Fresh off an incredible Red-Blue Game this past weekend, Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats are preparing for their first exhibition game of the season on Thursday night. The head coach recently met with the media and discussed the starting lineup, the importance of playing two exhibition games this season and who he viewed as the best teams in the Pac-12.
According to Miller, three players have solidified their spots as starters to begin the season: Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, seeing as these three are Arizona's most proven players and saw a lot of playing time last year.
"With their experience, how they play, how they've worked really since the first day of school, it's very difficult to unseat those three guys," said Miller at his meeting with the media on Tuesday.
This leaves the point guard and center positions open once the season begins. At point guard, it is a two-man race between freshman Josiah Turner and sophomore Jordin Mayes.
While it is in my belief Turner will end up being the starting point guard more times than not throughout the season, Mayes could have the early advantage because of his experience running the offense. At the same time, Mayes is slightly behind in terms of conditioning after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot over the summer. That may be enough to give Turner the early nod on Thursday night against Seattle Pacific.
The other open spot is the center position. Kyryl Natyazhko was the favorite to land the job heading into practice two weeks ago, but freshman Sidiki Johnson has opened the eyes of many with his strong play in practice and in the Red-Blue Game. No one is quite sure how either will perform once the regular season begins, but expect both to play a lot of minutes this week, regardless of who makes the start.
It is my belief Natyazhko will make the majority of the starts this year, but it is a close race at this point.
Miller also hinted at Angelo Chol potentially playing center down the road, but he wants the freshman to learn just one position and improve defensively before playing him in the post on a frequent basis.
"We want him to get in at the four and make him feel as comfortable as we can," Miller said. "But I can see during the course of the season where he could certainly contribute at the five."
Thursday's exhibition game is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff in Tucson.