ShockerHoops.net and SB Nation’s AZDesertSwarm.com have teamed up for a quick Q&A ahead of Thursday’s match up. Jason Bartel joins us from AZ Desert Swarm to answer a few questions.
ShockerHoops.net: When Wichita State loses, they tend to go on long scoring droughts. How do you think Arizona will try and shut down Wichita State offensively?
Jason Bartel(JB): This is what worries me most about this particular match up for Arizona. The Wildcats don’t have a particularly great perimeter defender this year, which is a far cry from past Arizona teams. I would expect Kadeem Allen to be the man in charge of keeping Fred VanVleet in check, using his lengthy wingspan to clog the passing lanes, and force the Shockers into uncharacteristic turnovers. As far as the rest of the options the Wildcats have to guard the perimeter, this will be Allonzo Trier’s chance to have a huge game, and possibly bolster his NBA Draft stock in what are likely his final games as a Wildcat. I also wouldn’t be shocked if we see more Mark Tollefsen in this game than normal. The transfer from San Francisco is a better perimeter defender than Ryan Anderson, and could be forced into more minutes.
SH: How do you think Arizona’s post will perform against Wichita State’s defense?
JB: I know that, even though they are undersized, Wichita has had no problem rebounding the ball this year, but I also think that Kaleb Tarczewski and Ryan Anderson are two of the most physically gifted players the Shockers will face this year. I think those two, along with possibly Chance Comanche and Dusan Ristic, will be able to establish themselves down low and impose their will, if, IF, Arizona’s guards can get them the ball in the blocks. When facing simply shorter teams this year, all four of these guys have performed miles better than when faced with similarly sized players. I just think the Wildcats have too many options down low for the Shockers to hold them off the entire game.
SH: Who do you think has the edge in coaching? Arizona’s Sean Miller or Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall?
JB:If I’m being honest, Marshall. Miller has been outcoached several times this year, but he has shown the ability to leave his set-in-stone tactics of Pack Line defense to go to the zone when the matchup warrants it. But his in-game adjustments have left a lot to be desired, especially with this team, since it can’t win games on pure talent like the past couple of years. Marshall has proven to be one of college basketball’s best coaches year in and year out, and doing it at a place like Wichita State is incredibly impressive in my eyes.
SH: What is your opinion on Arizona getting a 6 seed? Opinion on Wichita State’s 11 seed as a First Four?
JB: I wasn’t that shocked. I thought Arizona would get a 5-seed, especially after losing to Oregon in the Pac-12 semis last Friday. It was not nearly as shocking as Wichita being an 11-seed, especially getting placed in the First Four games. This seems to be one of the strongest 6/11 games in the history of the NCAA Tournament as both teams are probably under-seeded. And KenPom has Wichita as the 9th-best team in the country, and a favorite to beat Arizona. That’s nuts. This matchup is nuts. Is this actually the second weekend of the tournament?
SH: What is your favorite memory of Kaleb Tarczewski?
JB: This is a tough question because he hasn’t exactly been a guy that’s necessarily created a ton of Arizona memories, even though he is now officially the winningest player in program history after the win over Colorado last week. He’s a very subdued, quiet guy who just gets it done (usually). I guess I’ll go with this year’s game at Arizona State. It was his first game back after suffering a foot injury in the Wooden Legacy over Thanksgiving, and he came back as a bench player, and immediately looked like his normal self on offense. He fouled out in that game, and on one of those fouls, talked back to the ref and got a technical. It was an interesting day. It was so out of character for him, but also set the tone for his Pac-12 season and how much more impressive he was as a physical force down low. Of course, later in the game, Bobby Hurley made everyone forget that by getting thrown out of the game with his blind rage. I think we can all agree that Dukies are the worst.
I do want to share my favorite memory of Gabe York though. Even though he is a spot up three-point shooter, he has the tendency to try and dunk on guys, and he never actually connected on a dunk until a couple this year. But this attempt on Gonzaga this year is the most glorious thing I’ve ever witnessed in a college basketball game. Besides York tying a school record with nine threes on Senior Day.
SH: What is your prediction for Thursday?
JB: I have to be allowed back in Tucson establishments after this, so I will go with Arizona pulling this one out by a score of 68-63 (plus I already told a Wichita Basketball podcast that was my score pick too). It may not be as high-scoring as we’re used to seeing from the Wildcats this year, but I think they will find a way to get the ball inside and be able to take advantage of their size compared to Wichita’s. This feels like a game where Kaleb Tarczewski goes off, and as long as the guards can get him the ball inside, the Wildcats should survive and advance.