Preview: Arizona hits the road facing question marks
Off to their best start in five years, things will begin to get a little bit tougher for the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday. The ‘Cats will play both their first true road game and ranked team, facing the No. 18 Baylor Bears at 10 a.m. Arizona time.
Some of the things to watch out for on Saturday morning are Injury concerns, recovering from a bruised ego and potentially one of the better point guard matchups all season.
The story of Arizona’s season so far has been the play of the three freshmen, with Zeke Nnaji, Nico Mannion and Josh Green each leading the team in at least one major statistical category.
Two of their statuses ahead of Saturday are up in the air.
Mannion is suffering from lower back tightness that began in last week’s Wooden Legacy tournament and Green is currently battling strep throat. Neither have practiced this week, per Sean Miller at Thursday’s press conference.
“I anticipate [Mannion] playing,” Miller said. “What role he’ll have, I don’t know. Josh has been the same way and hasn’t been able to go either. We’re a little banged up— I’m hoping the next couple of days, those guys can practice.”
The two aren’t the only Wildcats with injuries, as graduate student Stone Gettings is out indefinitely with a facial fracture he suffered during Arizona’s second game in Anaheim against Penn.
Gettings was missed almost immediately. both Nnaji and Ira Lee battled foul trouble in the championship game against Wake Forest, forcing Miller to briefly play freshman Christian Koloko and experiment with Dylan Smith in the front court.
“[Gettings] is making progress with his concussion symptoms,” Miller said. “He’s a long way from where he was on Saturday.”
If Mannion is able to go, he will be matched up against one of the better guards in the country in Baylor point guard Jared Butler.
Coming off back-to-back 20-plus point outings, the sophomore guard is second in the conference at 19.4 points per game and leads Baylor in both scoring and assists.
“I think he’s one of the better guards in the country,” Miller said. “He shoots 52% from three, 52% from the field. Offense comes easy, but he’s also an outstanding defensive player. He’s tough — I really, really like him.”
While Butler is the driving force of the offense, it isn’t a one-man show in the backcourt — Baylor’s top four scorers are all guards.
On the Rebound
Saturday’s matchup is the return game of Baylor’s trip to Tucson last year, a game that was perhaps the low point of the Wildcats’ season.
Baylor won 58-49, snapping the Wildcats 52-game non-conference winning streak and thoroughly dismantling them on the glass 51-19, including a 19-5 advantage in offensive rebounds.
“51 to 19, that’s a stat you can’t forget,” Lee said. “That’s definitely an emphasis we’ve had all week in practice is rebounding and the fact that we have to do it together, because they have multiple guys who can attack the glass.”
Miller added that last year's rebounding differential was ”embarrassing.”
“Although it’s a brand new year, clearly we have a number of players who were in that game,” he said. “I don’t even think we have to remind them of what happened.”
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