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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Men’s basketball opens with Cal Poly Pomona

Arizona+guard+T.J.+McConnell+%284%29+runs+onto+the+court+for+player+introductions+before+Arizonas+annual+Red-Blue+Game+in+McKale+Center+on+Oct.+18.+McConnell+and+the+Wildcats+face+California+State+Polytechnic+University%2C+Pomona%2C+this+Sunday+in+the+first+exhibition+action+of+the+season.+
Rebecca Marie Sasnett

Arizona guard T.J. McConnell (4) runs onto the court for player introductions before Arizona’s annual Red-Blue Game in McKale Center on Oct. 18. McConnell and the Wildcats face California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, this Sunday in the first exhibition action of the season.

For those who might live under a rock, Arizona basketball is officially back in action. The No. 2 Arizona men’s basketball team opens the 2014-2015 schedule on Sunday at 4 p.m. with an exhibition game against California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in McKale Center.

Back is a trio of starters that includes senior point guard T.J. McConnell, junior power forward Brandon Ashley and junior center Kaleb Tarczewski. McConnell and Tarczewski are coming off strong years for last season’s 33-5 team. Ashley, who broke his foot about halfway through last season, returns in his first game action since Feb. 1.

Additionally, sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will likely step into a starting role, and junior guard Gabe York will likely provide 3-point shooting off the bench.

Factor in a highly touted freshman class headlined by Stanley Johnson, and it’s not a surprise to see the Wildcats ranked No. 2 overall in most recent preseason polls. Well, actually, everyone but Sean Miller thinks it’s not a surprise.

At his weekly press conference, Miller said the team is nowhere near good enough to be ranked that high, nor does he see the team earning that any time soon. One of the bigger issues Miller pointed at was communication.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had any person enter our gym over the first 24, 25 practices and tell me we’re a good team,” Miller said. “I’ve had probably as many as 30 people tell me that we either aren’t as good as everybody said we were or they can see we certainly have the makings of a good team. But we’re nowhere near where I think the preseason publications have us.”

Whatever Miller’s tactics are, no doubt Cal Poly Pomona head coach Greg Kamansky will tell his players to ignore his comments.

Cal Poly Pomona finished last season with a 22-7 record, including a 13-game winning streak and winning 18 out of 19 at one point. The Broncos were led by then-senior guard DeRonn Scott and then-sophomore forward Jordan Faison. Scott averaged 14.3 points per game, and Faison averaged 14.2 points per game.

While Faison enters his junior season, the Broncos have to replace Scott’s production in the backcourt. The next guard up is Jordan Finn, who averaged 7.2 points per game in 26 games off the bench.

Of the 14 players on the Cal Poly Pomona roster, 10 are upperclassmen —five juniors and five seniors.

Going against a veteran team is exactly what Miller’s squad could use in its first game action of the season. UA senior forward Matt Korcheck said the team has been working hard for this moment but, along with Miller, wants to temper expectations.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys here trying to figure stuff out,” Korcheck said. “It’s almost like a new start every year, so we’re just kind of starting over and figuring out who’s going to play in what role. We’re still figuring stuff out.”

Sunday’s game is the only time fans can catch the men’s basketball team in action before the regular season begins on Nov. 14 when Mount St. Mary’s comes to Tucson.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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