No. 8 Auburn (4-1) opened up the Maui Invitational on Monday, and now they’ll get set to close it out, playing the final game of the tournament on Wednesday night at 10:30 p.m. CST against Arizona. The game will determine who finishes in third place for the Maui Invitational.
The Tigers hung with, but eventually lost to No. 1 Duke on Tuesday night, 78-72, a day after a nine-point overtime win over Xavier. This game against the Wildcats will be the final game for a week.
Here’s everything you need to know about Arizona.
Arizona, much like Xavier in the first game, is not projected to be as good as usual. They lost DeAndre Ayton from last season, as he was taken first overall in the NBA Draft. Alonzo Trier is also in the NBA.
So Arizona isn’t projected to be as talented as the teams that have been a top six seed in the NCAA Tournament ever since 2013. They lost a good chunk of their recruiting class amid a payment scandal involving head coach Sean Miller.
So far, though, Arizona has been pretty good. They’re 4-1, with the only loss coming in a tight game against No. 3 Gonzaga on Tuesday. They beat a highly-touted Iowa State team in the first game of this tournament, and had three lower-level blowout wins at home to start the season.
Brandon Randolph, a sophomore forward, has seen his role increase dramatically this season. He’s had double-figures in every game, including 19 against the Zags. The other Brandon. freshman guard Brandon Williams, has been a steady distributor and ball-handler.
Justin Coleman, a former Samford and Alabama player, along with Pitt transfer Ryan Luther, are the main senior contributors.
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED
Auburn is 1-0 all-time against Arizona. They met March 14, 1986 and won 73-63 over the Wildcats. The game was in Long Beach, California, and was the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers went on to the Elite Eight where they lost to Louisville.
The Tigers were an at-large team in that tournament after losing in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. They finished the conference season 13-5. Chuck Person was taken as the No. 4 overall pick in the NBA Draft after that season.
HOW AUBURN WINS
Auburn has shown that they’re going to need to be an efficient 3-point shooting team to win important basketball games. It was hard for them to find a driving lane on Tuesday with Marques Bolden in the middle, but the Tigers will need to drive more effectively. It will open up the outside game for them, allowing for more catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, as opposed to pull-up shots or shooting out of chaotic dribbling.
The Wildcats have done really well at getting to the foul line this year. That disparity was on full display in the Auburn-Duke game. If the Tigers aren’t going to get to the line, they can’t be getting in early foul trouble.
STAT TO KNOW
Williams’ 37 free-throw attempts are second-most in the PAC-12. Auburn as a team has attempted only 70 free-throws, and no one has more than 15 attempts on the year. That distinction would belong to Austin Wiley, who has missed more than half of his looks.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Arizona has built its roster around a lot of transfers. One interesting transfer is Chase Jeter, who got left behind during his two years at Duke. He’s now getting to play more than 20 minutes a game for the Wildcats, and is shooting nearly 66 percent from the floor. His turnovers are way down, and his rebounding is way up. Arizona certainly had some roster issues, but seems to have plucked the right pieces in order to field a good team.
(All advanced stats via kenpom.com)Arizona, Auburn, Basketball, opponent, preview