It’s a special basketball Q&A edition ahead of NC State’s daunting matchup with Arizona on Wednesday. I talked about the matchup with Ryan Kelapire, who manages Arizona Desert Swarm, SB Nation’s UofA blog. My answers to Ryan’s questions are over here.
1) Allonzo Trier's numbers are rather eye-popping so far. What is it that makes him such a good scorer?
What makes Trier so effective is that he is able to score at all three levels. Early in his career, he was more of a slasher with a decent jumper. Now, he's just as good from the perimeter as he is in the lane — he's shooting 70 percent from the field and 58.8 percent from 3. He can also score via isolation, pick-and-roll, spot-ups, etc., so he's very difficult to stop especially since Arizona has a ton of good players around him that can't be left alone and Trier has become a much better — and more willing — passer.
2) Is there any concern that the FBI mess is going to prove a distraction or otherwise be a detriment to this season? So far at least, it doesn't look like that's had any bearing on Arizona's performance.
Not really, unless it leads to a suspension midway through the season or something like that. It was definitely a talking point before the season started, but now the focus — by both fans and the media — has switched to basketball. I don't think the current players – most of whom won't be on the team next year — really care about the FBI stuff.
3) It's a work in progress for NC State, but its defensive style has completely changed to a press-heavy system. Do you think Arizona is particularly well suited to handle it?
Yes. Arizona has two point guards (one a senior in Parker Jackson-Cartwright) who have done a great job avoiding turnovers this season (backup point guard Alex Barcello has 11 assists and zero turnovers in three games). UA also has wings like Emmanuel Akot and Trier who are capable of getting the ball up the floor. Not to mention that Deandre Ayton is an incredible passer for someone his size. But Arizona also hasn't faced much press this season, so this will be a good test for sure.
4) What are Arizona's strengths on the defensive side?
The team's overall size and athleticism, mostly. That said, that really hasn't translated into results early on. Arizona has a ton of new, young players and is a work in progress on that end of the floor. The Wildcats have struggled to stop dribble penetration, leading to free throws and open shots. Arizona definitely has the athleticism to improve in that area, and they are expected to, but right now that's their worst issue defensively. And despite having two 7-footers and double-double machine Deandre Ayton, they haven't been as dominant of a rebounding team as you'd think.
5) Is this the year Sean Miller finally gets this program back to the Final Four?
I'm a "believe it when I see it" type of person. This team certainly has the talent to go that far, but we know how unpredictable the NCAA Tournament is. It's not just about having the most talent, it's about executing when it matters most and Arizona just simply hasn't been able to do that the last few years. The margin for error does seem to be greater this year, though.
6) If a team is going to upset the Wildcats, what's the most important thing they have to do well?
Defend at a super high level. Arizona's offense has been ridiculously proficient this season while its defense has just been OK. If NC State can make Arizona uncomfortable on offense and force turnovers with its press-heavy system, it has a chance to stay in the game. I don't know if NC State plays zone, but doing that would help, too.