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Opponent insight: Q&A with Arizona Desert Swarm

What makes the Wildcats such a dangerous basketball team?

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

I got to talk with Scott Moran from about the Arizona basketball team in preparation for the matchup between the Wildcats and the Crimson Tide tomorrow. Here are his insights:

1) Tell us about your offensive scheme. What makes your offense click, and where is it weakest?

This year’s offense is especially predicated on Sean Miller’s scheme, since the sheer talent Arizona is used to isn’t there this season. Arizona was one of many teams slowly shifting towards the position-less style of basketball some NBA teams are developing, where every player on the court can shoot the three while also having a big man down low. Now though, each player has strictly defined roles. Chase Jeter stays in the paint, with Emmanuel Akot staying mostly inside the arc. Brandon Williams, Brandon Randolph, and Justin Coleman play on the wings, and use a lot of ball movement to create open shots. The offense’s biggest weakness is relying on a lot of threes from very players, namely Randolph and Coleman, plus backup Dylan Smith. If one or two of them goes cold for the night, Arizona struggles offensively. If the shots are falling and the passes are crisp though, this is a fun Wildcat offense.

2) What kind of player has Chase Jeter been, and what can he become? Has he so far lived up to his expectations since leaving Duke?

Chase Jeter seems to have blossomed in his time so far in Tucson. Obviously, no player can replace Deandre Ayton, but Jeter has ensured that Arizona’s paint presence is still there. His time at Duke may have been a bit disappointing since he couldn’t see the floor much, but he’s become a key starter for the Wildcats. A lot of Arizona fans were worried about starting Jeter, but he’s proven them wrong and more than lived up to expectations thus far in the young season.

3) Based on you knowledge of Alabama, what matchup do you think Arizona can best exploit?

I’m excited to see the point guard matchup between freshmen Kira Lewis and Brandon Williams, but I’m not sure Arizona will be able to exploit Lewis that much. I suppose I’d pick Jeter going up against Donta Hall down low. Hall being a senior going up against Jeter, who’s still finding his way in this offense, scares me a little bit. I’m more hopeful though because Jeter has played so well of late, and he has a size advantage over Hall. Considering the two big men might decide the game, I’m happy that Arizona seems to have a slight edge.

4) How do you predict your season goes? Is the fanbase excited about the potential of this team and direction of the program?

Everyone across the college basketball world knew this would be a down season for the ‘Cats, and that includes the Arizona faithful here in Tucson. Early signs haven’t been great, but 7-2 with two losses to top ten teams isn’t bad. I think this is definitely a tournament team, probably in the 7 or 8 seed range if you ask me. The fanbase is excited, too, despite the down year— simply because they know patience will be rewarded. Arizona has the top recruiting class for 2019, and there hasn’t been any follow up from ESPN on their infamous wiretap report in February. It looks like the program is absolutely heading in the right direction, and it looks like this season won’t be the disaster most were expecting.

*Ed. Note: Man, what it would be like for a “Down season” to be a 7-8 seed in the NCAA tournament....

5) What is your score prediction?

Before the Utah Valley game, where we trailed for most of the first half, I would’ve picked Arizona pretty easily. I still think the Wildcats are a more complete team, but Avery Johnson is a great coach and the game’s played in Coleman Coliseum. I’m still gonna pick Arizona to win 74-69, but I think Alabama fans will see a close matchup between two teams that have struggled against lesser competition.