The preseason is a time of major hope and optimism in college basketball, with all 353 Division I teams still unbeaten and all of their goals within reach. Those initial practices and intra-squad scrimmages are filled with excitement and energy, everyone giving maximum effort to show their coaching staffs what they can accomplish.
All of those things still exist a few weeks later, though maybe without as much intensity. Instead there’s a layer of monotony that comes with going through the same drills and scenarios over and over again.
So it goes when you’re practicing (and playing) against the same people, day in and day out.
Thankfully for the Arizona Wildcats, that’s about to finally end. Their first preseason exhibition is on tap for Tuesday when Western New Mexico comes to McKale Center.
“Just to be a couple of days away from my first game here, it’s exciting,” senior guard Justin Coleman said Thursday. “We’re hungry to play somebody else.”
Coleman is one of at least several Wildcats expected to make their Arizona debut on Tuesday. The graduate transfer from Samford (by way of Alabama) had his unofficial debut Oct. 14 in the Red-Blue scrimmage, an event that drew a sold-out crowd of 14,644.
“For the Red and Blue game it was very exciting,” Coleman said. “It was the first time I’d played in front of 15,000 fans.”
Freshman guard Brandon Williams said the last few weeks have helped he and his teammates learn more about each other’s play and their tendencies on the court. Now it’s time to show that off against someone else.
One place he hopes to be able to show the byproduct of recent work: on defense.
“We’ve been playing good on defense the past few weeks,” Williams said. “We’re watching film every day.”
Coleman said he’s seen much improvement in he and his teammates since the Red-Blue game, when Arizona’s 11 scholarship players—including former walk-on Jake Desjardins, a junior forward—were split up and nearly all played the bulk of the 24-minute scrimmage.
“We had a lot of work to do,” Coleman said. “We had a lot of guys that were winded, maybe because of the depth.”
Western New Mexico is one of two exhibition opponents for Arizona, along with Chaminade on Nov. 4, before the regular season begins Nov. 7 at home against Houston Baptist. While these next two contests don’t count they will help the Wildcats immensely.
“Just to use that game to get better as a team,” Coleman said. “We had a couple scrimmages throughout our preseason and we looked pretty good. We may not have the best players in every game, but we play together as one.”