Date: Tonight. Time: 7 p.m. Tucson time
Location: Matthew Knight Arena (12,369), Eugene, Ore.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch/Bill Walton)
Bill Walton, legendary UCLA and NBA player and father of former UA hoopster Luke Walton, is back courtside announcing games. He will work tonight’s game for ESPN2 in Eugene, which is fitting because he brought Portland an NBA title and was a star in that area. He rejoins ESPN/ABC, where he had been the lead NBA analyst before he collapsed because of his back problems in an airport in 2007. “My spine failed after a lifetime of spine problems,” Walton told USA TODAY Sports last July. “My life was over. I spent three years on the floor.” USA Today reported that Walton could not move much and that he became suicidal. He fought through that and now folks can hear his analysis again. He will call ESPN Pac-12 basketball games and is slated to join the Pac-12 Networkds. He will also work occasional Sacramento Kings local broadcasts. He had 36 orthopedic surgeries and has fused ankles and a fused spine. “And my knees, hands and wrists don’t work,” Walton told USA Today. “Other than that, everything is fine. I’m doing great. I’m starting over. I’m excited as can be … I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
Jason King of ESPN.com is one national writer who pegged differently than most Arizona’s close calls with Colorado and Utah last week at McKale Center. “Whether you think the officials ‘handed’ Arizona a victory over Colorado last week or not, it was impossible not to be impressed with the gumption the Wildcats showed just to get back in the game,” King writes in his must-read column. “Especially on the defensive end. Arizona, which trailed by 10 points with 1:53 remaining, forced two huge turnovers in the waning seconds and turned both into points. Then it held Colorado to just one field goal in overtime. A few weeks earlier, in a win over then-undefeated Florida, Arizona pressured the Gators into three turnovers in the final 56 seconds as it rallied from a six-point deficit. And let’s not forget Nick Johnson’s game-saving block on the final play against San Diego State. No team in America has been as good in the clutch as Arizona.” The Wildcats dropped from No. 3 to No. 4 after the close victories. The drop should be more because of Louisville’s schedule (the Cardinals moved from No. 4 to No. 3) than what happened at McKale last week.
CLIMBING THE LADDER TO NO. 1
Arizona will play for the first time tonight in Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena. The Wildcats last played in Eugene in 2010 — on Dec. 30 at the old McArthur Court. With the Pac-12 expansion, the Wildcats did not travel to Oregon last season. Oregon and Oregon State played only in Tucson. The Ducks, who defeated Arizona 59-57 in McKale last year, will not play in Tucson this season for the first time since the Pac-10 was formed in 1978-79. Oregon is unbeaten with a 10-0 record at Matthew Knight this season. The Ducks are off to their best start at the arena in school history and best start at any home facility since 2001-02, when they finished the year a perfect 16-0 at McArthur Court. The Ducks have won 16 consecutive games at Matthew Knight Arena dating back to last season. Their last home loss was against Oregon State, 76-71, on Jan. 29, 2012. The Ducks’ 16-game home winning streak ranks 10th in the nation. The Ducks have won this year’s 10 home games by an average of 23.5 points, winning every game by double-digits. Oregon is 43-11 at home under Dana Altman and 27-3 in the last two years.
Led by freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski, much of Arizona’s rebound dominance last week over Colorado and Utah came on the offensive glass. Arizona posted a cumulative 33-14 offensive rebound advantage in the wins over Colorado and Utah. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Utes 18-8 on the offensive glass. Individually, nine of Tarczewski’s 13 rebounds last weekend were offensive, including a season-high seven Saturday against Utah. His efforts help Arizona enjoy a plus-6 advantage per game when it comes to second-chance points. Further, Arizona has pulled down 12 or more offensive boards in a game nine times this year, including the last five games (thanks to the Arizona media-relations department for the information). Tarczewski leads the UA with 36 offensive boards, followed by Solomon Hill with 30. Arizona’s offensive rebounding percentage of 39.6 percent is an ideal mark to this point.
Oregon senior forward Arsalan Kazemi scored eight points as a reserve in the Ducks’ 79-66 victory over Oregon State on Sunday night in Corvallis. He now has 1,297 points for his career, which includes his three years at Rice. Kazemi, from Isfahan, Iran, enters tonight’s game averaging 2.8 steals per game, which leads the Pac-12 and ranks in the top 20 nationally. Kazemi is also averaging 9.8 rebounds per game, which ranks third in the Pac-12. Kazemi is the first Iranian to play Division I basketball and he has a history of playing Arizona. As a freshman in 2009-10, Kazemi had 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the UA’s 66-49 win over Rice at McKale Center. He had 17 points and six rebounds the following year in Houston in UA’s 84-57 win. Only Hill, Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes have experience playing against him. Kazemi and former Rice teammate Omar Oraby transferred out of the Owls’ program (Oraby, an Egyptian, went to USC) citing in part racial discrimination by the Houston university.
Three seniors and two freshmen are each averaging at least 10 points per game for Oregon. Seniors Tony Woods (10.8 points per game), Carlos Emory (10.3) and E.J. Singler (10.2) lead the Ducks upperclassmen, while freshman Damyean Dotson’s 11.8 points per game leads the team. Fellow freshman Dominic Artis averages 10.1 points per game.
PAC-12 RPI ASSESSMENT
RPI based on CBSSports.com
|Rank||Team||Record||P12||Top50||SOS||*Quality Wins||**Poor Losses|
|3||Arizona||14-0||2-0||4-0||13||No. 7 Miami (N)/No. 8 Colorado (H)/No. 11 Florida (H)/No. 37 SDSU (N)||None|
|8||Colorado||10-4||0-2||2-3||2||No. 26 Colorado State (H)/No. 33 Baylor (N)||None|
|42||UCLA||12-3||2-0||2-1||53||No. 20 Missouri (H)/No. 26 Indiana State (H)||No. 164 Cal Poly (H)|
|53||Oregon||12-2||1-0||1-1||193||No. 28 UNLV (A)||None|
|59||ASU||13-2||2-0||1-1||152||No. 8 Colorado (H)||No. 147 DePaul (H)|
|61||Washington||10-5||2-0||0-3||30||None||No. 127 Albany (H)/No. 177 Nevada (H)|
|70||Stanford||10-6||1-2||0-5||39||None||No. 149 USC (A)|
|104||Utah||6-6||0-2||1-2||31||No. 23 Boise State (H)||No. 179 Cal State Northridge (H)/No. 189 SMU (A)/No. 231 Sacramento St. (H)|
|149||USC||6-9||1-1||0-5||21||None||No. 183 Cal Irvine (H)/No. 202 Georgia (A)|
|173||Oregon St.||10-4||0-1||0-1||294||None||No. 142 Towson (H)|
|188||Wash. St.||9-6||0-2||0-2||275||None||No. 168 Pepperdine (A)|
*-Wins vs. Top 50 teams
**-Losses vs. Top 100 teams or lower
SOS-Strength of schedule
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner