Arizona Basketball

Another season starts, more distractions linger, but Arizona blows out WNMU

Another season of limbo … that’s what Arizona is in for. How else can I explain it?

You have those who believe Arizona coach Sean Miller was up to something and was/is the target of an FBI investigation and a rabid fan base who say there’s nothing to see here so move right along.

Wash, rinse and repeat. Seems like 2017-18 all over again. Games like Tuesday night’s 95-44 exhibition win over Western New Mexico was just another day at the McKale Center office. Chaos is the new normal.

What it all means is another season of wait-and-see. This season will be a lot like last season where nothing will matter from now until March. It’s no different than how it was last season from the Bahamas to Buffalo.
Arizona will play out the season and hope for the best, in part because it has no other choice.

Then there is this: The Arizona Board of Regents have called an executive session for Thursday for the purpose of “legal advice and discussion” regarding the UA men’s basketball program. Miller would only say it was a regularly scheduled meeting.

Timing be damned.

Now back to basketball for … a second. Arizona’s schedule is soft enough to where there will be more than 20 victories (likely more than 23) and yet tough enough to create some anxiety when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
But, it is what it is. It’s just another season where the FBI cloud (of smoke) will waft around the men’s program … until it doesn’t.

There was your second.

Does it have the feel of last year?

“Our focus is caring for the players that are in our program,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said, “trying to build a great recruiting class coming down the home stretch, loving my wife and kids, enjoying the fact that I live in Tucson (and) doing the best that we can.

“We had a game tonight and it’s about learning from it, growing from it. We’re going to try and have a great practice and learn from the film (of Tuesday) and be a better team on Sunday against Chaminade.”

Tuesday night it was hard to see what he got out of it, although he said that he did in as much as he was able to see “a lot of different faces in the game.”

One face that wasn’t seen was center Chase Jeter, who was out with a reported sprained ankle (although Miller did not say what the injury was).

“Other players had to do more in different roles and that’s going to happen over the course of the season,” Miller said.

What he was pleased with was his team’s effort and his team’s togetherness (sometimes absent last season).
“At this time of year great effort and the intent of playing unselfish are at the top of our list right now,” Miller said.

So, there is that. Tuesday night it wasn’t a fair fight. In fact, Western New Mexico lost the game when the contract was signed. It celebrated a 2-0 lead, stealing the ball on Arizona’s first possession then proceeded to miss its next 11 shots. It was later 4 for 23 from the floor and was down 31-9 with 7:17 left in the half.
Those at McKale Center with late dinner plans likely made them. Happy Hour at McKale was never better.

Brandon Randolph drives to the basket. (Photo Courtesy Arizona Athletics)

The only question mark was who was going to be Arizona’s leading scorer? It turned out to be Brandon Randolph, who finished with 20 points, going 6 for 8 from the floor, including 5 for 5 from beyond the 3-point line.
“Ironically through the first month of practice he hasn’t shot the ball as well as we thought he would,” Miller said. “Or as well as he’s capable.”

But he took quality threes, Miller said, and when “you’re a good shooter like him that’s when you shoot a high percentage. Thought he was one the real standouts about the game.”

So was freshman Brandon Williams, who had 14 points and Ryan Luther who had 13 points.

Miller started Williams, Randolph, Luther, Justin Coleman and Ira Lee then went with Dylan Smith and Emmanuel Akot first off the bench. Alex Barcello and Jake DesJardins later.

“We’re at the very beginning stages,” Miller said of finding a rotation. “We are going to play nine players, maybe in a given situation a 10th guy to get on the court.”

Miller will have plenty of time to figure it all out given nothing really will matter until March when teams are judged. It’s what college basketball has been about for years and nothing will change this season either. Like it or not. Bad publicity or not. It’s what being in limbo is all about.

“We’re just here to play ball,” Randolph said when asked about all the distractions. “That’s it. We focus on practice, getting better.”

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