If you decided to form your opinion of, and expectations for, the Arizona Wildcats based solely on how they looked in their first exhibition, there are some major revisions needed.
The 2018-19 season is more likely to resemble Sunday’s performance, a hard-fought 75-64 win over Division II school Chaminade, than what Arizona did Tuesday against Western New Mexico.
Down by as many as eight early in the second half, Arizona used its superior talent to pull away in the final 10 minutes in a game that didn’t count. Things get much realer on Wednesday when the regular season begins against Houston Baptist, the first of three straight home games before the Wildcats head to Hawaii to face a stacked field at the Maui Invitational.
Arizona could very easily go 0-3 in that tournament.
Here’s what we learned about the ‘Cats in their second and final exhibition:
Who can score other than the Brandons?
If the Arizona marketing department doesn’t already have a nickname for The Two Brandons—I get royalties on this, BTW—they should come up with one quickly. That duo has already shown they’re going to be the primary scorers, and if Sunday was any indication, they might be the only ones who can do so on a consistent basis.
Freshman guard Brandon Williams had 23 points while sophomore guard Brandon Randolph was close behind with 19. Against Western New Mexico they had 14 and 20, respectively.
Williams was aggressive all game, with Randolph mostly quiet in the first half before turning it up after halftime. They combined to go 15 of 27 from the field, including 8 of 13 from three-point range.
That’s the good part. The bad part is that everyone else on Arizona combined to shoot 12 of 33 and make just 3 of 12 threes.
The third-leading scorer shouldn’t be Justin Coleman, a pass-first point guard, who had 14 points (on 5-of-7 shooting) with three assists. There was very little production from the frontcourt, partly because of how much the Brandons had the ball in their hands but also from a general unwillingness to get involved, something that must change.
Chase Jeter knows his role, mostly
The talent was so overflowing in his time at Duke that, even as a 5-star prospect, Chase Jeter could hardly get onto the court. In two seasons he played only 492 minutes, less as a sophomore than as a freshman.
Jeter won’t be lacking for playing time with Arizona, where he’s the team’s only true big man. But even though he figures to be logging plenty of minutes—he had 17 off the bench Sunday, his first action after sitting out the Western New Mexico game with an undisclosed injury—he appears to already understand that he isn’t out there to be the go-to guy on offense.
Instead, the 6-foot-10 Jeter is needed as the Wildcats’ main rim protector and rebounder. Any production on the offensive end is gravy. And a little gravy would be nice.
Jeter took only one shot, missing it, and was 1 for 4 from the line to finish with one point along with a team-high six rebounds and one assist. He also had three turnovers and four fouls.
There is a caveat to this: Jeter hadn’t played in any sort of game, beyond intrasquad scrimmages, since the 2016-17 season at Duke. Expect him to get better, or at least hope he does.
Speaking of defense …
Chaminade turned the ball over 21 times, three more than any of Arizona’s opponents had last season. Coach Sean Miller said his team needed to force more takeaways in order to play at the kind of pace it wants to, and we saw plenty of active hands, feet and other body parts from the Wildcats.
Arizona turned those 21 turnovers into 24 points.
Yet the Silverswords still shot 45 percent, scoring on roughly half the possessions that they didn’t give it away. When the Wildcats didn’t force a turnover it struggled to get stops.
Chaminade had four and-one opportunities and it out-rebounded Arizona 36-35, grabbing seven offensive boards for 12 second-chance points. Much like last season, this will be an area of concern and one that will have a big say in how the year goes.