Friday, February 22, 2008

Five Good Questions with Bruce Pascoe about Arizona Basketball

Today's Five Good Questions is with Bruce Pascoe of The Arizona Republic about Arizona Wildcat Basketball....I emailed Bruce a few weeks ago and because of an overload of emails, he just got back to me this week...I want to thank Bruce for responding....

Q1. The latest RPI has the Wildcats at #18 in the nation with a 15-9 overall mark. Is Arizona a quality team or is the RPI off the mark with the #18 rating?
A. Their RPI is what it is – just a computer formula. They’ve played the toughest schedule in the country according to the computers so the RPI is high. That doesn’t mean they’re the 18th best team and I think the NCAA selection committee knows that. But they could get into the field with 17 or 18 D-I wins, whereas many other teams with that record won’t.

They are a quality team on the bubble of the Top 25, when healthy. But they are very thin and have two starters out now and went 1-3 when Jerryd Bayless was out last month.

Q2. How have the players handled it this season without Lute Olson on the sidelines?
A. They’ve handled it well. There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes but they never seem to let that affect their focus, at least since they lost to Virginia in November, when Olson was still thinking of returning.

Not only do they have a new coach running things but O’Neill is doing so with a totally different style — a much more structured offense and almost no zone defense whatsoever. He’s a much, much different personality, too.

Q3. Last season Chase Budinger was a freshman sensation. Over the last year, how has his game developed?
A. Budinger has developed more consistency. He’s always been a great shooter but has improved defensively and on getting to the basket. He does have room to grow as far as being more aggressive. He’s a very nice guy off the court and sometimes it does seem like that transfers on the court.

Q4. How has Coach Olson's leave affected recruiting?
A. The jury is still out. The 2008 guys are ok because they all signed binding letters before the leave was for the whole year but they also all seem to be OK with the idea that O’Neill might be their coach. 2009 is a different case: They have one commitment that appears to be solid (G Abdul Gaddy) but I suspect there are a lot of kids waiting to see if Arizona does well with O’Neill and if the Olson situation is resolved. The Olson situation needs to be resolved shortly after the season because they are trying to get another 08 signee in the spring.

Q5. What does this team have to do if it wants to make the NCAA Tournament? Do you see it happening?
A. I think they’ll get in if they win 3 more games — either out of their six regular season games or with a win in the Pac-10 Tourney. But right now they are staring down the barrel of yet another 8-9 bracket, where they have been in three of the past four seasons (and never survived that first weekend).

Once again, I want to thank Bruce for his time....

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