MinerRush: To me Arizona is a complete team, but what is one strong identity Arizona has that stands out to you?
Jason Bartel: Oh, defense is definitely the strong identity of this team, as it has been with every Sean Miller squad. The offense really suffers if the defense is struggling to generate any transition opportunities. But these guys definitely aim to smother their opponents, and then force either a steal or a really poor shot, which seems to happen more often than not, especially the last few games. No zone here. All man-to-man.
MR: Play Sean Miller in the future, final four semis, down one, 8 seconds left with possession, vs Wisconsin the old man comes out in man, Who gets the shot? Hollis-Jefferson? Stanley Johnson? Brandon Ashley? T.J. McConnell? Caleb Tarczewski?
Jason Bartel: I would guess at that point it would be Stanley Johnson. As good as he was coming into this year, he's definitely a new level of good right now, so by the time that situation would come around, he'll be a stud. Brandon Ashley would probably be the second option there.
MR: Arizona is even more unbeatable when Stanley Johnson does what......
Jason Bartel: Is feeling his jumper. The guy's always good at defense. I saw a good comparison on the old Twitter last week where someone called him a lion hunting his prey when he's on defense. But if he can be a threat both driving to the basket and pulling up for a 16-foot jumper, game over man. You can't defend a guy with that size when he's got the jumper falling.
MR: Is there anything or anybody UTEP does or has that you think might be a key for the Miners to be able to contend or even pull it off?
Jason Bartel: I'm curious to see what a guy like Vince Hunter will be able to do against the Brandon Ashleys and Rondae Hollis-Jeffersons of the world. Ashley's shown that he struggles a little bit with guys that are about his size, so having two 6-8 guys in Hunter and Julian Washburn should make it interesting. RHJ might be the best defender in the country, so if one of those UTEP guys gets hot, expect to see Sean Miller shift him to that guy right away to shut him down. But if both of them can get going at the same time? Who knows... For what it's worth, I think this game will be close for most if not the entire game. It's Arizona's first true road game of the season, and up until the past week or so, they've struggled to put teams away.
MR: Do you expect Miller to press UTEP out of the gates with UTEP's youthful mix of guard play?
Jason Bartel: When you present it that way, yes, yes I do. Like I said earlier, the offense of this team is dependent on the defense, so if T.J. and Gabe York and Parker Jackson-Cartwright can force some turnovers early, it could be a long night for the Miners.
MR: How many Zona fans are expected to come to El Paso?
Jason Bartel: You know, I'm not sure. I would imagine there'll be a pretty decent contingent of red and blue in Don Haskins Center since it's only about a four hour drive from Tucson, and Arizona usually travels very well. But on the flip side, this is probably the biggest game in El Paso in years, so I'm sure UTEP fans snatched up these tickets very quickly.
Huge thanks to Jason for taking time to send these over, check it his work at www.azdesertswarm.com