Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Countdown to Tip-off Slideshow: Tip-off is upon us

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Three things to watch tonight:

1. Brandon Ashley’s return

Brandon Ashley

Brandon Ashley

Lost in the stories of Ashley’s recovery from his season-ending foot injury is the probability that he might be in the NBA right now if he did not get injured at Cal on Feb. 1.

Nobody should endure pain like Ashley to become more mature, but it is a blessing in disguise for Arizona and Ashley.

With the rehabilitation making him stronger and his responsibility of a leader as a junior, Ashley will benefit from playing at least this season before making his jump to the pros. He can work on his game to become a better multi-dimensional threat facing the basket and posting up with his back to it.

“I thought in the last game (exhibition against Cal Poly Pomona), he was one of many who really came alive,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in his press conference this week. “There is no doubt that, if healthy – and we have no reason to believe he won’t be – that he’ll be a better player as a junior than he was at any time during his first two years here.”

2. Sean Miller’s rotation

Arizona’s game notes include junior guard Gabe York in the starting lineup against Mount St. Mary’s, a member of the Northeast Conference.

At this point, that really does not matter that York starts in place of freshman sensation Stanley Johnson. What’s more important is how Johnson works his way into the flow of the game along with the other Arizona reserves.

In the exhibition against Pomona, Johnson came off the bench to play 24 minutes, which was more than starting small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (23). It’s simple: If a player produces, especially on the defensive end and rebounding, he will get his minutes.

Johnson finished with 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal. York also had a steal while Ashley, not perceived to be a defensive ballhawk, led the Wildcats with two.

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MOUNT ST. MARY’S VS. NO. 2 ARIZONA
Time: 6:02 p.m. Tucson time
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Kevin Calabro/Matt Muehlebach)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)

THE SERIES
Overall: Never met
Sean Miller vs. Mount St. Mary’s: 0-0

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CLICK HERE to read Javier Morales’ review


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No. 0

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Ten Arizona players finished in double-figure minutes while freshman forward Craig Victor played nine. Heading into the Pac-12 season in January, double-figure minutes will likely be divided among seven players. Starting tonight is where Miller will find out who best fits that seven.

3. Impact of McKale on each team

The newly-renovated McKale Center is open for business tonight, which should add to the buzz over Miller’s highly-touted team.

The atmosphere should energize the Wildcats, but can that have a negative effect, especially early?

Six new players are on Arizona’s roster, four of whom will see playing time. Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson must sit out this season and junior college transfer Kadeem Allen is a redshirt candidate.

Mount St. Mary’s is coming off an NCAA tournament appearance, so they are accustomed to a big-game atmosphere. But this is a true road game and the Wildcats have won 27-consecutive regular-season non-conference games, the longest streak in the nation.

The Mountaineers are picked to finish fifth in the Northeast Conference without a returner who averaged more than 10 points a game from last season. The highest returning scorer is 7-foot center Taylor Danaher at 7.1 points a game. He also averaged 5 rebounds a game.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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