LOS ANGELES — There are certainly a lot of story lines for tomorrow’s Arizona-Wisconsin Elite Eight game.
Did I hear something about a re-match? I could’ve sworn I heard something about that?
Really though, we all know about how this is a re-match, how Arizona has been thinking about this game all year, blah blah blah.
I’m just kidding, of course, but we will have plenty of content about that game and both team’s thoughts about it looking back/going forward on our site tonight.
What I wanted to focus on for this post is, of course, Frank the Tank, and how Arizona can try to defend him. That’s Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin’s star center, if you didn’t know, for some reason.
Arizona lost last year’s game because of how dominant he was — 28 points, 11 rebounds. He scored 20 of those in the second half and overtime, and shot 8 for 13 in that stretch.
The Wildcats threw Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon at him, to no avail.
“I remember being able to get open, making shots, going out and having fun,” Kaminsky said on Friday.
A narrative — right or wrong — was started that maybe if Brandon Ashley wasn’t hurt, and played, and guarded Kaminsky, the Wildcats wouldn’t have lost by one point.
Whether that’s true or not, Ashley is back. So I decided to take a look at the Wildcats match-up with Kaminsky, and how they might go about defending him.
I split it up into three chapters. This is a lengthy post. Kinda sorry about that.
I. What Kaminsky does well
II. Which player(s) might guard him on Saturday
III. How Arizona has done against players with similar skillsets this season
I. What Kaminsky does well.
1. Size. He’s 7-feet tall and weighs 234 pounds
1a. How he uses that size. He’s actually underrated as an athlete. He’s not Aaron Gordon, per say but he can move. And it’s what he can do at that size that makes him so dangerous.
2. Scoring, and shooting, ability. He’s as dangerous of a threat from deep (.413 3-point shooting percentage, makes 1.1 per game) as from, really, anywhere else. He shoots 47.6 percent on 2-point jumpers and 69.2 percent at the rim. According to KenPom, of players that use at least 25 percent of their team’s possessions, he’s the second-most efficient player in the nation.
3. Rebounding. I’m not sure he’ll be a stud rebounder at the next level, but in college he uses his body well and has a 25 percent defensive rebounding percentage, which is 29th best in the nation. He averages 8.1 boards per game.
4. Passing. He’s a pretty remarkable passer, 7-feet tall or not. But especially for 7-feet tall. He leads the Badgers with 2.7 assists per game.
II. Which player(s) might guard Kaminsky on Saturday.
It will certainly be a team effort.
“It doesn’t come down to one person guarding him,” Tarczewski said. “It comes down to the team.”
So, with that, we’ll look at Tarczewski first. He’s 7-feet tall, and moves extremely well for a 7-footer, but he also struggles a bit one-on-one against pick-and-pop guys like Kaminsky. The bigger issue is that if Tarczewski is not covering Kaminsky, then who is he covering?
Second, Brandon Ashley. He’s 6-foot-9 with a 7-2 wing span. He’s a decent athlete, moves well, decent defender. Maybe a little bit undersized to defend Kaminsky in the low post, but could work well against him on the perimeter.
“With Kaleb, he’s a big guy who can bang on the inside,” Ashley said. “Me, I’m probably a little bit more versatile on the outside, same with Rondae, just throwing different looks at him, making it more complicated. So he’s not facing the same defense throughout the entire night.”
Third, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. You know the drill with him. He’s guarded anyone and everyone, he’s athletic, he’s 6-7 with a 7-1 wingspan. BUT he has not guarded a big man like Kaminsky. Gordon struggled against him, and Hollis-Jefferson probably can’t really body up Kaminsky in the low post.
Fourth, Stanley Johnson. He’s got the skillset of a wing, but the strength and size (6-7, 245 pounds) of a big man. In fact, Johnson actually weighs more than Kaminsky. Johnson doesn’t move as well laterally as Hollis-Jefferson, and sometimes effort is an issue on defense, but I personally am intrigued by this matchup.
Fifth, T.J. McConnell…. Lol jk.
III. Who has Arizona faced with a similar skillset?
Since Kaminsky is pretty unique, I tried to focus it more on pick-and-pop bigs.
“We’ve gone against some good pick and pop fives,” Tarczewski said, “and we’ve been able to defend them, so I think we’ll be fine.”
These were the five of the best examples I could come up with.
- Kyle Wiltjer, 6-10, 240 pounds, Gonzaga: 15 points, 7 rebounds, 6-of-16 shooting, 1-of-6 3-pointers
- Christian Wood, 6-11, 220, UNLV: 24 points, 10 rebounds, 10-of-17 shooting, 0-for-3 3-pointers, Arizona loss
- Olaf Schaftenaar, 6-10, 224, Oregon State: (two games) 17 points, 10 rebounds, 5-for-11 shooting, 5-for-8 3-pointers. One Arizona win, one loss.
- Matt Stainbrook, 6-10, 263, Xavier: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 6 of 11 shooting, 0-for-1 3-pointers.
- Kevon Looney, 6-9, 220, UCLA: (two games) 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5-of-14 shooting, 3-of-5 3-pointers, two Arizona wins.
(I know Stainbrook isn’t really pick and pop, but he’s a big dude like Kaminsky that gave Arizona trouble.)