The Arizona men’s basketball team gets back to the court on Saturday – finally, after getting a couple of scheduled games cancelled. Heck the first game of the Pac 12 Conference would have come and gone by now.
Wednesday’s game with Colorado was postponed and will now be held on Dec. 28. What that does is give Arizona more games to play before its scheduled game with Stanford on December 19 (by the way that game won’t be played in California given the state’s restrictions).
Next up is Eastern Washington, a team that replaced Northern Colorado on the schedule. I like the switch given Eastern Washington will give Miller & Co., a better look at what they need to improve on. EWU is picked to win the Big Sky Conference and is a veteran team. Arizona was picked fifth in the Pac-12 and is a young team.
What do you gain from a blowout (something that may have happened on Saturday but is less likely now).
Arizona will now have four games in eight days.
“That alone will be quite a challenge for a group like ours,” Miller said today on his Zoom media call.
Miller later called it a “really, really big test.”
He added, “I have really enjoyed watching them the last two or three days play the game,” he said.
So, by 2:30 p.m. on Saturday we should know more about UA men’s hoops.
“Man, we’re playing a really good team,” Miller said. “They are organized, really efficient, really good on offense, they are very solid on defense and have a style and confidence. You can tell they believe in themselves.”
What Arizona believes in right now is anyone’s guess. There have been no games. Miller said the team has gone through 35 practices that have been “a grind” but with only one game to show for it.
He does say the team has worked hard to this point.
“Everyone is out to prove their worth,” he said. “We don’t have to beg our team to practice.”
Miller did say that he and the team have been able to see more non-Arizona basketball which has helped the players see what other teams do, how they handle the game.
More news from Hoops and not surprising news
In only a way Miller can announce – officially – Kerr Kriisa is back at UA, he took a snarky shot at those who thought Kriisa might return from his trip home to Estonia over the last week.
“I can affirm, confirm that Kerr Kriisa is in the city of Tucson of Arizona and back in the United States of America; he’s not in Europe, he did return,” Miller said.
His return solves one problem but not another. Kriisa, from Estonia, has yet to gain clearance from the NCAA to play. Miller had no timetable for a complete return. He’s subject to quarantine protocol so it’s not clear when he’ll return to team activities.
“Regardless of the outcome of the eligibility part, Kerr’s best days as a basketball player are in the future,” Miller said. “He has a lot of skill, he has a lot of talent, we love him as a player. He’s got a charisma about him that is contagious on the court. But as he gets bigger, stronger, older, repetitions, learning the difference between college basketball and FIBA – and there are differences – he’s only going to improve and get better, so that’s the whole key for him.”
Ira Lee is good to go to play on Saturday
Senior Ira Lee, who had been out of action for a bit because of a concussion, has been cleared to play in Saturday’s game with Eastern Washington. The injury happened about a month ago. Lee returned to practice recently and well has only missed one game given the cancellations to this point in Arizona’s schedule.
“He’s been able to practice, and he’s practiced well,” Miller said. “I think he has a freshness about him and like we talked about – what does Ira Lee bring to the table on this year’s team? He’s experienced, he’s been in college games, he’s been through seasons – the ups and downs. He’s one of our most physical players on the rebounding end, both offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding, which I think he’ll bolster that and make us better in an area that we need to be better in.”
Where there’s smoke, there’s ….
On the Arizona football front, well, another recruit has decommitted from the program. On Friday morning, defensive end Ja’Marian Peterson said thanks but no thanks to the UA program and that he’s reopening his recruitment.
Arizona had been getting praise by going on and getting kids in the south, specifically from the New Orleans area. Peterson was one of them.
“I would like to start by saying that it has been a great pleasure and opportunity to have been recruited by the University of Arizona and all its coaches and staff, Coach (Stan) Eggen in particular,” Peterson tweeted. “With all the respect and love I have … it is with a heavy heart that I am decommitting and reopening my recruitment.”
There was another heavy heart the day before when fellow defensive end Ja’Quez Harvey decommitted.
Yikes! It’s not good for Arizona, a program still trying to find its way under Kevin Sumlin. This week Sumlin was asked about those who have opted out or aren’t playing. He became a little defensive with the term, but nonetheless those players aren’t playing.
Arizona can still fill those spots in a couple of weeks when the early signing period begins on Dec. 16. UA has commitments from 21 recruits so far.