Entering tonight’s game at Pauley Pavilion, the Arizona Wildcats and the UCLA Bruins appear to be teams heading in different directions.
UCLA was expected to finish second in the conference while the Wildcats were expected to finish fourth. Well, right now, Arizona is tied for second behind unbeaten Washington which has yet to lose a conference game while the Bruins sit in seventh place amid a three-game losing streak.
While Arizona’s leading scorer is sophomore guard Brandon Randolph, who’s averaging 15.2 points per game, the guy to really look out for is redshirt junior center Chase Jeter, according to Arizona Desert Swarm’s Scott Moran in our Behind Enemy Lines Q&A. Jeter played his first two seasons for Duke before transferring to Arizona and sitting out last season. So far this season, he’s second on the team in scoring with an average of 12.6 points per game. He also leads the teams in rebounding with an average of 7.2 per game.
But, that assumes that Jeter will be able to play tonight. He missed Thursday night’s game against Southern Cal with a back injury. If he can’t go, look for senior forward Ryan Luther to start in his place. That would cost the Wildcats quite a bit of production since Luther only score eight points against Southern Cal Thursday night while also grabbing five rebounds.
Sean Miller has been starting a four-guard lineup with this team. The other three starting guards are senior Justin Coleman, redshirt junior Dylan Smith and freshman Brandon Williams. Williams is Arizona’s third guy averaging in double figures in points per game with 11.7. He also lead the Cats in assists. Meanwhile, Coleman and Smith are averaging 9.1 ppg and 5.8 ppg, respectively.
If Miller opts to go with a hot hand and wants to match up with UCLA for size, sophomore forward Ira Lee could see a lot of time tonight off the bench. Lee is 6’7” tall and he was able to score 12 Thursday night against Southern Cal. So, he may end up being one of the first guys off the bench tonight.
UCLA seems to have Sean Miller’s number often, but that was under Steve Alford. If Alford were still coaching the Bruins, I might be inclined to call this as a win for UCLA, but Murry Bartow has no experience at UCLA against Miller.
Given that these teams seem to be moving in different directions, I just don’t see the Bruins pulling this one out. It might be a close game, but I think Arizona will salvage their trip to Los Angeles with a win tonight. I hope I’m wrong.