Wildcats (16-10, 6-7) at Cougars (21-5 overall, 9-5 Pac-10)
Kind of like when the Cougs played Oregon, there aren’t a lot of mysteries here: When Arizona shoots well, it wins. Simple as that.
According to kenpom.com, Arizona has a strong correlation between effective field goal percentage and offensive efficiency. Remember, effective field goal percentage is one number that combines 3-point and 2-point percentage, appropriately giving more weight to the 3s because (duh) they’re worth more points.
In terms of eFG%, 50 percent is roundly recognized as the benchmark of good shooting. Consider this:
- Arizona’s record in games in which the Wildcats shoot over 50 in eFG%: 13-3. They’ve won 11 of the last 12 such games in a row.
- In games which the Wildcats shoot 50 or less in eFG%: 3-7. They’ve lost the last seven such games in a row.
If you’re wondering, Arizona shot 70.0 eFG% in the first blowout win over WSU. Can we expect that to change this time around? I think so, for three reasons.
First, 70 eFG% is a ridiculously high number that is nearly impossible to duplicate under any circumstance. To get that high, you’ve got to get extraordinarily hot from long range — the kind of hot you only get once or twice a year. For perspective, the Cougs’ highest eFG% in conference this year is 67 (in the second game against USC); UCLA’s is 66; Stanford’s is 57.3.
Second, Arizona is missing one of its prime long-range shooters, Nic Wise. He’s missed the last four games, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Arizona is 1-3 with eFG% of 45.1, 52.9, 42.2 and 45.5. This is a team that has virtually no depth and the Wildcats miss his ability to stretch the defense.
Third, this Cougar defense has undergone a remarkable transformation that, frankly, I didn’t think was possible. We are doing a much better job of containing penetration while simultaneously doing a great job getting out on 3-point shooters.
In short, this is a WSU team that is much better than it was in the first matchup, and an Arizona team that is worse. While Jarryd Bayless and Chase Budinger probably will get theirs, these are two teams heading in opposite directions. It should translate into a big home win for the Cougs.
Oh, and FYI: I probably won’t be around to comment on the game as it happens. I’ll be on the west side again at that point and probably won’t be able to get to a computer. But I’m sure Jo-Jo will be here to feed your in-game analysis needs.