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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona Wildcats hoops back in action

Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat Junior Guard, T.J. McConnell drives the ball at the Red-Blue Game on Oct. 12.

Arizona men’s basketball begins its anticipated 2013-14 season with its lone exhibition game tonight at 7 p.m. in McKale Center.

The Wildcats, ranked No. 5 in the opening season USA Today Coaches Poll, will host Division II Augustana College. It will be the third time in five years they’ve opened their season against the Vikings. The UA has won the previous two matchups with an average score of 13.5.

“We’ve been going at each other for a while now, and I think all of us are eager and anxious to get out on the floor Monday,” said junior point guard T.J. McConnell Friday afternoon.

While tonight’s game may be an exhibition, it’s the Wildcats’ only one — as opposed to the last couple of years when they had multiple practice games prior to the start of the season. Tonight will be Arizona’s only chance to work out some bugs before the season officially tips off on Nov. 8. against Cal Poly.

The starting lineup for the Wildcats tonight is expected to be McConnell at point guard, junior Nick Johnson at shooting guard, freshman Aaron Gordon at the small forward, sophomore Brandon Ashley at power forward and sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski holding down the center position.

Arizona will test out a variety of different rotations against Augustana. Both McConnell and sophomore guard Gabe York said at the Friday press conference that communication is what the team needs to work on the most if it hopes to be as successful as it would like to be.

Today will also be the Wildcats’ first time working against a true opponent and playing with the new hand checking rules that no longer allow a defender to put his hands on or bump an offensive player when he’s heading to the basket.

“It helps the offensive player a lot more,” York said of the new foul. He went on to explain how on ball screens and rotating on defense communication becomes more vital when they can no longer put a hand on the defender, “It’s [now] all communication,” York said.

As always, how the Wildcats play in their first exhibition games means nothing toward March. However, the quicker they can learn to play together, the better.

The last time Arizona hosted the Vikings in an exhibition game was in 2010 and the UA only won by 11 points. But as the season progressed, the Wildcats improved to the point where they managed to reach the Elite 8 and fell three points shy of making it to the Final Four.

—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella

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