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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Coach talks of Rodgers, mysterious RPI ratings”

    Wildcat: With five games left in the regular season, what grade would you give the team thus far?

    Pastner: I can’t give a grade out yet because a lot of our goals have not been reached yet, and secondly there’s a lot of season to be played. Obviously, our goal is to win a national championship, to get to the Final Four, to win a Pac(ific) 10 (Conference) title, and all those things are still within reach. We need to keep going and win games in order to reach those goals, so in order for us to determine a grade, right now is not the right time. After the season we’ll be able to see where we stand and where we go from there.

    Wildcat: So an incomplete would be an accurate assessment?

    Pastner: The grade is incomplete because we haven’t had a chance to see if we’ve reached our goals or not.

    Wildcat: Compare the performance of the big men in the last two weeks to the rest of the season.

    Pastner: The first part of the season, for example versus Kansas (Nov. 21), (junior center) Kirk Walters (13 points, seven rebounds) came in and gave us unbelievable minutes. He was probably the best big man on the floor and might have been the best player in the game at that time. Since then we’ve been up and down, up and down, throughout the year until these last couple of weeks, when we played Stanford and California for the first time. Since that Stanford game, that was the start of it, where we’ve really got it going and gotten good production from the big guys. In order for us to be a really good team, we need production from the four and five spot. We need those guys to produce. You can see the confidence growing with both (junior forward) Ivan (Radenovic) and Kirk and the bench guys in (freshman forward) Fendi (Onobun) and (sophomore forward) Bret Brielmaier, (senior forward) Isaiah Fox, (redshirt freshman forward) Mohamed Tangara, those guys’ confidence is growing.

    Wildcat: Arizona head coach Lute Olson has talked about Walters needing a pat on the back rather than a kick in the behind for his confidence level to be high. How much has his confidence grown in recent games?

    Pastner: His confidence has grown a lot. Kirk’s the type of kid who’s very intelligent, very intellectual, smart, hard worker – it’s just a situation where instead of always being jumped on or yelled at, he’s more of an individual that just needs positive feedback at all times. The way he’s playing right now, you can see his confidence is growing, and the more confidence he has, the better he’s going to play, and he feels very confident right now. He feels confident knowing that we as a staff have total confidence in him, and we as a staff are trying to get the ball to him as much as possible, and that just makes him feel that much better inside. When that happens, you can see he’s an absolute threat down low, and he’s a force to be reckoned with.

    Wildcat: How much will (senior guard) Chris Rodgers play this weekend?

    Pastner: With Chris, in terms of playing time, as you saw from coach Olson’s quotes, that will be determined by what happens this week at practice. If Coach decides to put him in, we need Chris to step in and produce for us, and that includes during practice. It’s everything. You can’t just show up to the game and expect to play well. You have to play well during practice, and that will translate to you playing well in the game because it’s a game of habits. Chris will have a great week of practice, and if Coach elects to put him in the game, Chris will be ready to come in and contribute.

    Wildcat: This team has struggled at times this season forcing turnovers without Rodgers. How much of an asset is he on the defensive end?

    Pastner: I think Coach has been quoted as saying that ‘Chris is the best on-the-ball defender’ that he has ever coached, and I 100 percent agree with that. I think Chris Rodgers is the best on-ball defender in the country, hands down, bar none. Obviously when he’s in the game and defending like he’s able to defend, he’s really good because he takes out the other team’s offense. They can’t run anything because he totally shuts down the guard bringing the ball up the court. They can’t get into their offensive set; they can’t run anything. His lateral quickness is very, very good, it’s at an unbelievable level the way he’s able to move laterally.

    Wildcat: In terms of his practice habits, what will it take for (freshman guard) J.P. Prince to become a better player?

    Pastner: J.P. is a heck of a talent, and he needs to keep getting better and better in practice. He needs to obviously listen to coach Olson and (assistant) coach (Miles) Simon day in and day out, and he’s going to keep getting better and better. The guy’s upside is scary good. He’s an absolutely fantastic passer, sees the floor, can get into the paint. His long arm length really creates problems at the defensive end, and he gets a lot of deflections. … Always as a freshman you’re going to come in, and there’s a different adjustment period from senior year in high school to freshman year in college, and that happens to all the freshmen that come through here. There’s no doubt that we have a confidence as a staff that J.P. Prince is unlimited because we know how good the kid can be.””

    Wildcat: How much do you follow the Rating Percentage Index, and why does Olson often put an emphasis on the RPI over normal rankings (AP, USA Today/ESPN)?

    Pastner: I’m a basketball guy, so I do follow all the rankings, but the selection committee looks more at the RPI than they do the polls. If you look at some teams that have been ranked high in polls but have been lower seeds unexpectedly, it’s because their RPI is lower. So RPI is really everything in terms of determining the selections in the NCAA tournament. It factors in strength of schedule, who you played in conference, away wins, away losses, home wins, home losses. With all that factored in, that’s why the most important statistic is probably the RPI.

    Wildcat: How well do you understand the formula?

    Pastner: I don’t know if I understand it all, but I do understand everything that’s accounted for is in there in terms of who you’ve played, who they’ve played, who they’ve played. It’s just a complete circle of everyone involved with every matchup there possibly could be. That’s something that the geniuses in the computer department will probably be better suited knowing the formula. Obviously, when the final numbers come out, that’s what the selection committee looks at.

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