The two Arizona basketball programs are entering the Pac-12 tournament in very different places. The Arizona Wildcats sit as the two-seed and have a share of the Pac-12 regular season championship. If they have a very good week in Vegas, they could be a top seed in the region for the NCAA tournament.
Meanwhile, the Arizona State Sun Devils are sitting at an eight or nine-seed and will need some magic to happen in Vegas to go dancing.
Here are some storylines for each team to keep track of next week at the Pac-12 tournament.
Off the Mark-kanen
It was a different game for Lauri Markkanen on Saturday than the last time the Sun Devils and Wildcats squared off, where the seven-foot sharpshooter was 4-7 from behind the arc.
Markkanen is 0-for-11 on 3's his last 4 games.
— Greg Hansen (@ghansen711) March 4, 2017
Markannen has had his fair share of struggles shooting lately, but he made his presence felt with 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. If he can have that sort of impact while struggling, the Wildcats have enough shooters to fill in for him. If he gets out of this slump, all the better for the Wildcats.
Rebounding From UCLA
The telling state of Arizona’s loss to UCLA last week was the offensive rebounds. The Bruins grabbed 14 to the Wildcats’ four, which led to 20 second chance points for UCLA. How did they rebound from that (pun definitely intended)? With 50 rebounds against Arizona State. With three seven-footers on the roster and a guy like Rawle Alkins, who nabbed 15 rebounds on Saturday, the Wildcats are equipped to dominate the boards.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Attacking the Glass
What is the Wildcats’ strength is the Sun Devils’ weakness. This isn’t new. The Sun Devils have a very small lineup. While Obinna Oleka is one of the better rebounders in the conference, there is not a lot of depth in the front court. When faced against larger lineups, rebounds will be at a premium.
The smaller lineup that may make rebounding difficult can be offset by hitting shots from behind the arc, which the Sun Devils are capable of doing. With Kodi Justice, Tra Holder, Torian Graham and Shannon Evans II, there having been multiple times the Devils have hit 15+ three-pointers in a game. In the Sun Devils’ 73-60 loss to Arizona Saturday, they struggled from the field, hitting 34.6% on their shots. If a few of them are able to get hot from the field, the Devils can win some games in Las Vegas.
The Pac-12 tournament kicks off March 8th.