Michigan-Arizona Preview

BY foxsports • December 12, 2014

Arizona coach Sean Miller believes the back-to-back home upsets Michigan suffered over a four-day span will only raise the level of intensity the Wolverines will bring to the McKale Center this weekend.

He also expects his third-ranked Wildcats to be as equally intense when they try for a 28th straight home victory Saturday.

Arizona (9-0) has won seven of the nine meetings with Michigan, and while sporting a No. 1 ranking rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit to win 72-70 at Ann Arbor last season.

However, with the Wildcats again among the nation's top teams, undefeated at home since Feb. 10, 2013, and facing a Wolverines squad that's coming off stunning losses to NJIT and Eastern Michigan, it would appear this game won't be as competitive.

Miller, at least publicly, thinks otherwise.

"I know they've lost a couple of recent games," he said. "That happens, especially when you lose the talent they've lost. They are going to hit their stride this year and be a very good team. I just don't want it to happen Saturday.

"We expect this to be a challenge."

And one the Wildcats will be ready to welcome.

"It's not about how hungry (the Wolverines) are, they are going to be hungry," Miller said. "We're going to have to play a really good game to beat Michigan. It's up to us to be as hungry. That's what we can control and that's our mindset."

The Wildcats are in a much better state than Michigan (6-3), the 2013 national runner-up that reached the regional finals last season but is trying to avoid its longest skid since a six-game slide Jan. 5-22, 2011.

"We can't stay down," coach John Beilein said. "We're playing a tremendous team. We'll just bounce back, just keep trying to do it.

"There's no panic button. There's a long way to go. You're playing 30-some games, and this is the roller coaster you go through.''

If Michigan is to have a chance at pulling off its own upset, it must improve on the 38.3 percent it's shot over the last three games. The Wolverines made a season-low 32.6 percent of their shots and went 4 of 21 from 3-point range against Eastern Michigan's stifling 2-3 zone in falling 45-42 on Tuesday.

Sophomore swingman Zak Irvin is second on the team with 15.4 points per game but has gone 5 of 23 from the field in the last two, including 3 of 16 from beyond the arc.

Things won't get any easier against Arizona, which has held 54 straight opponents to fewer than 80 points and its last three to 38.0 percent shooting. That included last Saturday's 66-63 overtime home win over then-No. 9 Gonzaga, which came in shooting 54.5 percent but was held to 39.7 and its fewest points of the season.

Though the Wildcats shot a season-high 59.6 percent in Tuesday's 87-56 win over Utah Valley, are shooting 49.8 percent overall and have three players averaging at least 11.6 points, Miller feels his offense is a work in progress.

"The biggest thing for our team is to continue to develop on offense and to not let our defense slip," he said.

The Wolverines held EMU to 32.6 percent shooting but allowed NJIT to hit for 58.7 percent and make 11 3-pointers.

Arizona's Brandon Ashley had 18 points and Kaleb Tarczewski added 14 with nine rebounds at Michigan last season.

Miller wants to see Tarczewski bounce back after recording four points and two boards in 19 minutes Tuesday.

"We need Kaleb on Saturday," Miller said.