Arizona men's basketball kicks off season against NAU

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Amy Bailey | The Daily Wildcat Wildcat Nico Mannion (1) runs down the court during the Arizona-Chico State game at the McKale Center on Friday November 1 in Tucson. At halftime the score Arizona was down 32-31.

With the weather cooling down and winter right around the corner, it only means one thing for Arizona fans everywhere: It is finally basketball season.

The Nico Mannion and Josh Green era will kick off tonight as Arizona basketball hosts NAU in the home opener. Zeke Nnaji should be back tonight for the Wildcats after sitting out the exhibition game against Chico State. Devonaire Doutrive will not be back yet for Arizona; he is still serving an imprecise suspension from Head Coach Sean Miller. Miller won’t say the reason for the suspension but just keeps stating it's indefinite.

“Just because someone makes a bad decision doesn’t mean they are a bad kid,” said Miller about Doutrive.

Doutrive is expected to be a starter when he comes back, but for now, the starting five based on the exhibition game will have Mannion and Green as freshmen. These two are followed by Chase Jeter, but that leaves two spots still open. While Nnaji is expected to play and eventually start this year, it's unclear if he will tonight. Miller might want him to come off the bench and play limited minutes. With Doutrive still out, Dylan Smith will probably get the nod again like he did against Chico State.

NAU could be a difficult challenge for Arizona, at least in the first half. The Lumberjacks are returning at five of their starters and are deadly from three. Those are two things the Wildcats might struggle with in the beginning. Their three point defense was not great against Chico State, and unless Miller can get it figured out in the last couple of days, expect NAU to make a lot of them.

After Arizona settles down later in the game, they have the talent to go up and potentially go way up. This game should be a warm-up game for the big matchup Sunday night when Illinois comes to town. It’ll be the first time since 2007 that these two teams have played each other.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. today at the McKale Center and the game will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Networks.


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