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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats tip off 2015 campaign against Pacific

Arizona men’s basketball tips off its season Friday night against Pacific in a matchup that should offer Sean Miller a test drive of his new batch of players.

Yes, the No. 12 Wildcats have plenty of familiar faces, but the Arizona head coach expects inexperience to shine through in the team’s first couple of games. Four of Arizona’s five starters are gone from last year’s team that went 34-4 and reached the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season.

In steps a host of newcomers—freshmen and transfers—who will all be out to prove themselves in the season opener.

“We still have a lot to work out,” Miller said Wednesday. “We could have a lot of different types of lineups to work out in the month of November.”

Seniors Gabe York, Kaleb Tarczewski and Ryan Anderson all seem to be sure locks. But outside of that trio, expect a lot of roster movement in the next couple weeks.

Anderson, a transfer from Boston College, has made the biggest impression on Miller thus far and is a good pick to be the Wildcats’ leading scorer, at least early on in the year.

The 6-foot-9- senior forward scored a team-high 19 points in Arizona’s 90-54 exhibition victory over Chico State last weekend. Anderson recorded a double-double by grabbing 10 rebounds as well.

“He’s been very impressive every day,” Miller said. “That’s when you really believe in somebody is when you see it every single day. I have no doubt that if [Anderson] remains healthy, he’s going to have a great year for us, and I believe he has the chance to be one of the best players at his position.”

Another transfer, forward Mark Tollefsen, is another good bet to start Friday night, given that he earned a starting role in the exhibition. A fifth-year senior out of the University of San Francisco, Tollefsen comes to Arizona with a 6-foot-9 frame that should instantly provide size down low.

Between Anderson and Tollefsen, as well as returning centers Tarczewski and Dusan Ristic, Arizona could find a decisive advantage in the paint against a rather small Pacific team.

The Tigers, who play in the West Coast Conference, will instead rely heavily on a pair of junior guards: T.J. Wallace and David Taylor.

Wallace, a 6-foot-9 point guard, led Pacific in scoring last season with 13 points per game. He was also one of the team’s leading rebounders and assist-men.

“[Wallace] is big and strong,” Miller said. “He certainly is capable of being someone who can score 15 or 16 points a game this year.”

While Pacific’s backcourt should give the Tigers some hope, the team will be without three players due to a lingering NCAA investigation.

According to a report earlier this week by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Pacific’s Eric Thompson, Alec Kobre and Sami Eleraky are being withheld until cleared by the NCAA. The investigation surrounds academic misconduct within the program.

Miller, however, stressed that at this time of the year, the opponent, or even the anatomy of the opponent, subsides to his own team’s makeup.

“A season opener, most of the time, is about you,” Miller said. “How ready are we? Because neither team can control the scouting element or the familiarity as much as we would like, because we don’t have a lot on each other. It’s more about how we do the things we’re supposed to do.”

The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in McKale Center. Catch the live broadcast on Pac-12 Arizona.

Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter

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