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Ben Ball Roundup: A Standard Week

Well, the Pac-10 season is about to get more exciting this week in Westwood. The “Standard” of our Conference is coming to town. We start the Arizona schools week by taking on the Wildcats this Thursday night. Those guys are coming in with a 2 game win streak thanks to last week’s home sweep of Oregon schools. Despite going through the doldrums of Lute Olson drama (I am not going to rehash it) they have compiled a record of 11-5 under their interim coach Russ Pennell which includes (at the time at least) a big victory over (then ranked) Gonzaga Bulldogs. Zona hasn’t beaten the Ben Ball warriors for three years as we are on a 7 game winning steak. However, it would be dangerous to let our guards down for a team that is capable of pulling off upsets just like those Lavin coached (talented) UCLA basketball teams used to do time to time (prolonging the inevitable agony while making his delusional supporters feel good for the short term).

We all know what a huge role emotion can play in college athletics (I think it’s the key factor that distinguish college football and hoops from their counterparts in the professional ranks). Arizona Wildcats have had the Thursday night’s game circled on their calendars even before the season started (then again it’s probably a common occurrence for all UCLA basketball opponents). Those guys were also closely watching our moves on Sunday night. From the Arizona Daily Star:b

Arizona players had the perfect chance to get ahead on their film study Sunday night, when UCLA beat USC 64-60.

Budinger said several players watched the telecast of the game and that, at least for him, it was not a casual viewing.

"I kind of analyze it," Budinger said. "I sometimes watch a certain player on the offensive end going against UCLA, and seeing things that he can do right and the things he can do wrong. I see if there are gaps there or not and try to analyze it a little further and incorporate it into my game. But it is completely different when you're watching it with the coaches."

Apparently Chase and his team-mates are feeling good after getting a day off for the first time X-Mas following the Oregon game:

After Pennell took the Wildcats straight off the airplane and into McKale Center last week following an 0-2 Bay Area trip, he went easier on them this weekend.

The Wildcats enjoyed their first full day off since Christmas on Sunday and did mostly non-physical work Monday.

"It feels good," wing Chase Budinger said. "It feels good to rest the body, get extra sleep and just recharge."

Pennell said he had the Wildcats watch film and do some weight lifting Monday, noting that they were also "mentally drained" during a sweep of the Oregon schools they knew they had to get.

The rest could be of the most benefit to center Jordan Hill, who has been battling leg and back problems this season. But Pennell said both injuries, including the leg muscle strain that kept him out Dec. 29 against Weber State, are not causing him major trouble anymore.

"He says his leg feels better," Pennell said. "He'll be ready for Thursday."

Hill and Budinger needed the rest as they are two of the four Arizona starters who averaged more than 36 mins per game during this previous week. Here is how their rotation is set for now:

Usual Starters -- F Chase Budinger, F Jamelle Horne, C Jordan Hill, G Kyle Fogg, G Nic Wise. Key Subs -- F Fendi Onobun; G Garland Judkins.

And some more notes on their roster from CBS

--F Jamelle Horne shot 5-for-5, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range, on the way to scoring 15 points against Oregon. But he had just six points against Oregon State and missed all four of his 3-point tries.

--C Jordan Hill just missed his 11th double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds against Oregon, then got it by putting together 15 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Oregon State.

-- PG Nic Wise had seven points, five assists and four rebounds, but also seven turnovers, in Arizona's win over Oregon. He followed that up with a modest three-point, four-assist effort against OSU.

In addition, Budinger is coming off a huge week as the Wildcat star (who spurned UCLA in favor of Arizona so that he could play in more wide open style of basketball) averaged 22 points against the Oregon schools, going 15 for 28 in last two games.

During last couple of years LRMAM and AA would get the key assignments in guarding Budinger and making his life hellish against UCLA. It will be interesting to see who Coach Howland calls on to guard him this weekend. It will not be a surprise if CBH calls on JH to guard Buddinger given JH’s defensive performance from Sunday night.

Thursday night will also present a big test for our front court (or perhaps the entire team) as they will take on a pretty solid rebounding team. The Wildcats did a great job outrebounding the Oregon schools last week as they had the edge over Ducks by a margin of 32-23 (and remember how the Ducks were outhustling on the boards just a week before that game) and against the Beavers by a margin of 31-20. Coach Howland will need to continue to put a premium on rebounding in practice as our guys will have to do a better job of securing the rock than what they have shown last couple of games.

Speaking of our guys, ND is feeling good following his (what could be a) breakout game Sunday night. From the LA Times:

During the walk-through for the USC game, something was up. Howland broke the news: Dragovic would get his first start as a Bruin.

The coach wanted an outside threat if USC chose to play zone. Even when the Trojans went man to man and Dragovic struggled, shooting two for six in the first half, the Bruins stuck with him.

His long-range jump shot with 3 minutes 42 seconds remaining turned a tight game into a five-point lead.

"That was a big shot," Howland said.

As the clock ticked down, Dragovic made three free throws and grabbed two rebounds.

That gave him a career-high 14 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes on the court. It also renewed hopes that he can fill a role similar to the one that another Eastern European, Vladimir Radmanovic, plays for the Lakers.

Per ND his team has total confidence in his shooting:

"It helps that I have a lot of support from my teammates and coach," he said. "They believe in my shot."

Apparently ND’s team-mates teammates encouraged him to “keep shooting” when some his shots were not falling early on against Southern Cal.

It will be interesting to see who CBH starts at the 4 spot on Thursday night. There is no doubt ND is getting better this year. However, at the same time I still think he needs to slow it down just a bit when taking those 3s. What I was encouraged by was his play around the rim (had no idea that he could even dunk … lol). For us to be successful on Thursday night we will need to get big efforts from both ND and JK at the 4 spot in holding our own in defensive rebounding. We can’t afford to let other teams have second and third opportunities around our rim after a good defensive effort the first time around. Anyway, hopefully ND’s inspired effort will not only allow him to grow more comfortable, hopefully it will light a fire under JK and push him to be more competitive around practices.

They will need all the edge they can to get ready for teams like Arizona that has had UCLA circles on their calendar all season.