For most fans, the McDonald’s Red-Blue Game will be the first viewing of the 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats. Here are five things to watch for during the annual season opening scrimmage.
1. Who will win the Dunk Contest? Between junior Nick Johnson, sophomore Gabe York, and freshman Aaron Gordon, this might as well be an NBA dunk contest. Heck, it might even be better. Both Johnson and York dazzled the crowd in last year’s competition, and both have legitimate arguments for being the best dunking guard in the entire country.
But the real treat will be watching the uber athletic Gordon rip the rims in front of his first McKale crowd. Expect the 6’8 forward to blow the roof off the building. Have your cameraphones ready.
Also competing is walk-on newcomer Chris Johnson, brother of Nick. He shares his brother’s athletic gifts, and the 6’6 wing is a darkhorse candidate to win the contest.
2. How will TJ McConnell look? For the third year in a row, Arizona has a new point guard running the show. This year Duquesne transfer TJ McConnell will be the Wildcats’ floor leader, and the reports so far are positive.
McConnell can shoot, handle the ball, defend, and most importantly he’s an excellent passer. With his all around game, expect him to be one of Arizona’s best and most important players.
3. Will a leader emerge? It’s just a scrimmage so we won’t learn too much in terms of how this team will take shape on the court, but we might be able to tell who the vocal leaders are early on. Will Johnson be the one directing the Cats on the court? Or McConnell? Or maybe one of Arizona’s talented big men? No matter who it is, the Wildcats will have plenty of potential leaders going into the season.
4. What about Arizona’s front court? The Wildcats might’ve had the most talented front court in the nation if Angelo Chol hadn’t transferred to SDSU and Grant Jerrett hadn’t left early for the NBA. But Sean Miller still has a variety of talented post players at his disposal.
Sophomores Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski will be counted on to shoulder the load as probable starters. Tarczewski will be Arizona’s most imposing inside force, while the versatile Ashley is an excellent lightning to the Zeus thunder. Ashley also projects to be one of the focal points of the offense.
Then there’s junior college transfer Matt Korcheck, who sat out last year, and Kansas transfer Zach Peters, who was just granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Korcheck is athletic and could spell Tarczewski off the bench, while Peters has a great shooting touch and could be used to stretch the floor.
5. Will we see a different Gabe York? York was one of the most scintillating high school prospects in high school basketball two years ago, boasting elite athleticism and game breaking scoring acumen. But after playing behind a deep rotation last year, has York improved enough to start playing significant minutes?
Word out of practices is that York has been looking good. Offense and confidence has never been a problem for him, so expect big things from York if he is given the opportunity. Chances are he will shine in the spotlight, but ultimately it will be his defensive ability that keeps him on the court.