The Arizona Wildcats opened their exhibition season with a statement game more about their roster makeup than how ready they are to make a run at the Final Four. A 108-67 victory against Humboldt State Wednesday at McKale Center was a solid victory compared to UA's 60-51 victory against the Lumberjacks last season, but that difference isn't as telling as to how far the Wildcats much go to reach the promised land.
In that regard, the Wildcats are where they were during the beginning of last exhibition season. With so much roster turnover, that's not a fault. Rather, it's something to temper expectations.
Numbers won't show it, but Arizona was treating it like the exhibition game that it was; the Wildcats were trying to find themselves in Miller's motion offense, and they were trying to learn how to play a complete game. It was a swing and a miss but not a bad try.
It's to be expected at this point. After jumping out to an 11-0 start four minutes into the game and 30-10 just 10 minutes into it, it looked like a rout. But the Wildcats would let the lead slip. Arizona took just a 46-35 lead into halftime.
As would be expected, the Lumberjacks couldn't hang with Arizona's hockey-style substitutions, fading as the game wore on.
Center Kaleb Tarczewski led the UA scoring with 18 points and the rebounding with 10 against a small front line. He showed his old-school low-post game, hitting 7-of-9 shots, many of which were soft hook shots off the glass. It was the first time since -- gulp -- the Channing Frye era where the Wildcats could pound it into the paint.
The 7-foot center was spoon fed in the post, but he also was the recipient of some high-low passing. Starting power forward Grant Jerrett displayed his versatility, scoring nine points to go with three assists, five boards and a team-high three blocks.
Fellow freshman Brandon Ashley might be the third-best of the three big men youngsters, but he still put up a quiet 12 points and eight rebounds.
And the Wildcats got what you'd expect from their more veteran players. Solomon Hill scored 15 points along with had four assists and four rebounds. Nick Johnson eased his way to 14 points on nine shots. He alluded to his defensive specialist role with five steals while adding five boards and four assists.
The Wildcats had 23 assists to 14 turnovers, not bad by any account.
Point guard Mark Lyons showed both his talent and his question marks. He scored 15 and had five assists while pushing the tempo and keeping his head up. While he displayed the scary early-in-the-shotclock three-pointer in his arsenal, he did hit 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes looked sound, but they clearly weren't at the same level as the five starters, nor Ashley, who could be the sixth man of sorts. Those two, along with Angelo Chol, look like talent alone will keep them with the second unit.
So for the first time in the Sean Miller era, Arizona showed that the starting unit might indeed be much better than the bench.
But looking at the history of the Wildcats in the brief Miller tenure, that's not be a bad thing. That might simply be a result of, simply, how talented these Miller recruits have become.