Maui Jim Invitational Second Round Preview: #17 SDSU Aztecs vs. #14 Arizona Wildcats
The Aztecs and Wildcats are both undefeated at 4-0. One team will move to 5-0, and the other will taste the bitter fruit of humility.
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Battle of The Elites: Offense vs. Defense
WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 22nd — 5:30pm HST / 7:30pm PST / 10:30pm EST
WHERE: Lahaina Civic Center, Lahaina, HI (2,400)
LIVE STREAM: fuboTV (Watch for free)
RADIO: 101.5 KGB / XTRA 1360 / iHeart Radio App
SERIES RECORD: This is the 32nd matchup between the Aztecs and the Wildcats. Arizona maintains a 24-7 series lead, and a 4-game winning streak.
LAST MEETING: Arizona defeated SDSU 61-59 on November 26, 2014
WEBSITES: GoAztecs.com, the official San Diego State athletics website; ArizonaWildcats.com, the official Ohio State athletics website.
ODDS: Arizona -1.5
Maui, HI- The #17 San Diego State Aztecs (4-0, 0-0 MW) will be seriously tested when they tip off against the #14 Arizona Wildcats (4-0, 0-0 Pac-12) in the 2022 Maui Jim Invitational semifinals on Tuesday night.
The Battle Of The Elites will once and for all tell us whether elite offense or elite defense prevails in the end.
SDSU: Elite Defense
SDSU advanced to the semifinals with a 88-77 victory (as a -5 favorite) over Ohio State Monday. The Aztecs held the Buckeyes to a 42.4% mark from the floor and 8 offensive boards. The Aztecs’ 88 points were a season-high.
Kenpom interprets this match as the No. 9 defense vs. the No. 4 offense. The Aztecs held an Ohio State team just outside the top 25 to 42.4 percent shooting and 7 of 22 behind the arc in the quarterfinals. The big difference maker, in the end, was bench scoring 41-27. That depth is a serious concern for Arizona in a tournament as intense as this year’s Maui Invitational. Brian Dutcher evenly applied his nine-man rotation, and the Aztecs had fresh legs and fresh shooters- perpetually.
Matt Bradley was limited to 18 minutes by foul trouble but still registered 18 points. Aguek Arop played an effective 17 minutes against Ohio State (six points, four boards, two assists), and the Aztecs were plus-24 points with him on the floor. Lamont Butler contributed 15 points and nine assists.
The Aztecs will have to use power of will and stunning agility to overpower Arizona, if they seek to prevail. They must handle the ball with care, and pray officials don’t menace them as they did Monday.
Arizona: Elite Offense
Arizona topped Cincinnati 101-93 (failing to cover as a 10-point favorite) Monday. The Wildcats shot 62.3% (38 of 61) and scored over-100 points for a 3rd time in 4 games. Forward Azuolas Tubelis scored 30 points against the Bearcats, increasing his season average to 22.5 points per game.
The Wildcats top division 1 college basketball in scoring at 104.2 points per game, and they are 2nd in quickest average possession length at 13.8 seconds. In a nutshell, they are to offense what SDSU is to defense.
Defense, on the other hand, is not Arizona’s specialty, ranking 56th in Kenpom in defense efficiency, but so far they’ve offset this by outscoring all opponents handily.
Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd was a Mark Few understudy at Gonzaga, and now Arizona appears very “Zags inspired” these days with eight foreign players, hailing from Lithuania, Estonia, France, Sweden, Serbia and Mali. The Wildcats are ENORMOUS, with three 7-footers, and two additional 6-10+ footers. The lone returning starter is Estonian superstar point guard Kerr Kriisa. But Azuolas Tubelis, a 6-11 forward from Lithuania, had 30 points and 12 boards in Monday’s 101-93 win against Cincinnati. Oumar Ballo, a 7′ center from Mali who followed Lloyd to Arizona from Gonzaga, had 21 points and 10 boards. That’s a double double-double. Texas transfer Courtney Ramey added 17 points in just nine shots in his first game after serving a three-game NCAA suspension for participating in an exhibition event.
The Wildcats have serious length and elite offense. It’s notable that they do not, however have much depth, or great defense.
What Will Happen
The Aztecs will play their brand of elite defense, which will both slightly impair Arizona’s scoring ability, and tire out their stars. As the Aztecs keep rotating fresh players, the Wildcats will experience wear down and possibly foul trouble. If the Aztecs complement their elite defense with offensive prowess as they did last night, they will barely eek out a victory. This is likely to be a close match from start to finish.
The Aztecs statistically don’t win this game, but they’re our pick.
Final Score: SDSU 94, Arizona 92