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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona men’s basketball notes: living up to expectations, Red and Blue Game sellout

The first USA Today Coaches’ Poll, released Wednesday, ranked the Arizona men’s basketball team as the No. 11 team in the nation and two spots ahead of Pac-12 rival No. 13 UCLA.

The ranking isn’t really a surprise, as non-formal polls like Sporting News had the Wildcats at No. 8, and CBS Sports’ Doug Gottlieb picked Arizona to win it all.

“It’s definitely a great honor,” sophomore guard Nick Johnson said. “That’s a big time poll, a big time ranking. But like we said before, we’re just gonna approach every practice, every game one step at a time. Hopefully we can move up those rankings.”

The rankings also show the weakness of Arizona’s schedule, as only two ranked teams await the Wildcats — No. 10 Florida on Dec. 15 and UCLA, both home and away. The Wildcats could also play No. 20 San Diego State on Christmas if they reach the championship game in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, but the matchup isn’t a guarantee.

“We have a lot of older guys this year,” Johnson said. “I think that’s one thing that we’re gonna be pretty good at, just taking it game by game…. We want [to win] every single game.”

Red and Blue Game

The Red and Blue game sold out for the second straight year on Wednesday, and while it might seem like the fans are piling into McKale Center to watch a lackadaisical exhibition game, senior forward Solomon Hill said that’s not the case.

After the dunk contest and the rest of the festivities conclude, the stakes will be high in Arizona’s first exhibition game since its Bahamas trip in the middle of August.

“It’ll definitely be more intense, just for the fact that we’re going against each other,” Hill said. “Nothing against the Bahaman competition, but each guy on the team knows that they’re competing for playing time and this is basically your first showing against one another. So the competition is going to be at a higher level than they’re used to in practice, especially because you’re in front of the fan base.”

The game will be the first chance for the 14,538 fans to see the four heralded freshmen as well as transfers Mark Lyons and T.J. McConnell, who will sit out the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

“This year we have a deep team,” Johnson said. “I’d say our second five could probably start on maybe all the Pac-12 teams in the conference.”

Contrasting Styles

With the influx of size and talent in the frontcourt, the Wildcats’ playing style of last season will be nothing more than a distant memory.

“We have big guys who can score, that can go down there and get fouled,” Hill said. “It’s something we did [my] sophomore year. It’s film that we’re watching over time, and really understanding that Kaleb [Tarczewski] is a true seven-footer who can get his own bucket down in the paint. We just need to take our time to really get him the ball.”

Last season the Wildcats depended on perimeter speed and three-pointers to score consistently, but now with five-star talents like Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett down low, things might take a complete U-turn.

“It’s something we’re not used to … throwing it down there to me and Jesse [Perry] is a little bit different than throwing it down to [Tarczewski] and [Jerrett],” Hill said.

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