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January 27, 2009

Ask the expert: Arizona

UDUBsport.com recently caught up with Spencer Smith of GOAZCATS.com to get some questions answered about Washington's next opponent Arizona.

Arizona Strengths:

Jordan Hill. It's been such an up and down year for Arizona that the only consistent, game-to-game strength is Jordan. In his just his fifth year of playing organized basketball, Hill is a simply unstoppable post presence. He leads the team in points and the Pac-10 in rebounds. In the recent win against Houston, Jordan had 30 points, 18 rebounds, 4 blocks. He is a freak of an athlete whose quickness in the paint can be matched by no one.

Arizona Weakness':

Where do I begin? Perimeter defense, inefficient offense, last second fouls that blow a tie game? Ultimately, most of Arizona's problems are due to two things, inexperience and depth. Inexperience goes from the players to the staff. Considering the situation he was put in, Russ Pennell is deserving of credit for the job he's done this season but nevertheless, his inexperience is evident in the Cats' play. Arizona works with a short bench and has three players averaging more than 34 minutes a game. The players are looking tired as the season progresses, and that usually means open looks from downtown for its opponents.

Was this season expected by people close to the Arizona program?

When Lute Olson retired, it changed everything. Not only did the team lose its top freshmen in the aftermath (the third of his class to depart from the program) but Arizona's star-studded 2009 class has been decimated. The immediate future of Arizona basketball is bleak and many fans saw this season coming before the first tip-off, or at the very latest when it dropped its second game to UAB. Wins over Gonzaga and Kansas were great, but I feel like the Bay Area trip to open Pac-10 play really had an impact on the team. Most fans before the season were split on whether or not Arizona would make the tournament, so it's not a complete surprise to anyone. But as much of a mess as Arizona has been this season, they are still not an easy "W" for opponents.

What did Arizona do in the Gonzaga and Kansas games they haven't done consistently the rest of the season?

They played together. Freshmen Kyle Fogg stepped up in both games and Jamelle Horne put up a career-high in points against the Jayhawks. The same team play is the only way the Wildcats were able to come back and beat Houston last weekend. But other than that, Arizona rarely has played together and usually depends on Hill for just about everything when things go bad early. If Arizona is going to make some freak run into the tournament, then Fogg, Horne, and sophomore outside shooter Zane Johnson need to be more than just bodies on the floor.

Arizona wins if?

Arizona should look to get the Huskies in foul trouble early. If Jon Brockman is forced to sit, then Hill will have the opportunity to take over the game. Washington has a lot of players that can score, so guys like Fogg and freshmen Brendon Lavender will likely be used and must defend well. McKale Center will be loud and rowdy, which might be a big factor seeing as Washington is yet to play a tough true road game.

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