Arizona tips off the 2015-2016 season against the Pacific Tigers, who went 12-19 last season and finished next to last in the WCC. Pacific and Arizona shared two common opponents last year, Gonzaga and UC Irvine, with the Tigers losing to both teams while Arizona got the better of them. Transfer Mark Tollefsen also played Pacific twice last year and beat them both times with the University of San Francisco.
There’s a lot we don’t know about this year’s edition of the Cats, so here’s a look at some questions for the 2015-16 team:
Who will run the point?
There have been a lot of questions about who will start at the point guard position for Arizona this season, with Kadeem Allen getting the nod in the lone exhibition game against Chico State. However, the more important question will be who will finish games, and who will do a better job of getting the team into the offense earlier and setting up teammates.
Replacing TJ McConnell is obviously a tough job, but I think the duo of Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Kadeem Allen are up to the challenge. PJC is a better shooter and Kadeem Allen is the better penetrator. Both are good on ball defenders with Allen getting the edge with his size and length.
How will Miller put together new pieces?
With Tarczewski being the lone returning starter, Miller will have four new players in this year’s lineup. Ryan Anderson is a lock to start at the four having won the gold jersey in practice six straight weeks and showing his basketball skill and savvy against Chico State.
Two other seniors are good bets to start as well, with York at shooting guard and Tollefsen at small forward. It will be fun to monitor how Miller uses the freshmen and returning players Elliott Pitts and Dusan Ristic.
Will Arizona continue to struggle against zone defenses?
Scoring and attacking the zone defense has given Arizona trouble the past couple years. Last year York was the only reliable outside threat, with Stanley Johnson, Elliott Pitts and TJ McConnell knocking down the occasional three. I expect this year’s team to be better from long range, although they were only 2-13 against Chico State.
Trier is a good three-point shooter, Tollefsen has range and Parker Jackson-Cartwright is a more willing shooter than TJ McConnell. I expect to see Ryan Anderson in the middle of the zone, using his ability to shoot, drive or pass to break down the defense.
Who will be the leader?
This was a legitimate question last week, but with his showing against Chico State, Ryan Anderson seems to be the vocal leader as well as one of the team’s best players. Tarczewski and York will lead as well, both having played big roles in their previous three years.
Will Miller use his bench more and go 10(+) deep?
During his time in Tucson, Sean Miller has been reluctant to go deep into his bench and usually sticks to a seven to eight man rotation. However, he’s never had this many players who are evenly matched. I would like to see Miller go deep into his bench to start the year to develop the confidence of some of the younger players.
What shoes will Allonzo Trier wear?
Much like Stanley Johnson and Nick Johnson in previous years, I expect Trier to wear a different shoe each game. In the first exhibition against Chico State, he actually wore two. He started off the game in the LeBron XIII Opening Night and finished with the Kobe VI 3D. That’s something to keep an eye on for sneaker heads.
Each new basketball season in Tucson brings about hope of another Final Four run and National Championship and this year is no different. The team doesn’t have as much hype and expectation as the past couple seasons, but I still see a strong campaign and deep run in March. Watching the team grow and come together is always my favorite part of basketball season. Here’s to hoping the team and Miller can get over the Elite 8 hump and make it to the Final Four.