NCAA Women’s Tournament: A ‘clash of styles’ as Arizona faces Maryland in the 2nd round

Mar 19, 2023 - 10:00 AM
NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 17 Div I Women’s Championship - West Virginia vs <a href=Arizona" src="" />
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Big teams bother Arizona. The common denominator in almost all of the Wildcats’ nine losses was multiple dominant front court players or really big guards.

The list is substantial. Stanford with Cameron Brink, Haley Jones, and its host of other big forwards and guards. Washington State with Bella Murekatete, Ula Motuga, and Tara Wallack. Colorado with Quay Miller and Aaronette Vonleh. Oregon with Phillipina Kyei, Taylor Hosendove, and Kennedy Basham. Oregon State with Jelena Mitrovic and Raegan Beers. Kansas with Taiyanna Jackson, Ioanna Chatzileonti, and several big guards.

Only Utah was able to beat the Wildcats without a lot of length, especially inside. Even with Pac-12 Player of the Year Alissa Pili, the Utes could only manage a one-point victory at home and a 10-point loss on the road against Arizona.

Is that something that should make the Wildcats feel confident going into its game against second-seeded Maryland on Sunday?

“They play really fast,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “They shoot the ball really well. We have to be able to score, so they’re not in transition. And I think for us we can’t take really fast shots because they’re deadly in transition. We know that they’re going to play five guards, so we know that we’re going to face switching defenses, probably some zone and stuff like that. But we’re prepared. But they’re good, and I think they score a lot of points, and I think if you look at differences and styles between the Pac-12 and Big 10, it’s just different. I think a lot more high-octane offense, more like Utah, I guess that would be the reference in the Pac-12. But I feel like we play just more pressure defense, like us, UCLA, ASU. So, I think it’s just two clashing styles, and I think it’s going to be good matchups.”

To Barnes’ point, Maryland lists almost everyone on the roster as a guard. Even three of the listed forwards are listed as G/F, so 6-foot-3 Diamond Miller is listed as a guard. Her numbers, however, are more typical of a forward. Miller shoots 47.3 percent from the floor but only 20.5 percent from 3. She grabs 6.5 rebounds per game. She has had multiple blocks in 13 games this year and had a season-high of five blocks against DePaul in November.

Miller is a player that Barnes knows, but not as an adversary.

“I really enjoyed her at my time with USA Basketball,” Barnes said. “She’s a really good player, so I don’t really love playing against her. I loved coaching her. What really stood out about Diamond to me was she was really high energy. I remember it would be like the beginning of practice, everybody is kind of getting warmed up. Some people are kind of just in relaxed mode. She was always like go, like full go. And she had a motor, and I remember us as a staff talking about it...You wanted some other people to have her motor.”

The problem for Maryland is that Arizona can typically withstand one good inside presence or player with length. What the Wildcats cannot withstand is more than one. Their success against Utah points to that.

On Arizona’s side, the problem Maryland poses is how well it shares the ball. Sophomore Shyanne Sellers averages 4.9 assists per game. As a team, the Terrapins average 16.9 assists per game compared to Arizona’s 13.3.

The two teams have played their different styles to similar end results. The Terrapins went 26-6 to the Wildcats’ 22-9. Arizona shoots 43.8 percent from the field to Maryland’s 44.4 percent. The Terrapins hit 36.1 percent of their 3-point shots to Arizona’s 33.6 percent. The Wildcats steal the ball 10.5 times per game to Maryland’s 10.4 steals per game. Maryland gets 37.3 rebounds per game; Arizona averages 36.6 boards. The Wildcats slightly outrebound the Terps on the offensive end with 12.0 to 11.9 offensive rebounds. Arizona turns the ball over 12.3 times per game compared to 13.3 for Maryland.

While Maryland only shoots slightly better than Arizona from 3-point range (36.1 percent to 33.6 percent), the Terrapins take a lot more shots from beyond the arc. Maryland averages 19.1 attempts from 3-point range compared to 16.4 for Arizona. The Wildcats will need to make up for Maryland’s superiority outside with their own superiority inside.

Ultimately, the game could come down to the free throw line and staying out of foul trouble. The Wildcats gave up a lot of points to West Virginia at the line in the opening round and had both of their primary ball handlers saddled with four fouls halfway through the third quarter. A more efficient offensive team that shoots 78.8 percent from the line will be well-positioned to take advantage of the 18.8 fouls per game that Arizona commits.

Can the Wildcats use the lessons of the opening round to pull off the upset in College Park?

“Seeding is nothing but a number at this point,” said Arizona point guard Shaina Pellington. “I mean anybody can go out and win a game at this point. I feel like you’re either going to show up or you’re going to get beat. So I think at this point, I think all of us mentally we’re ready to show up. We don’t want our seasons to end, and I feel like we’re willing to do whatever is necessary to win, and that’s the mindset for tomorrow. That’s my mindset for tomorrow. I’m going to do whatever needs to be done to win against Maryland and pull off an upset, I guess. Not I guess. I know.”

No. 7 Arizona Wildcats (22-9, 11-7 Pac-12) @ No. 2 Maryland (26-6, 15-3 Big 10)

When: Sunday, Mar. 19, 2023 at 2:30 p.m. MST

Where: Xfinity Center in College Park, Md.


Streaming: Watch ESPN

Rankings and ratings: Arizona is ranked No. 25 by the Associated Press in the poll released on Monday. The WBCA/USA Today poll has the Wildcats at No. 23.

Maryland is ranked No. 7 by the media and the coaches.

The Massey Ratings have Arizona at No. 18. The NET places the Wildcats at No. 27. Her Hoop Stats has them at No. 32.

Maryland is No. 8 according to Massey, No. 9 according to HHS, and No. 14 in the NET.

Probabilities and odds: Massey gives Maryland a 66 percent win probability at home. It projects the most likely final score to be 76-70.

Her Hoop Stats gives the Terrapins a 78.2 percent win probability. The stats service projects the margin to be 10.2 points with a point total of 148.5 points.

DraftKings has Maryland as the eight-point favorite with an O/U of 146. The money line is Arizona +330 and Maryland -410.

DraftKings gives Arizona the fourth-best odds to win the Greenville 1 Region at +3000. Top overall seed South Carolina is heavily favored to win the region. Behind the Gamecocks with the second-best odds is Maryland (+1200).

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