I’m not taking anything away from Buffalo, they played a fantastic game and I don’t know that too many teams could have beat them the way that they played last night. Arizona has the best player in college basketball and he was severely underutilized last night. This is a common theme in college basketball where if the star player is a big man (Forward, Center) they are utilized the wrong way and their teams do not do well come tournament time. This happened last year with Arizona as well when they had Lauri Markkanen. Markkanen is now the best player on the Chicago Bulls, I know that’s not saying much, but he has the opportunity to have a great NBA career. I see a similar path for Deandre Ayton.
The college game is too focused on three point shooting and guards trying to ball out and score 20-30 points a game regardless of the players that they have on the interior. Arizona did not have much of a game plan to utilize Deandre Ayton and it was shown clearly when they got blown out by Buffalo. Ayton had a clear height and size advantage over the interior of the Buffalo defense and the only plan that Arizona had to get him the ball was to throw the ball over the top of the defense. This is a good plan for about the first 5 minutes of the game until the other team figures out that that’s the only way you have to get your big man the ball and they make an adjustment to it. Arizona was more focused on trying to hit threes to get themselves back in the game and not trying to get 35-40 points out of Ayton, which was easily achievable against an undersized Buffalo team. Arizona and Ayton screwed up a lot of brackets for the second year in a row for not knowing how to utilize the best big man in the country.
Arizona is not the only team to struggle with this. The Purdue game is on right now and Isaac Haas has a huge height and size advantage over Cal State Fullerton and guess what? They’re trying to penetrate with their guards and shoot the three ball. Haas doesn’t have the same skill set as Ayton in terms of shooting ability, but his low post moves are second to none in college basketball. Another team struggling to utilize their big men is Texas A&M. Their guards are not the best set of guards and that’s me being nice. The big men that Texas A&M has can easily dominate the Providence defense, yet the guards want to shoot threes and try to get to the rim amongst the trees. It doesn’t make much sense to me. If you want to win games and you have a talented big man on your roster that can put the ball in the basket for you and absolutely bully opposing defenses you should use him.
I’m not saying you have to dump the ball down low 24/7 every single game, but being versatile on offense will open up the floor and cause other teams to make adjustments. If a team establishes an inside game early with their star big man, they will be able to get open shots for their guards and space out the floor the rest of the game. Arizona was the most disappointing team in the tournament and if they make it again next season with a star big man, I really hope they can figure it out, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Look what happened when Arizona gave Ayton the ball, 32 points.