Following its loss to Oregon on Saturday, Arizona fell to the middle of the Pac-12 standings but has a chance to begin its upward climb against one of the team’s in the basement of the conference standings in a road contest against the Utah Utes.
Head coach Larry Krystkowiak was hired away from the New Jersey Nets to take over the program and things are off to a rough start in his first season. The media predicted that the Utes would finish 12th in the Pac-12 and so far it’s living up to that billing as they enter the game against Arizona with a 1-4 conference record and 4-13 mark overall.
Utah’s aspirations for pulling the home upset took a big hit when it dismissed 5-foot-11, 211-pound senior Josh Watkins, its leading scorer at 15.6 points per game. He has led the team in scoring in 11 of its 17 games and is putting up an average of 14.6 points per contest. He was also the team leader in assists and minutes with 4.8 assists in 31.1 minutes per outing.
An Honorable Mention All-Mountain West conference as a junior, Watkins has really struggled without much help around him this season. That weakness becomes even glaring without him, as the team has only one other scorer averaging double-digits.
In the back court with Watkins is the team’s third leading scorer, 6-foot, 185-pound junior Chris Hines, who is averaging 7.9 points per game on 31.8 percent shooting from the field. Things have gone better in Pac-12 play for Hines, who is scoring 10.5 points per contest on 37 percent shooting.
Aside from scoring, Hines really does not contribute much to the box score. That’s going to have to change, as he becomes the team’s most experienced backcourt player with Watkins no longer in the fold.
Also starting at guard/forward is 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior Cedric Martin, who has made 16 starts in 17 games this season. Of the three starting guards, Martin averages the fewest points at just 6.5 points per contest, but he’s been the best shooter from three-point range at 38.7 percent.
His play has remained steady in Pac-12 play, as he’s averaging six points and four rebounds while shooting 42.1 percent from three. With Watkins gone, look for Martin to be more assertive on offensive and take shots that he may not normally take as a result.
Starting at forward is the team’s best three-point shooter, 6-foot-6, 219-pound junior Dijon Farr, who is shooting 47.1 percent from beyond the arc for the season. He averages 6.3 points per game to go along with four rebounds per game, which is good for second on the team.
Farr’s shooting numbers have been even better in conference play, as he’s shooting 57.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range on his way to seven points per game. Like Solomon Hill, Farr is playing out of position at the four spot and while he is a good three-point shooter, his offensive game is somewhat limited and therefore it is easy at times for opponents to take him out of the game.
Utah has a true center in 6-foot-10, 244-pound junior Jason Washburn, whose 10.5 points per contest for the season is good for second on the team. Washburn is also the team’s best rebounder at 6.5 boards per contest, and in 28.7 minutes per outing he’s shooting 56.3 percent shooting from the field.
His numbers are down a bit in Pac-12 play, as he’s shooting 47.6 percent from the field on his way to 8.8 points per game. His rebounding statistics are down a bit as well, as he averages just 5.2 rebounds in 31.4 minutes. Despite standing at 6-foot-10, Washburn blocks less than one shot per outing and is really not too large of a presence defensively.
Look for Utah to try to get Washburn going early against the smaller Jesse Perry, as he’s now the team’s best option with Watkins no longer on the team.
There is not much in the way of scoring off the bench for Utah, as 5-foot-10, 184-pound freshman Kareem Storey is the team’s sixth man and is averaging 3.5 points in 20.1 minutes per game. Storey will likely enter the starting lineup and see his role significantly increase now that Watkins has been dismissed from the program.
Another backcourt option off the bench is 6-foot-3, 197-pound freshman Anthony Odunsi, who appears in just 13.9 minutes per contest and averages 3.1 points.
The team’s lone frontcourt contributing reserve is 6-foot-6, 260-pound forward Javon Dawson, who has made one start this season. In 14.4 minutes per outing, the sophomore is averaging 2.8 points on 53.3 percent shooting to go with 2.6 rebounds.
Four of Arizona’s six losses this season have come on the road, but frankly there is no excuse to lose to Utah at this point in the season. The Utes are without question the worst team in the conference, and a loss to start this road trip not only puts Arizona in a terrible position heading into its game with Colorado, but it also puts another blemish on its record one-third of the way through Pac-12 play.
Sean Miller’s team has to come out as the team that dominated the second half of its game against Oregon, not the one that fell into a double-digit hole. If its able to do that, it should win easily. If not, who knows what the final outcome will be.