With the official start of the men’s basketball season nearing, players will be forced to adjust to new rules on the court and utilize a more balanced and versatile lineup to create different offensive options.
Of the NCAA’s 28 rule changes that will be implemented at the season’s start, the most prominent one concerns the emphasis on enforcing hand-check and freedom of movement rules.
Due to concerns about excessive contact leading to concussions and rough play contributing to diminished scoring number and overall aesthetics of the sport, officials have been instructed to call fouls on defenders who keep a hand or forearm on an opponent and for things like bumping the cutter.
“We have to get used to the new rules with hand-checking. We had a couple refs come in to talk to us and help us out with that,” said sophomore guard Gabe York. “I think the biggest thing we have to work on is defensively learning to keep our hands off the offensive players so we don’t get into foul trouble. It’s going to be difficult but we are definitely up for the challenge.”
Junior point guard T.J. McConnell explained that due to this year’s more balanced rotation, it is easier for the team to bounce back if one of its big men gets into foul trouble.
“It just makes my life easier having guys like them and more depth available at more positions. So, if Brandon [Ashley] or Kaleb [Tarczewski] gets in trouble, then we can go small with Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson] and Aaron [Gordon],” McConnell said. “That makes us quicker and helps us create mismatches that can spark our offense.”
Arizona head coach Sean Miller praised McConnell in a press conference, saying that he makes his teammates better and, defensively, he can really pressure the ball and steal it.
“He knows how to play the game. He knows how to take what the defense gives, and he always starts with a pass-first mentality — trying to get his teammates involved — and he’s clever,” Miller said. “He makes the game easier for everybody. He can make the simple play in transition; he can recognize defenses, understanding time and score, and is certainly a valuable player for us this season.”
Gordon’s Early Struggles
Highly-touted freshman forward Aaron Gordon did not live up to his expectations in last week’s exhibition match against Augustana.
Gordon shot an unimpressive 3-for-8 from the field, compiling seven points and five rebounds against a team that was ranked No. 22 in the preseason Division II poll. Miller said that Gordon had a groin strain and that in the 22 minutes the newcomer played, he still wasn’t himself. Miller also said holding Gordon out of the second half was a precautionary measure.
Zach Peters To Rejoin Team Soon
Arizona’s medical personnel could clear Kansas transfer Zach Peters within the week.
The power forward transferred to Arizona and was cleared by the NCAA in late September but still needs approval from the Wildcats’ medical staff to rejoin the team after a series of concussions.
“We have been very cautious in terms of not rushing his recovery and are hopeful that he can get cleared to play here within the next week to 10 days,” Miller said. “He would give us another potential player out there.”
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17