoring and rebounding totals, but Gordon is also seamlessly fitting into the offense and passing like he really wants to be a point forward.
2. This will be the third time these teams have played in as many years, is there any sense that this could be a rivalry, if they continue this series?
I think it should be, because what else is there in terms of creating a hyped-up West Coast basketball rivalry? It's nice to have non-conference rivalries -- hey, maybe that would get the East Coast to watch -- and right now, San Diego State is right with Arizona. Sean Miller has gone out of his way to call the Aztecs one of the best programs on the West Coast, and in the last few years, the Wildcats and Aztecs have put on some good games. It'd be fun to keep it up.
3. Besides Gordon, who are other players to know on Arizona's team?
I could go down the list because this team has been a well-rounded squad and should continue to be just that, but one player to watch is guard Gabe York. The sophomore has come off the bench and surprised with his shooting from deep. He's hit 6-of-11 three-pointers in the first two games. Sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, who starts alongside Gordon, has also seemingly taken a few steps forward and has played well through two games -- he'll make some one- or two-dribble moves in the high post and has extended his range a bit. But perhaps the biggest addition is point guard T.J. McConnell, who transferred to Arizona from Duquesne and is probably the most pure point guard Sean Miller has coached since he arrived.
4. What is the style that Arizona will play in this game on offense, defense?
Arizona will go exclusively with a man defense and with their length and size will pressure the ball but not over-pressure the ball, if that makes sense. In its last game against Long Beach State, the Wildcats held the 49ers to 14 percent shooting in the first half but had only forced five turnovers. It's all about forcing bad shots.
Once they get the defensive stop, the Wildcats would like to get in transition. Aside from York, they aren't a great shooting team but so far have been smart in what shot attempts they try. Ideally, they will get some transition buckets and play above the rim. Miller will call some plays to free up back cuts and things for lobs, but Arizona will run motion sets most of the time and play inside-out. Ashley and Gordon have been good about passing out of double-teams to find the open shooters, or passing to one another in the paint.
5. What is your prediction of this game?
Something tells me this game will be a close one. Arizona has yet to play a team that can physically match up with them, and for that reason I think their defense won't necessarily dictate everything this early in the year. And UA's offense will be relied upon to be patient and mine for open looks. It being away for the Wildcats gives me hesitation, but in the end, I think they make a few big plays down the stretch to squeak one out.
Let's call it 70-63, Arizona.
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