The Arizona Wildcats began their first exhibition of the 2018-19 season by allowing a quick bucket to trail Western New Mexico, 2-0. That was the only time they trailed, and frankly the only time there was any uncertainty about who would win.
Forty game minutes later, and Arizona had breezed to a 95-44 win over its Division II opponent, one that wasn’t expected to provide much competition and—outside of a surprisingly competent 7-foot-2, 300-pound center—didn’t.
The final score was the least important thing about Arizona’s first competition against someone other than itself. It was how the Wildcats went about that easy victory that deserves more scrutiny, while at the same time remembering who that performance came against.
Here’s what we learned about Arizona from this first preseason game:
Randolph looks ready to rise
Sophomore guard Brandon Randolph was Arizona’s leading scorer at 20 points in 24 minutes of action, going 6 of 8 from the field. It was the kind of effort the coaching staff hopes for out of someone who several flashes of offensive brilliance as a freshman but because of limited opportunities ended up only averaging 3.7 points per game.
Most notable from that output was what he did from the perimeter, making all five three-point attempts. Last year he was 15 of 46 from deep, a 32.6 percent rate.
The rest of Arizona was 6 of 21 from three, the longball accounting for 40.6 percent of its shots. That’s up a fair amount from last year’s 32.1 percent three-point attempt rate.
BWill is going to be fun to watch
Arizona coach Sean Miller has said he believes Brandon Williams would have been a McDonald’s All-American last year had the guard not suffered a knee injury during his junior year of high school. Getting hurt might be the only way Williams doesn’t make the Pac-12 all-freshman team if how he performed in his debut is any indication.
Williams had 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals in 24 minutes. He was 6 of 11 from the field, struggling outside (1 for 6) but going perfect from within the arc.
He was by far Arizona’s most active player, offensively and defensively, never seeming to stay in one place for more than a half-second. And he showed he’s not afraid to bang around, often seeking out the contact like with just over four minutes left when he slowed down on a run out to make the trailing defender bang into him for a shooting foul.
If only he didn’t go 1 for 4 from the foul line.
There’s no room for error (or absence) down low
After years of the frontcourt being spoiled in the size department, with at two seven-footers apiece the past four seasons, Arizona enters this year downright small on the block. The biggest “big” is 6-foot-10 Chase Jeter, with 6-9 Ryan Luther and 6-7 Ira Lee the other main post players.
Jeter didn’t play Tuesday because of an undisclosed injury, which left Arizona super thin up front, to the point that the second unit was comprised of 6-7 wing Emmanuel Akot and former walk-on Jake DesJardins, who is 6-6.
Arizona outrebounded Western New Mexico 50-30 but managed just seven offensive rebounds, the same number as the Mustangs.
That might fly against a Division II team, and maybe against most of Arizona’s non-conference teams, but not when the Wildcats play in Maui or during the Pac-12 schedule. If Jeter’s injury proves to be something that lingers, that could be a big issue.