Heading into Arizona’s first game of the season, an exhibition versus Division II Cal Poly Pomona, there are still many questions lingering around a team that’s expected to compete for a national title this season.
Is Brandon Ashley back to one hundred percent? How are the freshmen coming along? Who is in the starting five?
It’s unlikely that an exhibition will answer those questions and many more, but Sunday’s game should at least offer a glimpse into the Wildcats’ progression.
Facing an experienced opponent predicted to be among the top teams in Division II, Arizona should receive a solid test. Just ask Stanford, who needed every last second to put away the Broncos in a 79-76 battle on Thursday.
By the sound of Sean Miller’s comments at his weekly press conference, the Wildcats head coach is expecting a close game.
Miller called out Arizona’s defense and identity, saying that the team is “nowhere near where we would have been a year ago at this time.”
Even with a young group, that’s a troubling comment, especially since defensive intensity is usually an Arizona trademark.
In the long haul, scoring may be more of a concern for Arizona. Gabe York and Elliott Pitts will continue to be threats from outside and the return of Ashley gives Arizona the versatility it lacked late last season.
But what everyone wants to see is just how explosive freshman Stanley Johnson looks on the offensive side. He made a few dazzling moves in the Red Blue Game but Sunday’s exhibition will be the first time Johnson can show off his repertoire in a competitive setting.
Miller gave no definitive comments on the rotation, implying that it will likely change at least a couple times early in the season. There’s no certainty that even Johnson will be among the starting five.
However, that’s only to be expected so early in the season.
Exhibitions are just that, exhibitions, so Arizona won’t be letting too much out of the bag so early. Yet with expectations as high as they are, it’s only natural to want to draw conclusions from the start. Sunday will provide a chance to do so.