Arizona and UCLA Have History. Obviously.

Posted by Adam Butler on March 13th, 2015

We probably don’t need a history lesson. You know as well as I do that Arizona and UCLA have been pretty good basketball programs in the same conference for a long while now. But did you know that Arizona is just 1-5 against the Bruins in the conference tournament since it was re-conceived in 2002? If you’re searching for a word, it’s probably ‘owned’ or something of that ilk. And because recent history most immediately dictates our excitement, we need look no further than 2013 and 2014. The former was the infamous “He Touched the Ball” game. The aftermath of that game sent shock waves throughout the conference as officiating ‘scandals’ have a tendency to do. But then we were delighted to the rematch — the game we deserved — because these are the cornerstones of Pac-12 basketball. They’d both rolled into the game (together won the quarters and semis by a net 96 points) with heads of steam for March. The game was a wonderful. UCLA won – remember they own Arizona in this tournament – and it was fitting they played because the Pac-12’s imbalance doesn’t guarantee two of these games.

Two of the better coaches in the country go at in Las Vegas tonight. (AP)

Two of the better coaches in the country go at in Las Vegas tonight. (AP)

I’m not a big believer in the ways of the universe or reading too far into signs (let’s be serious, I probably am, I scour KenPom and hoop-math for nuanced data patterns like the fact that Bryce Alford shoots an insanely low percentage of assisted threes – 58.7 percent – which is like whaaaat?? But maybe, because we’re being treated to this matchup for the third time in nearly as many unbalanced seasons, we need to guarantee ourselves this matchup? Alas, that’s a gripe not suited for March. Because March is our game’s biggest stage and we want to see its biggest competitors. We want competition at its finest and deepest roots. We want Arizona-UCLA. So in 2015, what’s that look like?

It’s transpired once, in Tucson, as a less than attractive matchup that saw Arizona not score for more than 12 minutes of action. And win. The final score was a putrid 57-47 with just 36 percent of all shots being made. Woof. Anyone over 6’9” for the Bruins and not named Goloman fouled out (Looney, Parker, Welsh). To hang with Arizona you’ve got to have size. While UCLA had size, they hung around. At certain points, Noah Allen was the center. And if we’re looking into this semifinal game, it’s worth noting that we don’t believe Kevon Looney will play. Against USC he suffered a “facial injury.” What that means exactly is unknown. What we do know is that should he be absent from the court tonight, UCLA will be at a tremendous deficit. It’s also not clear whether UCLA will continue to wear their Adidas mandated uniforms. I repeat, woof.

Also at this point in the season you know the players to watch and the trends to keep an eye on. Arizona’s defense is elite. It protects the rim and closes out on threes. Their opponents have taken 46 percent of their shots in the form of a two-point jumper. Their offense is swift and attacking, as just a quarter of their shots are taken in the form of a three. Which is a shot UCLA wants its opponents to take. Nearly 35 percent of attempts against their defense are from outside their zone. In Tucson, they met in the middle. Arizona took 13 threes (making just three) which accounted for 30 percent of the Wildcats’ shots. Regarding UCLA’s offense, they can get theirs. I mean, 96 last night, right? It can be a pretty individualized effort and – fortunately – they’ve got the pieces to do it. After all, Isaac Hamilton scored 36 points. He was the fourth Bruin to exceed 27 points in a game this season.

But of course this is that time of year – and tell me if you’ve heard this before – when you can toss out the scouting reports. It’s do-or-die, yadda yadda. And I know you’ve heard this before: It’s Arizona and UCLA. The kind of competitive sport we want.

Adam Butler (47 Posts)

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