Rushed Reactions: #6 Arizona 81, #11 Belmont 64Posted by AMurawa on March 21st, 2013
Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #6 Arizona and #11 Belmont in Salt Lake City.
Three Key Takeaways.
- First Half Domination. It’s the same old song and dance for Belmont: great season, plenty of love on Selection Sunday as a possible Cinderella, then they come out and lay an egg in the tournament against a bigger and more athletic opponent. The Bruins turned in perhaps their worst half of the season on Thursday evening, grabbing just 9.1% of their own misses and only 50% of their opponents misses, while also getting outshot 52.2% to 29.6% in effective field goal percentage. While senior Ian Clark cobbled together enough offense to tally 11 points, the rest of his team combined to make just 2-of-17 field goal attempts. All of which combined to equal a 32-20 halftime deficit. Belmont played Arizona pretty tight in the second half, but the first-half damage was done.
- Too Much Size and Athleticism. With the tallest guy on Belmont checking in at just 6’7” and with Arizona featuring four rotation guys along the frontline at least that tall, not to mention significantly more athletic, you probably should have seen this coming to some extent. But the sheer level of the domination along the frontline was startling. Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett have been improving slowly but surely all year and today, after getting through the grind of the Pac-12 and similar level athletes, they seemed to get a lot of joy out of beating up on overmatched opponents. And Mark Lyons? After seeing guys like Jahii Carson and Larry Drew II and Dominic Artis and Spencer Dinwiddie, he seemed to know he could get by whichever Belmont guard was checking him and get into the lane with ease. Credit the Wildcats for exploiting mismatches and advancing, but things are about to get much more difficult.
- Pac-12. Underrated? On a day when the Pac-12 went 3-0 in the Tournament you’ve got to start to wonder just how good this conference is. They haven’t had much of a chance to prove it outside of the league since December, consider what Oregon did to Oklahoma State today. And consider that Arizona, for instance, has wins against teams like Miami, Florida, San Diego State and now Belmont in their undefeated non-conference slate, but struggled to seven losses against Pac-12 competition. Maybe the Pac-12 is better than we thought?
Star of the Game. Mark Lyons, Arizona. Look, Lyons is never going to be the type of distributing point guard that would fit in so well on this Arizona team. But tonight at the very least he was the guy Mark Lyons is really good at being. He attacked off the bounce and seemed to get to the rack just about whenever he wanted. And when the ball found its way to him around the perimeter in the halfcourt game, he stepped up and drilled catch-and-shoot jumpers. And, especially in the first half, he harassed Kerron Johnson and got inside his head, limiting Belmont’s second-leading scorer to just four first-half points.
Sights & Sounds. Arizona Fans. Arizona is known as one of the better traveling fanbases in the West and are just coming off a terrific showing at the Pac-12 Tournament when they regularly filled more than half of the MGM Garden Arena regardless of opponent, but today for a mid-week game they were just so-so. Maybe part of it is their noise being sucked up in the soul-less NBA arena and certainly Wildcat fans are more apt to get excited for UCLA and Colorado, but there wasn’t ever any real excitement in the arena.
Wildcard. The West gets screwed. Back east on these tournament Thursdays and Fridays, you’ve got a couple of games in the morning, a break of maybe 90 minutes or so, and then you’re back for the morning session. Our here west of the Rockies, the games tip off at a more reasonable time, but after that morning session ends, you’ve got maybe 45 minutes (at best – tonight it was closer to 35 minutes) before the evening session kicks off. Just enough time for security to clear the arena and usher in the next group of fans. Just an idea, but maybe instead of tipping off the evening session for these western pods at 7:20 ET or so, you give us a bit of a break and push that starting time back an hour more? What, you think people are going to complain about basketball being on TV even longer?
What’s Next? Arizona will play Saturday against the winner of the nightcap between New Mexico and Harvard, with a potential for the heated and historic UA/UNM rivalry to be reignited. Belmont and head coach Rick Byrd, however, will head back home to patch their bones and try to figure out a way to win NCAA Tournament games as a mid-major. But, if and when they happens, it will be without Ian Clark, Kerron Johnson and Trevor Noack, who have exhausted their eligibility.