As deep as the No. 1 Wildcats had to dig to survive the Round of 32, beating No. 5 Houston in the Sweet 16 will take that much more attention to detail.
Details like cleaning up fixable mistakes.
Arizona allowed 20 offensive rebounds and turned the ball over 16 times against the Horned Frogs.
The Wildcats were able to right those uncharacteristic wrongs by limiting TCU’s points off turnovers and outscoring them in the paint by 18.
However, if similar woes follow them to San Antonio, they may not live to see another NCAA Tournament day.
Rebounding is an important aspect of any basketball game, but it’s especially prevalent in this Sweet 16 matchup.
Houston and Arizona are used to dominating the rebounding battle by an average margin of seven boards per contest.
While the Wildcats average a few more rebounds per game, the Cougars rank seventh nationally in offensive boards per game, 60 spots ahead of UA.
Additionally, Arizona has averaged over 40 points in the paint while Houston’s mark is at 29 per game through two rounds of the tournament.
Considering the physicality these programs play with, it’s going to be an absolute war around the hoop.
On the other end, Arizona and Houston do an excellent job of applying defensive pressure.
The Cougars force just over 14 turnovers while the Wildcats force just under 13 a game.
The thing is, Houston has averaged only eight turnovers a game in this tournament compared to nearly 18 turnovers per contest for Arizona.
A sign of UH’s experienced roster after making a Final Four run last season.
When the Wildcats do take care of the rock, they have the number three ranked scoring offense in the nation while the Cougars are 52nd.
Houston’s guard play has carried them offensively in March.
Kyler Edwards, Taze Moore, and Jamal Shead have combined to average 50 of the Cougars’ 75 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.
For Arizona, it could come down to its stars shining when it matters most.
Projected NBA lottery pick Bennedict Mathurin dropped a career-high 30 points against TCU, while Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Christian Koloko has clocked 45 points, 25 rebounds, and 8 blocks on 66% shooting through the first two games of the tourney.
The Cougars and Wildcats will sqaure off in the Sweet 16 in San Antonio on Thursday at 6:55pm.