There’s videos of Mike Woodson singing Don’t Stop Believin’ all over Indiana Twitter and that can only mean one thing: Hoosiers in Vegas.
With Indiana set for a matchup with Arizona, we sat down and asked some questions of our friends over at Arizona Desert Swarm, SB Nation’s site for the Wildcats.
Here’s what they had to say:
Q: What has Tommy Lloyd done to keep Arizona humming since Sean Miller [REDACTED]?
AZ Desert Swarm: Lloyd spent more than 20 years under Mark Few at Gonzaga, and when Arizona opened it felt like the perfect fit for him. He loves to coach bigs and international players and loves to play fast. Miller unknowingly recruited his final team to have all of the things Lloyd needed for a seamless transition, and Lloyd actually allows the players to figure things out on their own rather than be micro-managed on every possession.
Q: What are Arizona’s current strengths and weaknesses? What’s changed from last season?
AZ Desert Swarm: It’s fair to say the Wildcats have the best 1-2 frontcourt punch in the country in Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo. They’re averaging 39.3 points per game while shooting 68.3 percent, and Arizona gets the ball to them A LOT. They also run the floor very well, enabling quick possessions in transition or even off a made basket.
The two main weaknesses are turnovers and consistent defense. Arizona’s style results in a giveaway on almost 20 percent of possessions, and teams that can turn those takeaways into points (like Utah) have a shot. The defense can be good, but only if it’s willing to get into foul trouble, which can be a sticky situation since the bench hasn’t contributed much.
This team is very much like the one that went 33-4 in Lloyd’s first season, with Ballo replacing Christian Koloko, Pelle Larsson filling in for Dalen Terry and Courtney Ramey taking over Benn Mathurin’s spots. It has the potential to be better, but so far we’re seeing that the floor is also lower when the shooting isn’t there from the perimeter.
Q: We in Indiana are familiar with Bennedict Mathurin (thanks for him btw), but who should Indiana be circling in meetings right now? Which players could cause headaches for Indiana fans?
AZ Desert Swarm: Ballo and Tubelis, for sure. They combine for nearly 23 shot attempts per game, both in the halfcourt and in transition, and they get to the line a lot. Ballo is a potential liability with free throws, but Lloyd still sees value in him drawing a lot of fouls—he calls them body blows—and forcing opponents to sag back to avoid getting called so much.
From the perimeter, Ramey is a solid defender who can be a pest on defense, while point guard Kerr Kriisa draws a lot of charges and can get hot from 3 when he starts out well.
Q: What happened against Utah?
AZ Desert Swarm: It was a perfect storm of upset ingredients. An 8-day layoff after winning the Maui Invitational, going from sea level to elevation, having a big head from jumping to No. 4 in the AP (Lloyd said they were ‘intoxicated off their success) and facing a team that looked at the game as its Super Bowl.
Q: Prediction time, who wins and why?
AZ Desert Swarm: Las Vegas is an extension of Tucson for Arizona. The Pac-12 Tournament is in Sin City each year, and Wildcat fans flock to games up there, including last November when the UA boat-raced Michigan. Arizona has also had some extra time in the lab, having not played since Sunday while Indiana is flying across the country right after playing a Big Ten game on Wednesday night.
Arizona picks up its third win over a ranked opponent and takes home the Miller Cup.