The Arizona Wildcats routed Chico State 90-54 in their lone exhibition game, and even though it didn't count, it still gave us an opportunity to learn a few things about the team. Here they are:
Ryan Anderson is the team's best player
While this might seem like an overreaction to one game, Ryan Anderson showed that he's not only the real deal, but also the Wildcats' best player. He led the team in points (19), rebounds (10), and blocks (3), and shot 8-9 from the field. Granted it was against Chico State, but Anderson looked like a man among boys. He was scoring in the paint at will, grabbing rebounds over defenders, and was sending shots into the stands. He even hit a mid-range jumper too.
If he's not the Wildcats' best player, then I'm not sure who is. He excels at everything.
The starting point guard spot is still up for grabs
Kadeem Allen got the start, but I wonder just how cemented in the starting lineup he is. Neither he nor Parker Jackson-Cartwright looked great offensively -- frankly, both struggled to create for others and neither had an easy time scoring -- but both made an impact on defense. Jackson-Cartwright had three steals, and while Kadeem Allen didn't record any, he was a pest all game and really knows how to use his length to contest shots, disrupt ball handlers, and get in the way of passes. Still, it's understandably hard to say who the better player is right now.
Who knows, maybe Justin Simon, who didn't play until the second half, could take the starting job. Simon's point guard skills at his size can make him a serious mismatch to defend. He's not much of a shooter, but I liked his willingness to drive to the rim. On the other end, he's capable of guarding multiple positions. He's definitely an interesting option.
The team's rebounding could be an issue
I don't think you need me to tell you that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, T.J. McConnell, and Stanley Johnson did a lot of great things on the court for Arizona. Rondae was a lockdown defender, McConnell was a heady point guard, and Stanley did, well, everything. They were a great backcourt for the Wildcats, but what may have been overlooked is the impact that those three had on the glass. Rondae and Stanley were second and third respectively on the team in rebound percentage last season, while McConnell grabbed nearly four boards per game. It gave the Wildcats an entire starting lineup with a nose for rebounding.
I'm not sure the same can be said about this year's team. Sure, Ryan Anderson, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Dusan Ristic will grab their fair share of rebounds, but they'll need others to help them out. Against Chico State, the Wildcats allowed 13 offensive rebounds, and only out-rebounded the other Wildcats 39-32, even though Chico State shot just 35% from the field.
With Ray Smith sidelined for the year, the guy that most peg to have an impact on the glass is Mark Tollefsen. Tollefsen grabbed eight rebounds in the Red-Blue game, but only had one against Chico State. Which type of performance can we expect more often? He averaged about five rebounds per game at San Francisco, so he'll likely be somewhere in the middle.
Maybe Elliott Pitts and Gabe York can step up? Both were dead last in rebounding percentage among Arizona's rotation players last season, so I wouldn't expect it.
Then when you look at the point guards, Jackson-Cartwright will always be a limited rebounder, but the same can't be said about Allen and Simon. Allen is 6'3" with nearly a 6'10" wingspan along with some impressive athleticism so the tools are there. Same for Simon, who is 6'5". It's yet another reason why I could see his minutes gradually increasing as the season wears on.
Nonetheless, it's probably too early to be that worried about the team's rebounding. With the front court the way that it is, Arizona will never be a bad rebounding team. In fact, they'll likely be above average at worst. That said, the backcourt may ultimately prevent them from being a team that flat out dominates the glass as they've been in recent years. And since the team's defense is expected to take a step back this season, it might be as important as ever to control the boards.