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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


McDonald’s Red-Blue Game brings basketball back

Rebecca Marie Sasnett

The 2014-2015 men’s basketball team poses for its team photo during Media Day on Oct. 8 in McKale Center. The McDonald’s Red-Blue Game is on Saturday with tip-off set for 3 p.m. in McKale Center.

Arizona basketball is finally back in action. Fans will get their first look at the 2014-15 team on Saturday at the McDonald’s Red-Blue Game at 3 p.m. in the newly renovated McKale Center. The game is sold out but don’t fret if you can’t make it in person; Pac-12 Networks is showing a same-day delayed broadcast of the event at 7:30 p.m.

It’s the only chance for fans to catch the Wildcats in action before the Nov. 9 exhibition against California State Polytechnic, Pomona.

After going 33-5 last year and reaching the Elite Eight, UA men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller brought in another highly ranked recruiting class to complement a talented group of returnees. Among the returnees are senior point guard T.J. McConnell, juniors power forward Brandon Ashley and center Kaleb Tarczewski and sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

These four are projected to start along with highly touted freshman forward Stanley Johnson.

Stanley Johnson, the No. 7-ranked prospect in the 2014 class according to ESPN, is expected to take over the shooting guard spot vacated by the early departure of Nick Johnson to the NBA. Hollis-Jefferson is expected to take over the starting small forward position left empty by the early departure of Aaron Gordon to the NBA.

Joining Stanley Johnson as newcomers are Craig Victor, Parker Jackson-Cartright, Dusan Ristic and junior college transfer Kadeem Allen. Other than Johnson, the newcomers are fighting for minutes on a much deeper Arizona team.

“We have an influx of new players that haven’t been here before,” Miller said. “Potentially, it remains to be seen, but I think it could play out where they could actually make our team this season deeper than we would’ve been a year ago or maybe even two years ago.”

Add in the return of Brandon Ashley from injury, and it’s no surprise that Arizona is ranked No. 2 overall in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll — just 19 points behind No. 1 Kentucky and 40 points ahead of No. 4 Wisconsin, the team that knocked Arizona out of last year’s NCAA tournament.

The quartet of returnees is expecting to take over as leaders for a Miller squad looking to advance farther than that Elite Eight performance. Miller is entering his sixth year at the helm at Arizona, and, with this level of talent, this could be the year to get over the hump.

“There’s a lot of good players in college basketball, and you can’t take any plays off like in high school,” Stanley Johnson said. “You got to play hard every possession. Here at Arizona … we have eight or nine guys that are really good at basketball.”

As Stanley Johnson alluded to, the culture at Arizona will be on full display on Saturday. According to Point Guard U, numerous high-level recruits will be in attendance. Among those coming are Arizona commits Allonzo Trier and Justin Simon, 2015 recruit Caleb Swanigan and 2016 recruit T.J. Leaf.

While McKale Center continues to undergo renovations, capacity for the Red-Blue has been capped at approximately 10,000 seats, down from the usual attendance of over 14,000.


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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