It’s the summer, when things slow down for a bit in Wildcat Country. What a perfect time to pick our readers’ brains.
Introducing the AZ Desert Swarm Spam Folder, our attempt to respond to some questions that you’ve submitted to us via Twitter, Facebook and in our comments section. And you had plenty.
Many of those queries were related to potential realignment, and if Arizona may end up in the Big 12, Big Ten, etc. Our answer on that? No clue. And we don’t think anyone else really knows, either.
Here are some of the top questions posed this past week:
What is the projected starting lineup for men’s basketball for the upcoming season? With a couple of high-profile transfers, will there be enough minutes for current and new players?
For the first time in the Tommy Lloyd era, Arizona may have too many players worthy of either starting or getting starters’ minutes. That’s frankly a good problem to have, especially after the last two seasons where the depth just wasn’t there.
Oumar Ballo is the only returning starter from the 2022-23 squad that won a second straight Pac-12 Tournament title, only to flame out in the NCAA tourney with a first-round loss to Princeton. His starting spot is locked in, as should one for Kylan Boswell, who emerged as Arizona’s most consistent guard down the stretch.
Pelle Larsson, who briefly tested the NBA Draft waters, is back for a third season and figures to end up in a role similar to last year: starting to the 3 to begin the year, but possibly moving to the bench yet still playing heavy minutes. San Diego State transfer Keshad Johnson is basically in the same boat, so either of them could be that swingman but both will play a lot.
The addition of ex-North Carolina guard Caleb Love almost certainly means he’ll be in the starting lineup, but not necessarily on the ball like with the Tar Heels. He could slide to the 1 when Boswell is on the bench, and former Alabama guard Jaden Bradley also can play both backcourt spots.
The biggest question mark is the 4, where sophomores Henri Veesaar and Dylan Anderson will get first crack but he both may end up getting used in small doses if Arizona opts to play small more often and have Johnson and Larsson on the floor together. Newcomer Motiejus Krivas should play, but he won’t be expected to play a big role unless Anderson and Veesaar fail to show improvement from their freshman seasons.
The potential odd man out could be freshman guard KJ Lewis, but if Lloyd is determined to go deeper this year than in the past he’ll get his minutes as well.
Is our softball starting pitching woes due to not recruiting the highest-ranked pitchers or are the ones we recruit just not worked out?
It’s likely a combination of both. That’s not to say that the pitchers haven’t been highly ranked, but rather that the rankings aren’t necessarily reliable and the ranking systems often conflict.
Not to pick on her, but let’s take Jessie Fontes as an example. Extra Inning Softball rated her as the No. 24 recruit in the 2020 class. FloSoftball listed her at No. 54. That’s a big gap. Why was EIS higher on her than Flo?
What we do know is that when Fontes arrived at Arizona, she pitched less than 30 innings in two years before transferring after last season. In her first season at UNLV, she pitched less than 50 as a junior. Is that because of the lack of development at both schools or did she just not reach the potential that Mike Candrea saw in her when he called her “one of the top pitchers in the class” on signing day?
There have been issues with the health of the pitchers at Arizona, as we saw in 2022 with both Devyn Netz and Hanah Bowen. A lot of people were down on Taryne Mowatt-McKinney for how the pitching went that year, but Arizona did neither the pitchers nor Mowatt-McKinney any favors by hiding the injuries until the postseason. It’s difficult to develop a pitcher who is in a boot every day she’s not pitching, after all.
It will become clearer whether it was something that could have been fixed by different pitching philosophies when new pitching coach Christian Conrad arrives this season. Will he put less emphasis on pitching to contact, which has been something that Caitlin Lowe seems to encourage?
Mowatt-McKinney was very high on the potential of Sydney Somerndike as a strikeout pitcher when Somerndike first signed, but Lowe seemed to discount that when asked about how her strikeout prowess in high school might translate to college. The “use your defense” mantra has been big with the head coach, but it could also be one reason Arizona gave up a league-worst 67 home runs in 2023.
Next fall, Arizona is bringing in two pitchers who just won Gatorade Player of the Year honors for their states. Ryan Maddox is especially well-regarded, ranking as the No. 3 player in the class according to MaxPreps and the equivalent of No. 11 by EIS. She’s the No. 5 pitcher in the class according to EIS. The questions about her relate to her size. At just 5-foot-3, she will come in as an especially petite pitcher for Division I. She is joined by
Brooke Mannon, who is ranked the equivalent of No. 55 overall by EIS. Mannon has the size at 5-foot-11, but she has not faced the kind of competition that Maddox has.
Will Jonathan Flowe be joining brother Justin Flowe on the football team this season?
Arizona went heavy on defensive additions from the NCAA transfer portal this offseason, most notably former Oregon linebacker Justin Flowe, who has since been named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list.
But he wasn’t the only ex-Duck named Flowe in the portal. Justin’s younger brother, Jonathan Flowe, also entered after spending two seasons in Eugene, and it was believed he was going to follow Justin to Tucson for 2023.
That has yet to happen, though, and all signs point to it not happening. Jonathan Flowe, a 3-star safety from the 2021 recruiting class, is still in the portal and is not expected to join the UA program this fall.
What was the overall record against ASU for all sports in the 2022-23 season?
Arizona claimed the overall Territorial Cup Series this past year, winning it for the fourth time in the past six seasons, by an 11-10 count.
The Wildcats earned a full point over the Sun Devils in football, women’s basketball, softball, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s indoor track, women’s golf, men’s tennis and both outdoor track squads, while getting half-points in volleyball and men’s basketball (the Pac-12 Tournament win over ASU didn’t count toward the standings).
When it came to head-to-head games, Arizona won 11 of 21 matches. The deciding victory was baseball’s 12-3 win over ASU in the Pac-12 tourney, which helped push the UA into the NCAA Tournament and keep the Sun Devils at home.
When Arizona men’s basketball plays a school like Western New Mexico, I’m pretty sure Arizona pays them to come to McKale. Do Power 5 schools pay other P5 schools to play? This next season Arizona has a game at Duke. Does Duke pay Arizona for a nonconference game, then vice versa the next year?
Because the Wildcats’ Nov. 10 game at Duke is the front end of a home-and-home series, there will be no payments exchanged between the teams. The same goes for Arizona and Wisconsin, which begin a home-and-home Dec. 9 in Tucson.
Those payments are for what are called “buy games,” when schools pay to have a lower-tier opponent come in for a single game with no return date. These buy games help programs like Morgan State, whom the UA will open the 2023-24 season against on Nov. 6, fund its athletic department.
The only instances where a power-conference team like Arizona might get “paid” for a game are for one-off neutral-site contests, such as the December ones against Purdue (in Indianapolis) and Alabama (in Phoenix). Games like that are arranged through third-party promoters, and the TV money involved gets shared with the participants.