Another day brings about another opportunity for a Pac-12 team to strike a blow for the conference, with Arizona (6-2) traveling across the country to take on #12 Florida (5-2). Sean Miller's team left an important piece of "cargo" back in Tucson as well, as freshman guard Josiah Turner was suspended for reportedly missing practice. The point guard from Sacramento will not play in a game due to a coach's decision for the second time this season, and with the departure of Sidiki Johnson (who barely got off the bench following their first exhibition game) half of the Wildcats' highly-touted recruting trouble has run afoul of the rules.
This latest development makes the task of winning in the "O-Dome" that much tougher for the Wildcats, who really don't have a marquee victory to their credit thus far. But the Wildcats do bring some talented perimeter players with them, with senior Kyle Fogg (11.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and freshman Nick Johnson (10.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.4 apg) being two of the key cogs. Sophomore point guard Jordin Mayes becomes even more important with Turner out, but both Fogg and Johnson have run the point either at some point this season or at another point in spot duty in case Mayes needs a rest of isn't effective.
Even with the experience that's not the best way to go into a game with one of the nation's deepest backcourts. Returning starters Kenny Boynton (19.0 ppg, 3.1 apg) and Erving Walker (14.1 ppg, 5.3 apg) are Florida's top two assist men but it's freshman Bradley Beal (15.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg) who leads the team in minutes per game. Beal's versatility and athleticism make him a tough matchup for just about any guard, but with Johnson also known as an athletic guard who's also one of the top defenders in the 2011 class this should be a fun individual battle. Billy Donovan can also call on Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario when needing points off the bench, but the truth is that Rosario needs to improve defensively (Scottie Wilbekin is the better reserve defender)if he's to see solid minutes on a consistent basis.
Arizona turns the ball over at a slightly higher rate than Florida, with the inexperience at the point being one of the contributing factors. But they do assist on 59%of their made baskets, with Florida's assist rate being a couple points below that. The Gators have more perimeter players who can force the issue offensively, and they've played considerably faster than Arizona this season with an average of nearly seven more possessions per game. The Gators have the better offensive efficiency not only because of their perimeter weapons but also because they rebound 40% of their misses. Will Yeguete, who moved into the starting lineup in place of the injured Erik Murphy, is grabbing an average of 3.7 offensive rebounds per game while Patric Young adds another 2.4.
Inside for the Wildcats senior Jesse Perry (10.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg) has been their most consistent player with junior wing Solomon Hill (12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.1 apg) not too far behind. Kevin Parrom is another versatile wing, but the junior is still working towards full health after being shot before the season began. The two key players on the road for the Wildcats: sophomore Kyryl Natyazhko and freshman Angelo Chol. Arizona may be able to get away with quiet nights from these two against lesser competition, but in order to not only have a shot to pull off the upset but also remain one of the Pac-12 favorites these two need to step up. Senior center Alex Jacobson, the final holdover from the Lute Olson era, doesn't play much and the likely tempo might not be the best for him.
Whatever they do, Arizona cannot afford to get drawn into a shootout as that would play right into the hands of the Florida guards. Boynton and Walker can be mistake-prone, but a faster tempo means more possessions which would in turn mean some of those mistakes may not be as costly as they can be in a slower game. If Arizona can capitalize on those errors while keeping theirs to a minimum they'll hang around. But that's a big if, especially on the road.
Overall there's a good slate of games on tap for Wednesday, with a pair of games out west standing out in particular. Joe Scott's Denver Pioneers have gotten off to a very good start, but they're going to face a serious test at home as the Iona Gaels visit. The arrival of Mike Glover should be a good measuring stick for DU's Chris Udofia, a young player with the athletic ability to be an All-Sun Belt caliber player in the very near future. The Gaels also boast the nation's leading assist man in Scott Machado, but the question is whether or not Tim Cluess' team can play as fast as they want in the high altitude.
There's also Weber State, led by guards Damian Lillard and Scott Bamforth, visiting a BYU team that's loaded inside. Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies are two of the options for Dave Rose, and the gruesome injury suffered by forward Kyle Bullinger in the Wildcats' win over San Jose State leaves Weber shorthanded inside. It could take quite the performance from Lillard, who scored 41 points against SJSU, to beat the Cougars at the Marriott Center.
Like watching good big men face off? Then check out St. Bonaventure's trip to Illinois, with senior Andrew Nicholson being a good test for Illinois sophomore Meyers Leonard. Xavier visits Butler, and those two teams tend to play most of if not all of their meetings close, and Dayton looks to bounce back from their whipping at the hands of Murray State with Alabama rolling into town.
Georgia Tech and Georgia will play for bragging rights in Athens and Colorado State visits Duke for a contest that could be tougher for the Blue Devils than many anticipate. Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green have been solid for Tim Miles' club, but do they have anyone capable of keeping in front of Austin Rivers? Look for some surprises to come about, with many teams dealing with finals this week in addition to games.
Top 25 Games
7:00 PM IUPUI at (4) Louisville (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Colorado State at (5) Duke (ESPN2)
9:00 PM (8) Xavier at Butler (ESPN)
7:00 PM Arizona at (12) Florida (ESPN)
7:00 PM (15) Alabama at Dayton
8:00 PM Green Bay at (16) Wisconsin (ESPN3)
9:00 PM St. Bonaventure at (22) Illinois (ESPN2)
8:00 PM Sam Houston State at (25) Texas A&M (FSN SW)
NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Loyola (MD) at George Washington (MASN)
7:00 PM Georgia Tech at Georgia (ESPN3)
7:00 PM La Salle at Towson
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Michigan State (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Malone College at Bowling Green
7:00 PM Lafayette at Penn State (BTN.com)
7:00 PM Delaware at Pennsylvania
7:00 PM Virginia Tech at Rhode Island
7:00 PM Buffalo at Niagara
7:00 PM Colgate at Albany
7:00 PM Vanderbilt at Davidson (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Wake Forest at High Point
7:00 PM Fordham at Manhattan
7:00 PM Army at Marist
7:00 PM Illinois State at Morehead State
7:00 PM Ohio at Oakland
7:00 PM Boston University at Saint Joseph's
7:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Stony Brook
7:00 PM Temple at Toledo
7:00 PM Valparaiso at IPFW
7:30 PM Bryant University at Yale
7:30 PM Hampton at American University
7:30 PM Princeton at Rutgers
7:30 PM New Hampshire at Brown
7:30 PM Saint Francis (PA) at Lehigh
7:30 PM Western Carolina at Purdue (BTN)
8:00 PM Middle Tennessee at UAB
8:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Maryland (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Vermont at Saint Louis
8:00 PM Florida Gulf Coast at Nebraska
8:00 PM Wichita State at Tulsa
8:00 PM Henderson State at Central Arkansas
8:00 PM Oakland City at Eastern Illinois
8:00 PM DePaul at Loyola (IL) (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Mercer at Samford
8:05 PM Southern Miss at South Alabama
8:05 PM Western Kentucky at Southern Illinois (FCS)
8:05 PM North Dakota at UMKC
8:30 PM Nevada at Arizona State
8:30 PM East Tennessee State at Tennessee Tech
8:35 PM Pepperdine at Northern Arizona (FSN AZ)
9:00 PM Fresno State at Colorado
9:00 PM Portland at Boise State
9:00 PM Willamette at Montana State
9:00 PM Montana Tech at Montana
9:00 PM Weber State at BYU (BYU TV)
9:00 PM Cal State Fullerton at Utah
9:00 PM Wright State at Air Force
9:00 PM Iona at Denver (Root)
9:00 PM Oklahoma State at Missouri State (ESPNU)
10:00 PM San Diego State at San Diego
10:00 PM Cal State San Marcos at UNLV
10:00 PM Sacramento State at Cal State Bakersfield
10:05 PM Washington State at Idaho
10:30 PM San Jose State at California