Arizona Wildcats (20-2)
- Latest BTD Pac-12 Power Rankings: 1st Overall (9-0)
- Head Coach: Sean Miller (8th Season)
- Top Performer: Lauri Markkanen (16.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG)
- Points For: 76.3 PPG (T-116th)
- Points Against: 63.1 PPG (20th)
- Last Game/Streak: 77-66 Win v. Washington (14W)
There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said before about what just might occur at Gill Coliseum on Thursday night.
Oregon State, a team still searching for their first conference win, will welcome the fifth-ranked team in the country in Arizona, who hasn’t lost a game since stumbling against the current top-ranked Gonzaga back on December 3rd. If the Beavers, have any hope for this one, they best believe that the “trap-game” scenario plays itself out to the fullest extent, as the Wildcats may be guilty of looking a bit past Oregon State, with a Saturday showdown with #13 Oregon waiting in the wings. For the Beavers’ sake, let’s just hope it’s more than just a “trap-game” effort but instead, an all-out meltdown for the Wildcats. Hey, a guy can dream right?
The fact of the matter is that Arizona is a superbly gifted team who may not go much deeper than eight players on any given night, but for the most part they simply don’t have to, as the team’s top six scorers all average in double-figures. Led by a trio of freshmen in Finnish big-man Lauri Markkanen (16.8 PPG), who has emerged as one of the best newcomers in the conference (behind UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and Washington’s Markelle Fultz), Atlanta’s Kobi Simmons (11.8 PPG) and New York’s Rawle Alkins (11.7 PPG), the Wildcats have some newer talent who just seemingly continue to develop as the year progresses. Combine that with the steady play of the the newly returned Allonzo Trier (13.7 PPG) and the suitable contributions from Serbian forward Dusan Ristic (11.9 PPG) and senior guard Kadeem Allen (10.1 PPG), and there you have exactly what a top-five team in the country looks like. Not too shabby.
The task will be daunting for the Beavers, there’s no way around that, but the biggest key heading into this one with the Wildcats simply has to be belief. Oregon State needs to come out and play hard and at the very least and gain themselves some positive momentum heading into Saturday’s meeting with Arizona State, which pegs itself as a much more winnable game than this one. This season has clearly already been a long-and-trying one for head coach Wayne Tinkle and company but Oregon State has played much better over their last three contests. It’s time for a breakthrough effort from the Beavers to shine some light on a what has been a depressing campaign thus far.
Players To Watch
Lauri Markkanen (Freshman - Forward)
The seven-footer from Finald was an intriguing prospect before the start of the season, who rode the wave of finding “Porzingis-like” talents into a chance to play at Arizona. Since his arrival in Tucson, Markkanen has been on an absolute tear, only scoring in single-digits once all-season long, in an abbreviated outing against Missouri. Markkanen will be a match-up issue for the Beavers, who may switch to more physical and more agile defensive options at times.
Rawle Alkins (Freshman - Guard)
With the body of an NFL linebacker, Rawle Alkins is an NBA veteran-looking rookie who may emerge as one of the best talents on this Wildcats roster, if he stays a few seasons in Tucson. Alkins brings an endless amount of intangibles to the court, where he mixes stellar court-vision and an ingrained toughness that can’t be faltered. Like Markkanen, Alkins is the type of player who Oregon State has shown a tendency to struggle with.
Allonzo Trier (Sophomore - Guard)
After missing nineteen games to start the season, Arizona got one of the country’s best mid-season upgrades when star guard Allonzo Trier returned to the line-up just in time for the team’s eleven-point win over UCLA. From his first moment back on the hardwood, he looked like he never missed a beat. Trier has averaged 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists per outing in his three games this season, as he reclaims his role as Arizona’s most important player.