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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Basketball to be tested over break

    The start of the 2008-09 season has been far from normal for the Arizona men’s basketball team. A young, short staff of players under an interim head coach, going up against some of the best competition in the nation isn’t exactly ideal.

    But the Wildcats (5-2) are dealing with every obstacle that comes at them, from their Hall-of-Fame head coach suddenly retiring, to their 7-foot freshman quitting the team. Somewhere among the line of events, Arizona has gone against tough teams and tougher teams, and has faced two gut-wrenching losses by a point each.

    But the season is young and the cold winter is sure to bring in some hot competition.

    Holiday Schedule

    San Diego State, today
    7 p.m., FSN Arizona
    Record: 7-1

    Key player: Kyle Spain is an athletic, 6-foot-5 forward who is averaging 17.8 points per game. He’s a huge threat from behind the arc, but also penetrates well, then converts on his free throws: he is 48-for-51 from the line.

    Why to watch: The only team the Aztecs have lost to is ASU, making them bitter toward Arizona schools. But for the Wildcats, this will be a game to come back from a heart-sinking loss at Texas A&M and bridge a path to No. 4 Gonzaga in an NBA arena.

    No. 4 Gonzaga, Dec. 14
    4 p.m., FSN
    Record: 6-0

    Key player: The Bulldogs are stacked with five players scoring in double figures per game, but future first-round NBA draft pick Josh Heytvelt leads the way with 15 points per game. The 6-foot-11 redshirt senior should give UA’s big men a tough task, as he’s also a threat from 3-point land.

    Why to watch: This will arguably be Arizona’s toughest game all season and it will be played in the Phoenix Suns’ US Airways Center. If the Bulldogs win, it’ll keep them in the nation’s top 5. Should the Wildcats pull off the upset, however, it would surely launch them into the top 25 for the first time this season.

    UNLV, Dec. 20
    1 p.m., Versus
    Record: 7-2

    Key player: In the visitor locker room at Thomas & Mack Center after Arizona’s slight win over the Runnin’ Rebels last season, UA guard Nic Wise spoke highly about Wink Adams: “”Man, that (guy) is real.”” Adams leads the team in points, steals, assists, free throws, field goals and minutes. Yeah, that’s pretty real.

    Why to watch: As of Tuesday afternoon, there were less than 3,000 tickets left for the game in Thomas & Mack Center, which has a capacity of 18,500. The Wildcats should have plenty of fans present, thanks to the Wildcat football team’s bowl game later in the evening.

    Kansas, Dec. 23
    8:30 p.m., FSN
    Record: 6-1

    Key player: Cole Aldrich is another player that could give Jordan Hill problems. At 6-foot-11, he is a banger who pulls down 10.4 rebounds and scores 14.6 points per game.

    Why to watch: Though the Jayhawks are depleted from last season, they still remain the defending national champions. Need we say more?

    Weber State, Dec. 29
    6:30 p.m., FSN Arizona
    Record: 2-4

    Key player: He’s only 5-foot-6, but Kellen McCoy is averaging 12.5 points per game. He can penetrate and shoot the long ball, giving Nic Wise an active matchup.

    Why to watch: This will be the Wildcats’ final tune-up before Pacific 10 Conference play.

    California, Jan. 2
    6:30 p.m., FSN Arizona
    Record: 6-2

    Key Player: Jerome Randle leads the team in almost every category: points (20.3 per game), assists (36), and steals (12). To begin his junior season, the guard has made 49-of-57 free throws so far.

    Why to watch: First-year head coach Mike Montgomery returns to the Pac-10. But like much of the Pac-10 over the summer, the Bears lost their leading scorer from last year’s squad, Ryan Anderson, to the NBA Draft. The game begins a four-game stretch of the weakest conference opponents.

    Stanford, Jan. 4
    8 p.m., FSN
    Record: 4-0

    Key Player: Guard Anthony Goods leads the team in points (19.8 per game) through the Cardinal’s first four games. The junior, Goods, led the backcourt last season, but was primarily shadowed by the Lopez twins down low.

    Why to watch: The Wildcats have suffered hard-fought contests over past years against Stanford, developing a basketball rivalry similar to Arizona-UCLA. Without twin centers Brook and Robin Lopez, this may be Arizona’s best chance at revenge against the Cardinal, who also bring in a first-year head coach Johnny Dawkins. Stanford also returns 98 percent of its three-point field goal production from last season – perimeter defense has been Arizona’s Achilles’ Heel this season.

    Oregon, Jan. 8
    6:30 p.m., FSN Arizona
    Record: 4-4

    Key Player: Guard Tajuan Porter begins the season with a team-leading 14.8 points per game. The junior is only one of two returning starters for the Ducks, and has been the only player, aside from LeKendric Longmire, to start all eight games this season.

    Why to watch: After completing the season sweep against the Wildcats, Oregon shared the NCAA tournament bubble with Arizona and ASU last March, and squeaked into the tournament field of 65 along with the Wildcats.

    Oregon State, Jan. 10
    2:30, FSN Arizona
    Record: 1-5

    Key Player: The Beavers boost a quartet of starters all averaging between 8 and 10 points per game. Daniel Deane leads the team in both points (10.0 per game) and rebounds (6.5 per game).

    Why to watch: It’s easily the most winnable game of the Pac-10 conference schedule. It also may be the most popular appearance of a first-year head coach – Craig Robinson is President-elect Barack Obama’s brother-in-law.

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