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Arizona basketball: Game time, TV and preview for exhibition against Augustana

The Arizona basketball team opens its exhibition season against Augustana College.

Jeff Gross

The exhibition season won't likely tell the Arizona Wildcats and Sean Miller much. The most athletic team that Miller has run out in his tenure in Tucson could easily topple the teams such as Monday's exhibition opponent, Augustana College. No, the fifth-ranked Wildcats should easily defeat a Division II team.

Expectedly, Arizona will overwhelm with instinctual defense and athleticism. They should be able to toss defenders aside in the paint with Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon. And they should suffocate ball handlers on the perimeter. They should win.

Miller said at media day that Arizona isn't practicing like a top-5 team in the nation. The execution wasn't there in the Red-Blue game, where the defense won the day but the offense didn't flow.

Does the defense move on a string? Does the motion offense end with open shots?

And when there are open shots, will the Wildcats be making the attempts or picking offensive boards off the glass and getting second-chance points? Really, too many second-chance points could be more concerning than satisfying.

The Wildcats don't have experience together, but their exhibition game will give them a sense of how far along they are against an Augustana team that, while overmatched, could expose Arizona as it did in 2010. Augustana took an eventual Elite Eight squad to the brink before losing 70-59.

What's of the guard depth?

In the Red-Blue game, Arizona's big men dominated while the perimeter players disappointed in terms of their offensive production. Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell are expected to find their places on both ends of the court, but what's behind them remains a mystery.

Jordin Mayes must shake his injury-riddled career to find that consistent shooting he displayed as a freshman, and Gabe York will have the opportunity to evolve as a freakish athlete with a more consistent jump shooter as a sophomore.

As the Elite Eight run in 2011 showed, the importance of the sixth and seventh men on a team can make the difference from a one-game NCAA appearance to a deep run. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson might be the sixth man, but after that the Wildcats oddly enough don't appear all that deep.

The rotation might be experimental early, but with depth questions, it might not deviate much since Miller won't have many other choices down the road.

Who has a mean streak?

Aaron Gordon gets tabbed as a player with a high-octane "motor," which seemingly offends every less-talented basketball player who is labeled positively with that cliche term. But it's for good reason. Gordon doesn't take plays off, and his relentlessness is one of the reasons he's so highly-regarded -- there aren't many question marks whether he will eventually un-tap his potential.

Tarczewski and Ashley sure could take some lessons from Gordon. It's not as if they weren't trying as freshmen, but their consistency certainly could improve. It'd be a positive sign for the Wildcats if one or both of the sophomore big men can get up for Augustana without any pushing from the coaching staff -- or desperation if Augustana gives Arizona a game early on.


7 p.m. MST


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