Arizona’s opening game of the season, an 82-73 victory against Charleston Southern, wasn't the astounding type of win that fans might have been looking for but it steadily opened the door for optimism.
Right now, the Cats are a team that has a good mix of talent that undoubtedly has a few missing and developing ingredients. It may take a few months to get there but once everything is churned together, the city of Tucson will be home to a toothsome group of players capable of playing into early April.
Unlike in so many seasons past, there is nothing poisonous to Arizona this season. What previous squads lacked – depth, size, senior leadership, and overall talent – there is a surplus of with the 2012-13 Cats.
However, that doesn’t mean things will always come with ease, as seen in the first meaningful basketball game the McKale Center had hosted in 242 days.
Arizona struggled mightily against Buccaneers’ zone defense and it was not the talent of the opponents that caused confusion. Instead, the Cats struggled to feed the ball to freshmen Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski.
Jerrett and Tarczewski, the two freshmen who started Sunday night and the two exhibitions, both saw very limited action in the second half because they were simply paralyzed on the court. Sean Miller tried implementing the in-out game with the two big men but to no avail.
Brandon Ashley, the other five-star freshman, happened to look very polished and received a chunk of playing time in the second half. He went after every loose ball and used his size to get to the charity stripe 12 times.
Providing the Cats with outside shooting were the key veterans of the team. Solomon Hill, Mark Lyons, and Jordin Mayes each made multiple treys while Nick Johnson and Kevin Parrom went a combined 2-9.
Sunday night’s script would get canned in Hollywood within a matter of seconds. However, it worked and the Cats escaped crisis while encouraging fans. It is quite unlikely Arizona will again shoot 32 three point attempts with three young post players on the roster who are all expected to eventually make millions in the NBA.
Next up for Arizona is a showdown with UTEP on Thursday.