Feast Week Mission Briefing: Arizona in the NIT Season Tip-OffPosted by Connor Pelton on November 27th, 2013
With Feast Week tipping off over the weekend, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Pac-12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.
What They’ve Done So Far: Arizona has shown up on the nation’s radar once so far this season, and the Wildcats took advantage of the opportunity. Jumping out to a 24-11 lead, the Wildcats were in firm control of the proceedings at San Diego State. Junior guard Nick Johnson led the Cats with 23 points, and his four free throws in the last seven seconds put the 69-60 victory on ice. Outside of that night in Southern California, they have had a quiet campaign clean of any losses.
First Round Preview: The NIT Season Tip-Off actually began in Tucson last week, with Arizona taking care of Fairleigh Dickinson and Rhode Island in the initial two rounds of this tournament. This tournament actually respects the results of its on-campus competitions (unlike every other early season event), and for that reason, the Wildcats get Drexel this afternoon. The Dragons have opened the season at a 3-1 clip, playing all four games away from home. They started the year with a five-point loss at UCLA, proving they can hold their own against Pac-12 competition. Drexel is led by senior guard Chris Fouch, who averages 17.3 PPG and is a threat to score every trip down the floor. The Cats are certainly the pick in this one, but don’t be surprised if this one is tight into the final minutes.
Potential Later Round Match-up: If the bracket holds, and it would be shocking if it didn’t, Arizona and Duke will meet on Friday night at Madison Square Garden for the tournament championship. Only Alabama stands in the Blue Devils’ way to make the final. Duke, of course, is loaded with talent, but two tight games against East Carolina and Vermont have been troubling because of the ease in which those teams were able to score. For Arizona to take home the title, it’ll need to shut down freshman sensation Jabari Parker.
Outlook: Based on what we’ve seen from Duke in the past week, Arizona is the pick here. While the San Diego State game was a big one, this is the first time this season the Cats will be playing on a truly national stage. On the flip side, the Blue Devils have already played in the Champions Classic and are used to the big game feel. Whoever takes this one will have to be on their A game to go home 2-0.