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What to watch for when Arizona hosts Cal State Bakersfield on Wednesday

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The Arizona Wildcats (3-0) will be back in action for the third time in five days on Wednesday when they host the Roadrunners of Cal State Bakersfield (1-1) at 5 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Network.

If you are unfamiliar with CSUB, the Roadrunners return the vast majority of a team that went 12-19 overall and 6-10 in the WAC last season. CSUB now plays in the Big West and currently ranks 192nd in KenPom’s national rankings after finishing 266th last year.

Here are some things to watch for Wednesday.

Can Baker keep cooking?

Was Jemarl Baker Jr.’s 33-point outburst vs. NAU an outlier or a sign of things to come?

Given how the rest of his career has gone, it’s an outlier. But his knee is healthy now and he’s in a different role than he was last season, so he’s expected to have the best year of his career and be one of Arizona’s top scorers.

With an influx of ball-handlers added this fall, Baker now spends most of his time off the ball and is getting more shots as a result. He’s hoisting 11.3 shots per game after only averaging 5.5 last season.

A telling stat is that all seven of his 3-pointers against NAU were assisted. a tribute to the way Baker is getting open and his teammates are finding him.

Another hot hand

Hey, CSUB also has a player who just made seven 3s in a game! That was Travis Henson, who went 7 for 10 behind the arc in a win over Bethesda University, an NCCCA school, on Monday.

The 6-foot-6 wing joined the Roadrunners this fall after beginning his college career at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas where he averaged close to 16 points per game while shooting 41% from 3. (Coincidentally, Angelina College’s team is also nicknamed the Roadrunners.)

The craziest part about Hinson’s performance Monday? He swished those seven 3s in just 13 minutes off the bench.

Arizona cannot lose track of him just like CSUB cannot lose track of Baker.

Roadrunners? More like the Roadwalkers!

Roadrunners—the bird—are fast. They can reach speeds upwards of 20 miles per hour and are very fun to watch!

The Roadrunners—the basketball team—are not fast. And based on their record last year they aren’t very fun to watch, either.

In the last three seasons under head coach Rod Barnes, CSUB has ranked 321st, 303rd and 314th in the country in tempo, according to KenPom. (Remember, there are only 357 teams in Division I basketball.)

The Roadrunners are able to control the pace like that because they usually dominate the glass.

Despite everyone on their roster being listed at 6-foot-9 or shorter, CSUB currently ranks 10th in the nation in rebounding margin (+16.5) and 22nd in rebounds per game (44.5). Last season, they ranked 14th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage and 59th in defensive rebounding percentage.

Thus, winning the rebounding battle will be key for Arizona if it hopes to get out in transition like it did so well against Northern Arizona.

“One thing about Rod Barnes’s team, we’ve played them in the past, they play with great effort,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Physical, they play hard.”

Youth vs. experience

If there is one reason the Roadrunners could pull off an unlikely upset, it’s that unlike Arizona they have plenty of continuity.

CSUB is one of just 17 Division I teams to return at least 70% of its points (76%), rebounds (81%), assists (77%), steals (80%) and blocks (73%).

Compare that to Arizona, which only returned 17.4% of its points from last season, the lowest mark in the Pac-12 and 338th in the country.

You’ve got to make your free throws

Every game is a new opportunity for the Wildcats to fix their free throw shooting woes. Through three games they are only converting 65.4% of them, the second-worst mark among Pac-12 teams. (Thank you USC for being even worse.)

Everyone not named Jordan Brown, Ira Lee and Bennedict Mathurin needs to pick it up.

Terrell Brown is back for more

Another game, another familiar foe for UA guard Terrell Brown.

His former school, Seattle U, was in the same conference as CSUB the last two seasons, so he knows the Roadrunners well.

They’d probably prefer not to know him.

In four career games against CSUB, Brown is averaging 18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 43% from the field, 2 for 8 from 3 and 86% from the free-throw line.

But the most important stat of all? Brown has three wins and just one loss against CSUB, which came two seasons ago. Brown and Seattle U swept CSUB last season. He averaged 23 points per game in the pair of wins.

At Arizona, Brown racks up assists not points. He has 15 in three games and his assist-to-turnover ratio is a sparkling 5 to 1.

Will Kerr and Terry be on the bench?

Arizona assistant coach Jason Terry tested negative for COVID-19 on Tuesday after an inconclusive test Monday forced him to miss Monday’s game vs. NAU. That is great news for him and the Wildcats since they avoid having to shut down other players and staffers, and possibly even cancel games.

Maybe Kerr Kriisa will join Terry on the bench too. The freshman guard has been in quarantine since returning from Estonia on Dec. 3, almost a full week ago.

There is no word if he has received NCAA clearance to play for the Wildcats yet, but it would be nice to see him on the bench for the first time this season.