They call it mayhem.
Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian has a system that relies on a hectic pace, transition opportunities and a swapping of defenses to put opponents on their heels. The Mountaineers hope mayhem ensues against an Arizona defense that is probably still plugging in the holes following the departures of Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson.
The Arizona Wildcats can learn a lot in their 2014-15 season opener, but they also put themselves at risk of succumbing to the pressure of being a clear-cut No. 2 team and a relatively underwhelming exhibition game.
The Mountaineers will seek out quality three-point shots, and they have the versatility to go big to match Arizona or small to speed the game up. The season opener is set up to become an exceptional clash of styles considering Mount St. Mary's variety on defense and Arizona's reliance on a single philosophy -- the pack-line defense that last season did everything to force opponents away from the hoop but inside the three-point line. Can it succeed against Mount St. Mary's?
What we're watching for
Who starts for the Wildcats?: Sean Miller's money quote following the exhibition game said it all.
Will Stanley Johnson be OK coming off the bench? "It doesn’t matter if he's happy. It really only matters if I’m happy." - Sean Miller.— Jon Gold (@TheCoolSub) November 10, 2014
Miller started Gabe York in the exhibition win and it paid off in a big way. Of the Wildcats, York took the most shots by three (11 total) attempts and scored 12 points to go with six rebounds and three assists. Johnson still might have been the best player on the court, but it's a wonder if Arizona would benefit more by teaming him with a strong defensive unit or rolling with a bigger punch when he's playing against second units. Plus, there's the whole floor-spacing thing that York provides. Last year, Mount St. Mary's actually allowed fewer three-point attempts than Arizona did -- although that's because teams go to the rim against it -- and the attempts that got off often didn't go in.
How do the bigs play against size?: The Mountaineers aren't like a lot of small school teams that used three or sometimes four guards simply out of necessity. Don't bet against Christian going to a guard-heavy attack. Do know that Mount St. Mary's returns three players of 6'7 stature or taller from last year's 16-17 squad that made the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The leading returning scorer, 7' center Taylor Danaher averaged 7.1 points per game in 2013-14 and can challenge Kaleb Tarczewski by stepping away from the hoop. Danaher is joined by sixth-year 6'11 big man Kristijan Krajina and 6'7 senior Aaron Brown. Going deeper than how Tarczewski handles the size is how Dusan Ristic looks in his first official game.
How many threes do the Mountaineers get off?: Three-point defense is as much about the shots allowed as the percentage an opponent shoots. Arizona doesn't have Gordon's size and ability to switch onto guards, but Brandon Ashley was unheralded in his defensive versatility before going down with a foot injury. Across the board, Arizona has the horses, but it remains to be seen if the defense can play suffocating perimeter defense for a full 40 minutes. Arizona losing Johnson and Gordon will leave that question for Miller to answer no matter who replaces them.
6 p.m. MST