Long Beach State v Arizona

Christmas Wish Lists: Arizona needs its big men to mature

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Their young big men continue to mature

This one’s pretty obvious as far as Arizona is concerned, as the Wildcats have plenty of experience to go along with their skill on the perimeter. But inside? Sean Miller’s relying on three freshmen and a sophomore, and if Arizona is to make any noise come March Brandon Ashley, Angelo Chol, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski will need to mature as the season wears on. Chol’s averaging just 9.9 minutes per game currently, but all it would take is one injury for the sophomore to become a more important figure.

Each of the three freshmen have enjoyed moments of success thus far but they’ve also been inconsistent, which isn’t a shock when considering how much experience they have. Brandon Ashley scored 20 points and grabbed ten rebounds in a win over Long Beach State on November 19, only to follow that up with a two-point night in a win over Northern Arizona. The maturation of Ashley, Jerrett and Tarczewski would help keep senior Solomon Hill from having to do too much banging, as he’s far more comfortable on the wing.

Stocking stuffer: Mark Lyons takes better care of the basketball 

Let’s clear this up right now: Mark Lyons is a point guard, regardless of how some may attempt to use his assist and turnover numbers in order to state that he isn’t a “true” floor general. But there’s no doubt that the senior need to tighten things up when it comes to taking care of the basketball if the Wildcats are to reach their full potential. On the season Lyons has tallied a total of 18 assists…and 19 turnovers. Nearly breaking even in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.95 to be exact) may not be a problem right now, but when the pressure rises in March he’ll need to be better. And if the improvement can come without Lyons having to sacrifice some of his ability to make plays, that’s even better.

Planning on re-gifting: Solomon Hill’s field goal percentage

The move back to the three was expected to be a significant move for Hill after he spent the majority of last season at the four due to Arizona’s depth issues. But there is one area in which the move hasn’t been as fruitful as anticipated: field goal percentage. After shooting 2-of-16 in Saturday’s win at Clemson Hill is shooting just 39.1% from the field (33.3% on two-point shots), a number that’s nearly 11 percentage points lower than last season’s mark (50.0%). The three-point percentage (45.2%) has improved but expecting him to continue to score nearly 49% of his points from deep as the season wears on would be unrealistic, and it likely wouldn’t be in Arizona’s best interests either.

Stats courtesy of statsheet.com

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

BUBBLE BANTER: Key Atlantic 10, Big East bubble games

Kelan Martin, Kyle Alexander
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This post will be updated throughout the night.

Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37), 6:30 p.m.
LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) at George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ben Simmons, LSU get tested at South Carolina; more important bubble matchups

FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2015, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives downcourt as teammate Antonio Blakeney (2) follows in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in New York. For all of his gaudy numbers, Simmons is still trying to figure out the best way to put the Tigers in position to win. And now the schedule gets harder, starting with Tuesday night's, Dec. 29, 2015, tilt against Wake Forest, followed by the opening of Southeastern Conference play against Vanderbilt and No. 10 Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: LSU at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.

LSU attempts to stay atop the SEC standings when they travel on the road to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been very tough at home this season and they’re trying to form a potential four-way tie in the conference standings if they’re able to win this one (and Texas A&M wins tonight). It will be intriguing to see how Ben Simmons fares against South Carolina’s stingy defense.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: Saint Joseph’s at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.

An important game in the Atlantic 10 as Saint Joseph’s heads to the Smith Center to play surging George Washington. The Colonels have won three straight games as they try to stay with VCU and Dayton and make a move to tie the Hawks in the league standings. CBT’s Rob Dauster will be in the building for this one, so make sure to follow him on Twitter for updates.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. No. 21 Baylor will have a tough one in the Big 12 when they go on the road at Kansas State. The Wildcats just knocked off Oklahoma and the Octagon of Doom is a very tough place to play, even if Kansas State is struggling in the standings.
  2. No. 16 SMU will try to stay in the lead in the American as they host Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane could really use a road win like this for its postseason chances.
  3. An intriguing Pac-12 contest tips as Washington heads to Utah. The Pac-12 standings are a mess right now, but these two teams still have a chance to make one final move for the regular season title if they start building momentum now.
  4. In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 15 Texas A&M, a team that has lost three of its last four games. The Aggies will be favored in this road contest, but this one could be interesting because of Avery Johnson’s unique connection to Texas A&M. Avery Johnson Jr., a transfer guard sitting out this season at Alabama, played for the Aggies last season, so he could have some useful tips for his dad on slowing down Texas A&M’s potent offense.
  5. No. 20 Providence will be looking for revenge when they head to Milwaukee to face Marquette. The Golden Eagles currently sit eighth in the Big East standings, but they did win on the road by a point over the Friars earlier this season.