Adam Butler, Arizona basketball fan and editor of the site Pachoops, was gracious enough to answer some of our questions heading into tonight's showdown between the Beavers and Wildcats. His answers are below.
1. In your expert opinion, who has been the guy most important to Arizona's success so far his season?
Sean Miller. But if this expert is putting away his smartypants, I maintain that it’s TJ McConnell. Look, Stanley Johnson is the proverbial "go-to" guy and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can guard anyone he wants. I suppose citing Sean Miller as the most important piece to this team’s success isn’t far off. He’s the architect of this roster. But you can see how this team has responded to McConnell’s aggressive – and effective – offense. He’s made an effort most of the year but only since the year turned has he begun to become dominant. The team has responded and it’s not even that he’s that classic pure PG people want to compliment him for. He’s just the heart and soul of this team. Sean Miller even says so.
2. Last week we saw Stanford almost pull the upset against the Wildcats. What was the key to that game, and can the Beavers replicate it?
The Beavers are not going to make a run at Arizona the way Stanford did. The Cardinal scored the most points against Arizona in two years. If Oregon State scores 82 on Arizona it’s because they’ve set some sort of basket making record. I’m serious. Based on average possessions 2 FGA, 3 FGA and FTA per game, for Oregon State to score 82 points, and based on their average distribution of 35 2FGA, 15 3FGA, and 19 FTA per game, the Beavers would need to shoot 65% from each range. That’d earn them 88 points. Do you see that happening? The Beavers can, however, hope to replicate their Corvallis magic which entails Rondae Hollis-Jefferson playing with 4 fouls, Stanley Johnson taking 4 shots, neither Kaleb Tarczewski nor Brandon Ashley playing a closer role, and Gary Payton’s attendance.
3. Who is your 46th favorite Wildcat basketball player of all time?
So when you last proposed this question I think it was my 19th favorite. My answer was varying but I began a list that I submitted to my friend. Guess what? That list is so damn dense that I got to 20+ and forgot to include Mike Bibby and Miles Simon. Telling you my favorite is near impossible but if forced to choose number 46, I’d say that it was Joe McLean. I remember him having a bad case of the stomach flew as Arizona’s 1996 squad fell to Kansas in the Sweet-16. He missed a fading two – when the Cats needed three. The next year was different.
4. Watching the team from afar, Gabe York's game has always intrigued me. He dropped 13 points at Stanford, then followed that up with just a three point performance two days later. That type of split has been true for most of the year. Is there a reason for the inconsistency?
Gabe York has been a polarizing roster piece on message boards. He’s great! He sucks! He’s what this team needs! Transfer now! Message boards: The Birthplace of Rational thought. Part of what makes York inconsistent is that he’s been thrust in to so many different roles. He was a starter on an Elite 8 team. He was a starter on this team. He’s now coming off the bench, a key member of the second unit, but the second unit nevertheless. This team will be guided by its five-headed starting monster, but the better York can acclimate to exactly what this team needs of him (solid defense always and the occasional knock down), the better suited they will be for a March run.
5. Last year around this time you lost Brandon Ashley for the year due to a foot injury. Who will you lose this season?
Probably our collective minds as Wildcat upon Wildcat climbs a Werner™ ladder in Indianapolis this April.
6. What Wildcat has surprised you the most this year?
This might be a silly answer because he came in so wildly heralded and surprise probably isn’t the word to use when describing how I’ve enjoyed watching his season, but Stanley Johnson has been great. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon and resistant to accepting that an 18-year-old can be compared to LeBron; that an 18-year-old can be the "go to" guy on a team with TJ McConnell and Brandon Ashley. But he has been. And he’s improving. Is he a surprise? Probably not. But he’s been a joy to watch.
7. Right now, most projections have Arizona as a two seed for the NCAA Tournament. What do they have to do down the stretch to remain in that 1 or 2 range, and what would have to happen to cause a significant fall down the S curve?
I saw an article recently that noted Arizona’s biggest enemy will only be the Wildcats themselves. That seems about accurate. The biggest fall down the curve would be if Arizona finds itself in a night without effort and loses to a vastly inferior team. Because let’s be serious: the Pac-12 is full of teams only capable of damaging Arizona’s tournament resume. The ‘Cats, of course, hold the trump card when it comes to their primary opponent for the western one, Gonzaga. They beat those Bulldogs in December. I think Arizona will have a top seed worthy resume on Selection Sunday, it just becomes a matter of what Gonzaga looks like come that day of determination.
8. Prediction for the game?
Revenge is a dish best served cold and so I’ve checked weather.com. The meteorologist confirms that the Wildcats will roll as it’s supposed to be raining and sub-50 Friday night. That’s frigid for the Old Pueblo and an inauspicious situation for the Beavers. Arizona just put up its third best offensive performance of the past two years and shows no signs of stopping. They have a backup seven-footer running the break. Props to Wayne’s team for being more prepared a in Corvallis. I see two chances for the Beavers in the return visit: slim and none.