Arizona looks to ruin brackets for those picking Belmont - The Explorer: UA Wildcats

Arizona looks to ruin brackets for those picking Belmont

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Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 8:40 am

We've reached the time of the year when everybody is looking for that trendy upset pick to separate themselves in their office pool. Arizona is looking to ruin brackets for those picking Belmont in the NCAA tournament second-round contest Thursday in Salt Lake City.

When the bracket was unveiled Sunday and the sixth-seeded Wildcats were matched up against the 11th-seeded Bruins in the West Regional, analysts from all over were giving UA the early ticket back to Tucson.

Junior guard Jordin Mayes said Monday that he "heard the comments" but then contradicted himself.

"I ain't really paying attention to it," Mayes said. "Belmont is a good team, they're in the tournament. We're a good team, we're in the tournament."

Nice try.

How can anybody stay away from the tournament talk? Just about every major network has some show dedicated to predicting how the Big Dance will play out, and it is a tournament that has had the underdog produce some of its more memorable moments.

This is a stage where the Bryce Drews, Stephen Currys and Ali Farokhmaneshs of the world become instant stars and lead their unknown teams on a wild ride.

And, oh, by the way, the Bruins just happen to do the one thing that the Wildcats have struggled with at times this season. Belmont, which averages 77.2 points per game, has the nation's 18th-best 3-point shooting team in the country at 38.6 percent. Opponents shot 36 percent from long range against the 'Cats.

Say hello to Belmont's Ian Clark. Arizona already has familiarized itself with the senior, who leads the nation in 3-point shooting at 46.3 percent and shoots better than 54 percent, overall.

"They have a great scorer, very efficient player (in Clark)," UA forward Solomon Hill said. "It's going to be a big challenge for us. I'm ready to accept the challenge and I think a lot of guys on our team, especially Nick (Johnson), will be more motivated than anybody with the defense he's been playing to guard a guy that's the all-time scoring leader in Belmont history.

"I'm guessing he's a guy who can get going, no matter where he is."

It is not just from beyond the arc where the Bruins are deadly, either, as their 49.4 percent mark from the field ranked fourth in the country this season.

So while Clark can be a handful, there are a number of weapons who can get Belmont a bucket. The Bruins' frontcourt players, Blake Jenkins and Trevor Noack, the team's leading rebounder, are an inside-out threat. Jenkins shoots just below 60 percent while Noack shoots 41.8 percent from 3.

Although he had yet to watch much film as of Monday afternoon, Hill likened Belmont to Washington State, which gave the Wildcats some issues.

But the Bruins do not just score. The defense forces 17.4 turnovers per game, and UA head coach Sean Miller said that could be a problem if the Bruins get clean looks in transition.

"They really turn you over. They're one of the teams in this country that really is able to turn you over by pressing and using quickness," Miller said. "And if you think about the other component, their ability to shoot the ball from 3 at [center and power forward positions] at all times, your turnovers can lead to 3s and easy baskets. That's something that UCLA is good at. Hopefully, us learning the value of taking care of the ball can help us here."

And those Bruins of UCLA posted a 3-0 record against the Wildcats this season.

While Arizona's biggest advantage is its size, Hill said the team is at its best when it can push the tempo. Well, that happens to play right into Belmont's strength.

But Hill added that UA's ability of late to chase teams off the 3-point line - Colorado and UCLA combined to shoot 6 of 24 - will be the key. Hill said the Wildcats need to make sure the Bruins' 3-point attempts are more out of desperation than in the flow of their offense.

"You don't want to hope that they miss shots," Hill said. "I think the key for us will be to make them miss shots. Close out hard, get them going from 2, don't let them hot going from 3."

And then there is the makeup of the Belmont roster that only fuels the upset alert talk.

The Bruins, who have yet to win an NCAA tournament game in the program's five previous trips, play an eight-man rotation that includes four seniors and a pair of juniors. In 2008, Belmont lost 71-70 to Duke, and Hill is aware of how close they are to making that next step.

"You have to be able to get on a team like that early. You don't want them to kind of hang around," Hill said.

And Hill understands the upset talk at this time of the year, even if he does not want to listen to it. The senior just chalks it up to the media doing its job.

"People are going to throw out things like that, they're going to throw out upsets," Hill said.

"Somebody has to say something about it."

(Editor's Note: Tracy McDannald is the senior editor for GOAZCATS.com. Get all your wildcats' news at goazcats.com.)

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