We tend to avoid the Tucson area if we can but we still felt it was necessary to get the enemy's perspective on this Saturday's highly-anticipated meeting between the Wildcats and Sun Devils. For that reason, we decided to bring in SB Nation college basketball contributor and University of Arizona student Scott Coleman for a little
hostile interrogation Q&A session. Enjoy:
What is your theory for the inconsistencies the Wildcats have shown on the court so far this season?
Scott Coleman: The team is still getting used to each other. Arizona lost three starters from last year, brought in a new point guard and four freshmen, and also took on two transfers. There's no denying Arizona has the talent to beat any team in the country; executing and picking each other up for a full 40 minutes has been the biggest issue.
Who has been the MVP for the Wildcats so far this season? How about the biggest disappointment?
SC: I'm not sure there's a clear-cut MVP at this point. Nick Johnson was great in the first half, but he's really cooled off since Pac-12 play began. Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill have been consistently good from day one, although they've both had a couple of forgettable games. Because of his late-game heroics, I'll give it to Lyons by a nose.
If there's been a disappointment to the year -- and this is nitpicking, really -- it's that the freshmen have been inconsistent. And while the UA faithful would welcome more production with open arms, they realize that these are 18 year olds facing real competition for the first time in their life. It's going to take time.
For your money, which of Arizona's freshman has been the most impressive this season?
SC: It's really been a mixed bag of results for UA's freshman class, which was ranked third by ESPN last year. Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski have all shown flashes of brilliance, but they're yet to really put everything together for more than a game or two. Gabe York doesn't really play because of the players ahead of him.
It's really close for who has been the most impressive. Statistically, Ashley has a slight advantage, so we'll give it to him. To give you an idea of why he's been a bit frustrating, get this: he scored nine points in the first three minutes against Utah. He didn't score after that, and he was benched in the second half for not playing defense. It's been a year full of ups and downs for the freshmen, and while they're all great kids with solid work ethics, they've all got a long way to go.
What is the recipe for beating this Wildcats team?
SC: Beat the Wildcats by a lot in the first 36 minutes or so, because you're not going to win the final four. Just ask Colorado or Florida. The Cardiac Cats have lived dangerously all season, and somehow they've got a 15-1 record to their name. Part of that may be luck, but there's something to be said for a team that can put three NBA-caliber
seniors on the floor with a handful of seconds left on the clock.
From your knowledge of ASU's roster, is there anyone that you're particularly worried about?
SC: Jordan Bachynski killed Arizona's midget-like front line last year and he's made big strides this season. He won't have quite the height advantage this time around, but his shot blocking abilities could give the 'Cats problems all game. I'd look for Sean Miller to try and attack Bachynski early with hopes of getting him in foul trouble.
On the flip side, do you see anything with the Devils that Arizona will be able to exploit?
SC: ASU isn't a deep team at all, while Arizona plays eight guys that would start on most teams in the conference. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Devils move out to an early lead, but once the starters need a break, look for UA to make a run.
What are most Arizona students saying about this game down in Tucson? Likewise, how do you most of your peers feel about this Arizona State team?
SC: Every basketball game in Tucson is a big deal. Playing ASU is just a little extra icing on top. And given that the embarrassing loss in Tempe last spring likely kept Arizona out of the tournament, there's definitely the revenge factor this time around.
I think most folks realize this is the best team ASU has had since the days of Harden and Pendergraph. The jury is still out a bit on the Sun Devils because of their awful SOS, but there's no denying they've got talented players who can score the ball and get stops.
If you had one word of advice for ASU fans this Saturday, what would it be?
SC: I mentioned this a little earlier, but the Devils have to get out to a strong start on Saturday if they hope to win. Teams that go down to the wire with UA have typically regretted it this season. They've also got to control their emotions in what should be a great atmosphere at McKale North -- er, Wells Fargo Arena.
Hey, those are fighting words!
For continued coverage on what's sure to be a heated battle in spite of the weather, check back with House of Sparky before, during and after Saturday's game.