Cats and 'Jacks Tip Sunday

Nov. 13, 2009

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Date:  Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009Time:  3 p.m. MSTLocation:  Olson Court, McKale Center (14,545), Tucson, Ariz.Radio:  IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach)TV:  KWBA/FSAZ (Dave Sitton/Corey Williams)

GAME DATA: Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Pac-10) opens its 106th season of basketball Sunday afternoon against Northern Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Big Sky) in McKale Center ... Arizona and NAU meet for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, and have met on the hardwood 118 times previously, the second-most against any opponent in UA history ... It is the season opener for both squads ... Additionally, the curtain goes up on the regular-season debut of the Sean Miller era of Wildcat basketball ... The new-look Cats, featuring eight first-year players and 13 underclassmen, averaged 94.0 points in the exhibition wins over Augustana (83-56) and Western New Mexico (96-55).

THE RANKINGS: Arizona starts the season unranked in both preseason polls for just the third time in the last 23 seasons. The Cats closed the 2008-09 campaign ranked No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

ARIZONA HEAD COACH Sean Miller . . . begins his first season at the University of Arizona and his sixth overall as a college head coach with a record of 120-47 (.719) ... Appointed April 7, 2009, Miller came to Tucson after five successful years at Xavier University, where he amassed four 20-win seasons and four NCAA Tournament appearances ... His clubs won the last three Atlantic 10 regular season championships (2007-09) and the 2006 Atlantic 10 postseason tournament title ... During his time at XU, the Musketeers won better than 71 percent of its conference games, including an .813 winning percentage (39-9) in his last three seasons ... Miller has made 14 trips to the postseason in his 17 seasons as a head, assistant or associate head coach (8 NCAA/6NIT) and has a 6-4 (.600) NCAA Tournament record as a head coach ... He took two Xavier teams to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 (2008, 2009) with his 2008 club advancing to the West Regional final ... His 2007-08 team set a Xavier record for wins in a season with 30, helping him claim Atlantic 10 and NABC District 10 Coach-of-the-Year honors ... Since becoming a head coach, all 16 players to complete eligibility under Miller have earned their degrees ... A standout guard for the University of Pittsburgh (1987-92), Miller was the Big East Freshman of the Year in 1988, won a gold medal on the 1991 U.S. World University Games team and was a member of his alma mater's all-centennial team in 2005 ... Miller, 40, earned a degree in communications from Pitt in 1992 ... He is assisted by Archie Miller, Emanuel Richardson and James Whitford.

LAST TIME OUT: Arizona senior guard Nic Wise showed no ill effects from his preseason ankle injury, leading all scorers with 21 points in leading the Wildcats in a romp over Division II Western New Mexico, Nov. 10, in McKale Center, 96-55. The Wildcats shot 53 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range, plus played good team defense in holding the visiting Mustangs to 31 percent from the floor. UA also came up with 14 steals in that effort. Brendon Lavender had four steals and Wise and Garland Judkins added three each..

SCOUTING NORTHERN ARIZONA: Coach Mike Adras returns five letterwinners (2 starters) from last season's squad that went 8-19 and finished in eighth place in the Big Sky Conference. Shane Johannsen and Cameron Jones combined to score 35 points on 14-of-23 field goals and grab 17 rebounds, but NAU dropped its first exhibition game, 75-65, to Fort Lewis College on Nov. 16 (NAU has an exhibition on Nov. 13). The `Jacks outshot Fort Lewis, but were outscored 24-3 from behind the arc in the 10-point loss.

THE SERIES: Today's game is the 119th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 91-27 series advantage. Counting this meeting, UA and NAU have met in seven of the last eight seasons. Arizona has won 25 straight games in the series and 40 of the last 43, including last season's 74-57 win in Tucson on Nov. 30. All-time, Arizona is 61-5 in series games played in Tucson, 29-21 in Flagstaff, and 0-1 in neutral-site games. See page 108 in the Arizona basketball media guide for more series information.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 74, Northern Arizona 57, Nov. 30, 2008: Chase Budinger hit back-to-back treys, the last coming with 12:35 remaining, to cap a 16-4 UA run that broke open a tight game. Field goal shooting proved to be the difference, as Arizona shot 65.2 percent in the second half, while limiting Northern Arizona to just 34.4 percent in the period. The trio of Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise combined to score 63 of the Cats' 74 points on 23-of-36 shooting.

FOR OPENERS: Arizona has a record of 81-21 (.794) in season openers (results are unavailable for four seasons), including a 21-4 (.840) mark in the last 25 seasons. All-time, the Wildcats are 62-12 at home, 10-9 on the road and 9-0 in neutral-site games.

ARIZONA DEBUTS: As Sean Miller makes his Arizona debut, here is a quick look at how his predecessors fared in their first game as the Wildcat mentor:

Fred A. Enke:  W, 34-30, vs. Arizona State, Jan. 13, 1926Bruce Larson:  L, 72-61, vs. Utah, Dec. 1, 1961Fred Snowden:  W, 94-87, vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, Nov. 29, 1972Ben Lindsey:  L, 104-63, at Houston, Nov. 26, 1982Lute Olson:  W, 72-65, vs. Northern Arizona, Nov. 25, 1983Kevin O'Neill:  W, 76-69, vs. Northern Arizona, Nov. 13, 2007Russ Pennell:  W, 75-62, vs. Florida Atlantic, Nov. 17, 2008

IN NOVEMBER: Fast starts have become the norm for the Wildcats. Over the last 25 seasons, Arizona is 64-18 (.780) in the month of November. The numbers are even more impressive considering the quality of competition, as 27 of 82 opponents (33 percent) were nationally ranked. In those contests, Arizona is 18-9 (.667). UA will play five times in November this season.

USING THE BENCH, ALL OF IT: Sean Miller hasn't been shy about using his bench. In fact, he's used all of it. The first-year UA mentor played all 15 players on the roster in the preseason with 10 guys averaging double-figure minutes. Certainly, Coach Miller hasn't been shy about stating his desire to play multiple combinations or to go nine or 10 players deep in the rotation on a regular basis. Additionally, no fewer than seven Wildcats averaged seven or more points per game in the exhibitions.

SIMILAR FEATURES: Coach Miller has stated many times his offensive philosophy is to quickly push the ball, a thought process similar to that of Wildcat teams of the past. In Arizona's two exhibition games, the team has averaged 94.0 points per game. Over Miller's five-year coaching career (167 games), his teams averaged 73.1 points per game with a high of 76.3 points per game in 2006-07. In that same span (170 games), Arizona averaged 75.1 points per game with a high of 79.7 ppg in 2004-05.

COLLECTING CAROMS: Led by Jamelle Horne (9.5 rpg), Kyryl Natyazhko (6.0) and Solomon Hill (6.0), Arizona averaged 44.0 rebounds per game in the preseason and posted an impressive +11.0 rebound margin. Six players averaged 3.0 rebounds or better against Augustana and Western New Mexico. One area that does need attention is on the offensive glass, where the Cats hold a slim 22-21 advantage through two preseason affairs.

ON TARGET: Arizona connected on 53.8 percent of its field goal attempts (70-of-130) in the exhibition games, including a respectable 40.5 percent (17-of-42) from behind the arc. Interestingly, nine of the 15 players to see action to date shot 50 percent or better from the floor, led by freshman forward Derrick Williams, who shot .846 (11-of-13) in the preseason.

GOOD SIGNS: Several numbers jump out of the statistics, hopefully leading to good things to come. First, Arizona posted a nearly 2:1 assist:turnover ratio as a team (47:25) - Lamont Jones 9:1, Nic Wise 2.6:1 and Brendon Lavender 5:0 - in the exhibitions and forced opponents into an average of 15.0 turnovers per game. Secondly, the Cats limited the opposition to just 34.4 percent shooting (42-of-122), including 29.8 percent from (14-of-47) from three-point range. Thirdly, the club managed 21 steals and nine blocked shots.

AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: In the land of cause and effect, few things are as closely linked on the basketball court as fouls and free throws. In its two preseason games, Arizona committed five more fouls than the opposition and made and attempted fewer free throws. While the regular season has yet to begin, here are two things to note from a historical perspective. Arizona hasn't committed more fouls or attempted fewer free throws than its opponents since the 1983-84 season, which perhaps coincidentally, was Lute Olson's first season in Tucson.

MORE LIKE THAT: Junior forward Jamelle Horne put up some impressive numbers in the preseason, averaging 17.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game, while shooting 55.0 percent (11-of-20) from the field. The 6-foot-7 San Diego, Calif., native who was Arizona's top rebounder in both games, averaged 6.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season.

LEADING THE WAY: Senior guard Nic Wise has earned a bit of preseason recognition, as the 5-foot-10 product of Houston, Texas, was named to the preseason watch lists for the John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy, each of which is given to college basketball's player of the year, and the Bob Cousy Award, which is given to the nation's top point guard. Arizona's most experienced player averaged 16.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game in the preseason, while shooting .632 (12-of-19) from the field.

A PRODUCTIVE BUNCH: The freshman quintet of Solomon Hill, Lamont Jones, Kyryl Natyazhko, Kevin Parrom and Derrick Williams were productive in the preseason, combining for 68 points, 40 rebounds and a .560 (28-of-50) FG percentage. The freshmen account for 36 percent of the scoring and 45 percent of the rebounding.

CONTINUING TO PRODUCE: With the 2009-10 National Basketball Association regular season underway, no fewer than 10 former Arizona Wildcats were on the opening day NBA rosters. That figure is tied for fifth place nationally in terms of production. Here is the complete list: Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards; Jerryd Bayless, Portland TrailBlazers; Mike Bibby, Atlanta Hawks; Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets; Channing Frye, Phoenix Suns; Jordan Hill, New York Knicks; Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers; Richard Jefferson, San Antonio Spurs; Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks and Luke Walton, Los Angeles Lakers. There have been at least eight former Wildcats in the NBA in each of the last 10 seasons with 10 or more in seven of those campaigns.

MORE UA CONNECTIONS TO THE LEAGUE: Arizona's 10 former players in the Association helped the Pac-10 tally 50 active NBA players, a figure that ranks third nationally behind the Big East (55) and Atlantic Coast Conferences (53). Additionally, the Pac-10's average of 5.0 alums per member institution was tops nationally. Here is look at the breakdown by conference: 1.) Big East, 55; 2.) Atlantic Coast, 53; 3.) Pac-10, 50; 4.) Southeastern, 40; 5.) Big 12, 36; 6.) Big Ten, 32.

PAC-10 PROGNOSTICATIONS: According to media members who regularly cover the Pacific-10 Conference, Arizona was picked to finish fourth in this season's Pac-10 race. The Wildcats received 221 points (see chart at left), trailing California, Washington and UCLA. It's the third consecutive year that UA has been tabbed fourth. On a historical note, Arizona has been the preseason favorite 11 times in the last 20 years.

UP NEXT: Arizona will next be in action on Thursday, Nov. 19, when the Cats host Rice. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MST and will be televised by FS Arizona.

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