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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Matchups to watch for

    The guards:

    Senior Mustafa Shakur has been the table setter for Arizona all season, ranking second in the nation in assists,while Jawann McClellan is averaging close to 15 points per game and shooting over 50 percent from the field. Illinois has five guards who average over 9.3 points per game, led by Jamar Smith, who is questionable to play Saturday.

    Advantage: Arizona

    Not counting Calvin Brock, who shot 4-of-9 from the field Tuesday against Maryland, the other four guards combined to shoot 5-of-30 from the field. Illinois head coach Bruce Weber wasn’t pleased with the shot selection either, which he thought led to Maryland’s early 16-4 run. Shakur’s experience and ability to push the ball up the floor in a hurry should create more than enough opportunities for the rest of his teammates.

    The forwards:

    Arizona’s 1-2-3 punch of Ivan Radenovic, Marcus Williams and Chase Budinger, and not necessarily in that order, can beat teams in a variety of ways. Arizona’s up-front trio is averaging more points (55.0 per game) than 13 entire teams in college basketball so far this season.

    The Illini have some bulk up front in 6-foot-10, 240-pound Shaun Pruitt, Illinois’ leading scorer and rebounder (12.8 and 7.5), as well as some athleticism in 6-foot-9, 215 pound junior Warren Carter (11.6 and 6.5).

    Advantage: Arizona

    Though the Wildcats haven’t played against many legitimate big men early in the year, the Wildcats 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones, which they employed against UNLV should hide Arizona’s forwards from the only thing that could prevent them from having the advantage: foul trouble. The versatility on the wing certainly had Weber impressed, specifically Budinger.

    “”He’s a four, he’s a three, he’s a two,”” Weber said of Budinger, who he compared to Dirk Nowitzki. “”He even brings the ball up. It’s going to be a hand full.””


    The Wildcats were just 3-4 on neutral courts last year, but disregard the U.S. Airways Center as being neutral. Like Arizona has experienced the last two seasons against Villanova and Illinois, and like the Wildcats will experience next season when they play Illinois in the United Center in Chicago, sometimes neutral can mean home.

    Advantage: Arizona

    With a partisan crowd expected in Phoenix, Arizona won’t have to deal with very much of the Orange Crush.

    The bottom line:

    As the Wildcats continue to show progress early in the season, their high-powered attack will be too much for a depleted Illinois team.

    Arizona 92, Illinois 78

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