Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS (Verne Lundquist, Billy Packer)
"It's a tough game at their place, but I'm looking forward to it. Energy isn't going to be a problem going into that gym ... I've been looking forward to that game and we need to go in and come out with a win and show we have a legacy on the West Coast." -- Marcus Williams
Season To Date:
It's been a rocky first half of the season for Arizona. Losses to UConn, Michigan State and UCLA were certainly understandable, but the same can't be said for losses to Houston, Oregon State and Oregon -- the result of which sent the Wildcats out of the Top 25 for the first time in a decade.
From a personnel standpoint, losing talented guards Jawan McClellan (first academics, then injury) and Chris Rogers (dismissed) was a painful blow to the team's backcourt depth. But those still on the active roster have been disappointing as well. A roster filled with blue-chip recruits hasn't been able to gel into an effective unit.
Starting guards Hassan Adams (who at 220 pounds is more of a "3") and Mustafa Shakur are great at taking the ball to the rim, but their perimeter shooting has been a struggle - both are under 30 percent on three-point attempts (Rogers was the team's top long range shooter).
Up front, the Wildcats have size, but their post players aren't strong presences in the paint. Starters Ivan Radenovic and Kirk Walters are both 6-10 and more than 240 pounds, yet they are ineffective post scorers and aren't a big enough help on the boards-- Arizona was outrebounded in the losses to Oregon and Oregon State (35-22 margin vs OSU). Reserve post players Isaiah Fox and Mohamed Tangara may see more minutes on Saturday against the Tar Heels, but neither has been much of a help this season.
So what does Arizona do best? The Wildcats excel in an open court setting, relying on their quick, attacking guards and face-up frontcourt. Their defense has been their most effective weapon, recording more than 10 steals per game. But even more impressive is that the Wildcats' opponents are averaging 21.5 turnovers per game.
The bright spot thus far has been Marcus Williams, who's worked his way into the lineup at the small forward spot and appears destined for stardom. He's described as long and lean, an effective scorer from mid-range in and gritty rebounder -- both categories at which the Wildcats have been in need of serious help.
Projected Starters: 15 Mustafa Shakur (6-3, 190, Jr.) – 11.3 ppg, 4.3 apg 21 Hassan Adams (6-4, 220, Sr.) – 19.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg 3 Marcus Williams (6-7, 205, Fr.) – 11.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg 55 Ivan Radenovic (6-10, 244, Jr.) – 9.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg 54 Kirk Walters (6-10, 241, Jr.) - 5.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg Key Reserves: 30 J.P. Prince (6-6, 180, Fr.) – 2.8 ppg, 2.3 apg 2 Isaiah Fox (6-9, 255, Sr.) - 1.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg 14 Mohamed Tangara (6-9, 252, Fr.) – 2.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg
Series History: Today's game is the sixth meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 3-2 series advantage. UA has won the last two meetings in the series, which dates back to Dec. 28, 1948, including the last meeting, 66-58, in Indianapolis, Ind., on March 29, 1997. All five meetings have been at neutral sites.
Adams ... Williams
Walters ... Shakur
Prince ... Radenovic