The Arizona Wildcats begin their 2016-17 season with a very tough test in Hawaii against the Michigan State Spartans on Friday.
There are plenty of unknowns heading into this game, but there are three things that stand out above the rest that we’ll be keeping an eye on.
One thing that Arizona is going to have to take advantage of all season is their size in the frontcourt. Not many schools throughout the nation can throw two highly-skilled 7-footers at the opposition at the same time.
Looking up and down Michigan State’s roster, their three tallest players are tied at 6-foot-9. This gives Arizona a three inch height advantage. But that’s not all. Arizona also boasts two more players at either 6-foot-9 or taller — Chance Comanche is 6’11”, while Keanu Pinder is listed at 6’9”.
Therefore, the game plan against Tom Izzo and the Spartans should be to throw the ball down low as often as possible.
A glaring weakness throughout the exhibition games against the College of Idaho and Chico State was the Wildcats’ inability to shoot from behind the three point line. The Wildcats went just 4-for-24 from deep. To add insult to injury, freshman Lauri Marrkanen made three of those attempts.
How can that change? Yes, above, we mention shooting high percentage shots often, but what happens when the opposing defense figures out how to stop the ball from going down low? Look for that extra pass. If one of the bigs is being double teamed, there’s bound to be someone open that can knock down a jumper.
If the shooting can be a factor throughout the entirety of the season, the Wildcats will be very hard to beat.
Another issue heading into the season is how Sean Miller is going to manage his team’s minutes early in non-conference play.
At the moment, Miller does not have a lot of scholarship players available to him (eight). Comanche coming back will be huge, but losing Ray Smith hurts, as does potentially not having Allonzo Trier for a large portion of the season.
Are they going to have tired legs before Pac-12 play even begins? Or does Miller have a strategy in place so that his starters do not have to log a ton of minutes when playing against lesser schools?
Arizona and Michigan State are scheduled to tip-off at 5 PM MT on ESPN.