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Q&A with Arizona Desert Swarm: Looking Ahead

Will the Beavers see a slumping or surging Wildcat team tomorrow night?

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon State basketball team travels to Tucson for a Thursday night clash with the #17-ranked Arizona Wildcats. Arizona is one of the most talented Pac-12 teams, but is coming off a perplexing loss to a Colorado team that the Beavers beat to open Pac-12 play.

We got the inside scoop from Ryan Kelapire of Arizona Desert Swarm, on what to expect Thursday night. View the insights we gave them here.

What is going on with Sean Miller? Do his players actually not want to play for him or is the whole thing being blown out of proportion?

I think the whole thing is being blown out of proportion a bit, but he is right when he says his team struggles to play with effort. The reason for that is unclear, but I think it is more a function of the team’s youth and lack of leadership (among the players). Arizona also lost two assistant coaches this offseason — one to UC Santa Barbara and one to, well, the FBI — so maybe that is causing this, too. Most people just see his rants as his way to motivate his players. One of those rants worked earlier in the year, we’ll see if this latest one does.

How good is Deandre Ayton?

This is not an exaggeration: you can easily argue that Deandre Ayton is the best big man to play college ball in years. Decades even. He’s averaging 20 and 11 and is one of the most efficient scorers in the country. And it’s not like he just dunks on people. He has great touch, can shoot, and has impeccable footwork. His physical tools are just overwhelming.

Defensively is where he has the most work to do. He shows flashes of greatness, but still has too many lapses on that end.

Follow-up question... Which Arizona players are expected to declare for the NBA draft after this season?

Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, and Rawle Alkins. Ayton is a sure-fire top-five pick (probably top three if we’re being honest), while the other two are likely to be selected in the second round.

What kind of style does Arizona play? Do they utilize their athleticism and play fast and uptempo?

Well, at the beginning of the year Arizona was running and gunning, but now they play more like Sean Miller teams usually do — slowing things down, only getting in transition occasionally. But part of that is because Arizona’s defense hasn’t consistently been able to get stops or turnovers, and obviously it is harder to run when you don’t do those things. On defense, Arizona plays their usual pack-line man-to-man defense. They just aren’t very good at it this year.

What would be considered a successful season for Arizona?

Expectations were Final Four or bust heading into the season but, to me, this team isn’t that good to expect them to go that far. They have a generational big man in Ayton and two fantastic wings in Alkins and Trier, sure, but their freshmen (aside from Ayton) have not panned out and their two other starters (Dusan Ristic and Parker Jackson-Cartwright) just aren’t that great. So I’d say making the Elite Eight would be a successful season, though most UA fans won’t agree.

Basically it comes down to this for me: Does Arizona have the talent to reach the Final Four? Of course. Do they have enough to expect that to happen? No.

Prediction?

Arizona won’t lose to Oregon State at home. I actually really like the Beavers’ makeup this year, but that just won’t happen. Oregon State might be able to keep it close for 30-35 minutes, but I expect the Wildcats to win by double digits.

Bonus question: What are your thought on the surprise Rich Rodriquez firing?

Most assumed he had saved his job after reaching a bowl game (thanks, Khalil Tate) so his firing was a bit of a surprise in that regard. The timing was weird, too. Who waits until January to fire a coach? But the program wasn’t exactly thriving, and now we know about the off-the-field issues he had so it was the right move.