It only took one holiday trip to the Bahamas to send Arizona from #3 in the country to out of the top-25.
It was supposed to be a Wildcats showdown in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas, with Arizona on one side of the bracket and Villanova on the other.
The ‘Cats from the East Coast took care of business and eventually won the tournament. Arizona, however, didn’t win any of its three games, losing to North Carolina State, SMU, and Purdue.
It’s a bit of a mystery what happened to Arizona. But the Wildcats bounced back to play like none of it happened back on the continental US in a 35-point win over Long Beach State earlier this week. Games against cupcakes are tough to read though. This tester at the Thomas & Mack center against UNLV will better indicate the current state of one of the preseason national championship favorites.
The only guy on Arizona’s team who showed up to play in the Bahamas was freshman DeAndre Ayton, who has been fantastic to start the season. Ayton resembles Greg Odon ten years later in the sense that he looks like he’s about 35. He also has the sort of game Odon probably would have if he were just coming up now.
The range isn’t out to the three-point arc yet but scouts imagine it will be within a few years when he’s playing in the NBA. Other than that, Ayton can do it all. He can catch-and-shoot, attack of the dribble and score with an array of post moves. He’s one of the best shot-blockers in the country and is nimble enough on his feet to stay with small matchups out on the perimeter. He’s the complete big man and his numbers reflect as much thus far: almost 20 points and 12 rebounds per game while shooting over 64 percent from the field. He is the only player in Arizona Basketball history with five double-doubles in a row and he did it in his first five games.
He just couldn’t get any sort of help from his teammates. Allonzo Trier its supposed to be the go-to guy for this offense and while his overall numbers look better than fine, he turned the ball over way too much in the Carribbean. The same can be said about Jackson Parker-Cartwright, who is the point guard and most important playmaker on a team that doesn’t have quite enough of it when he isn’t going well. Trier has to be there; if he isn’t, this team won’t go far but Parker-Cartwright is the one who has to emerge and rise up beyond the level he’s playing at now.
I was high on ‘Zona coming into this season and I’m not wavering because of at tough tournament before the holidays, a long way away from home, where the ‘Cats had to play three games in three days. The losses are concerning and will impact where Arizona plays come March Madness, but in the short-term the unsteadiness could provide some opportunities. As long as Sean Miller’s team continues to play like the Bahamas was in the past and isn’t coming back, it should win this game by double-digits.
Free Pick: Arizona -4