Arizona basketball: Cats' foe will be … a hard one to figure

Pac-12 Tournament bracket


Saturday's Top 10 showdown between Arizona and Florida may not just be about talent, effort and strategy.

The Wildcats and Gators also will have to shake off the effects of long, finals-week-induced layoffs.

Florida hasn't played since a 72-47 win at Florida State on Dec. 5, giving it 10 days between games, while the Wildcats have a week between their win at Clemson and Saturday's game.

Florida guard Kenny Boynton told the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun that he would "definitely would like to play more games," but center Patric Young was upbeat about the extra time, especially with forward Erik Murphy dealing with a hip pointer.

"It's nice to have a little break because we had a bunch of turnarounds for a while; our schedule was pretty crazy early on," Young said. "It gives us time to get guys back healthy. Murph should be all the way back to 100 percent."

Arizona coach Sean Miller, meanwhile, was confident the Wildcats could handle both the long week and the national spotlight that will come with the game.

"That's all a part of it," Miller said, after the Wildcats beat Clemson 66-54 on Saturday. "Every team has to go through their finals weeks, their ups and downs. I think that we have a focused team."

"Obviously, we're excited about that next game and it's the preparation that will make us ready."

The national polls released Monday added another slight boost to the game: While UA remained ranked at No. 8 in both the AP media poll and ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, the Gators moved to No. 5 in both.

"We're definitely looking forward to it," guard Nick Johnson said.

Tough matchup

During a 13-minute interview on an ESPNU podcast released Monday, Miller said Florida is reminiscent of the Maryland teams in the early 2000s led by Steve Blake and Juan Dixon.

"They have two things that are just really difficult," Miller said. "One, they're an amazing passing team ... they share the ball and they pass it so easily, and they're just clever. … They are really unselfish and you can tell that Billy (Donovan, Florida coach) has really made that an emphasis, because as talented as their individual players are, their team is even better.

"The reason I compare them to Maryland is they test you in all phases - you take the ball underneath your own basket and they're trying to trap and create turnovers. Their zone is really aggressive and their man-to-man is really aggressive. You have to concentrate for 40 minutes because they're such a good passing team that when they get out in transition, it's two points and sometimes three points."

Miller is expected to address the matchup with local media on Thursday.

Matta magic

Miller was asked in the ESPNU podcast about the impressive record of the coaching alumni from Thad Matta's 2003-04 Xavier team, which reached the Elite Eight. Matta and three of his staffers from that team are a combined 32-1 as head coaches so far this season: Miller is 7-0 at UA, Alan Major is 9-0 at Charlotte and John Groce is 10-0 at No. 10 Illinois.

As for Matta himself? He's 6-1 at No. 7 Ohio State, picking up the only loss of the bunch at No. 2 Duke.

"He has got to pick it up," Miller said of Matta, laughing. "What was wrong with him?"

Seriously, though, Miller told podcast hosts Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg the assistants learned from Matta how to bring out the most in a team by making the long season as enjoyable as possible.

"More than anything, Thad has a unique way to coach the game, to allow his team to enjoy being coached and enjoy the ride of a long season," Miller said. "We all have our own personalities, but he's somebody who really has the pulse of his team and when you watch his teams play and practice they enjoy it."

Motum wins Pac-12 honor

WSU's Brock Motum won the Pac-12's Player of the Week award, beating out Arizona's Johnson and ASU's Jordan Bachynski by collecting 23 points and eight rebounds in a close loss to Gonzaga and also leading the Cougars to a win over Fresno State.

Arizona nominated Johnson for the second straight week, after he averaged 18 points, 4.5 steals and 4 rebounds in wins over Southern Miss and Clemson.

Bachynski, meanwhile, had the first triple-double in ASU history (13 points, 12 rebounds and 12 points) in the Sun Devils' win over Cal State Northridge.

According to UA spokesman Richard Paige, former Wildcat Andre Iguodala did not earn the Pac-10's Player of the Week award after any of his three triple-doubles during the 2003-04 season.

On StarNet: See more photos from UA's win over Clemson on Saturday at

Up next

• Who: No. 5 Florida (7-0) at No. 8 Arizona (7-0)

• When: 8 p.m. Saturday


• Radio 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)