Arizona might be entering the season without several key pieces available, including sophomore star Allonzo Trier.
Arizona's issues mounting: Allonzo Trier mysteriously still absent, Ray Smith hurt yet again, and another suspension https://t.co/GNYvXbYyzU— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) November 2, 2016
As a top-10 team and name brand, the Wildcats - wounded or otherwise - are a pot of gold for any mid-major program. Have Sean Miller’s potential depth issues created an opportunity for a splash?
We’ll get an answer as early as Nov. 18. The Wildcats open with Michigan State, and then return home for a game against reigning WAC tournament champion Cal St. Bakersfield.
Is it likely the Roadrunners win in Tucson? No. Rod Barnes is replacing two key pieces in departed seniors Aly Ahmed and Kevin Mays, and last year’s team dropped non-conference games to less-than-stellar Wyoming and Idaho squads amidst their 24-9 campaign.
But Cal St. Bakersfield isn’t a great opponent for a team in turmoil coming off a difficult opening game. The Roadrunners are the highest rated WAC team in KenPom’s preseason ratings (#130) and were voted third in the league’s preseason media and coaches polls.
They’ve got a dynamic, experienced lead guard in senior Dedrick Basile (12.0 points per game, 3.7 assists per game, 36.2 3P%). They should also maintain the stingy defense that finished 51st in the country in defensive efficiency last season with quality defenders returning in Basile, Brent Wrapp and Jaylin Airington. That combination of steady guard play and quality defense could give fits to an Arizona team leaning heavily on talented freshmen like Kobi Simmons, Rawle Aikens and Lauri Markkanen.
The Wildcats also play home games against Sacred Heart, Northern Colorado and Texas Southern, and a neutral site game against Santa Clara, before a highly-anticipated Dec. 3 date with Gonzaga.
It’s not likely - or even probable - that they drop one of these early games, and there’s no upset alert being flashed here. But the Nov. 18 game against the Roadrunners looks more interesting now than it did when schedule first came out.