Game 1: No. 6 Arizona Wildcats (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12) vs. Cal Poly Mustangs (0-0, 0-0 Big West)
Date/Time/Location: Friday, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. (MST) at McKale Center (14,545 capacity) in Tucson, Ariz.
Television: Pac-12 Networks
Live Stream: Pac-12.com (with subscription)
Radio: Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM and 107.5 FM in Tucson, KAMP Radio
Game Notes: Arizona, Cal Poly
Odds: Arizona (+16), O/U 137 (Odds Shark)
Meet the Coaches
Arizona’s Sean Miller enters his fifth year as head coach of the Wildcats after five seasons at Xavier (2004-2009). Over the course of his 10 seasons as a head coach, Miller possesses a 216-90 (.706) record including a 96-43 (.691) record at Arizona. His 96 wins were more than any other current Pac-12 head coach or Arizona head coach had in their first four seasons with their team. He has led his teams to four conference championships (2007-2009, 2011), two Sweet Sixteens (2009, 2013) and two Elite Eights (2008, 2011). Before taking over as head coach for the Musketeers, he served as assistant coach for Wisconsin (1992-1993), Miami (Ohio) (1993-1995) and Pittsburgh (1995-1996) and was the associate head coach at N.C. State (1996-2001) and Xavier (2001-2004). He attended Pittsburgh from 1987-1991 and his .885 career free throw percentage currently ranks 10th all-time in NCAA Division I. He was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Hall of Fame in June 2012.
Cal Poly’s Joe Callero enters his fifth year as the Mustangs as a head coach after stints at University of Puget Sound (1999-2001) and Seattle University (2001-2009). Over the course of his 15 seasons as an NCAA head coach, Callero possesses a 202-193 (.511) record including a 63-63 (.500) record at Cal Poly. Last season, Cal Poly set program records for conference wins (12) and conference winning percentage (.667) and their 18 overall wins were their second-highest total in 19 NCAA Division I seasons. Callero also served as a head coach at Highline Community College (1989-1992, 1995-1998) and was an assistant coach at USC from 1998-1999.
Arizona enters the season ranked No. 5 in the preseason AP Top-25 Poll and No. 6 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. They are coming off a season in which they finished 27-8 and reached the Sweet Sixteen.
The Wildcats defeated Augustana 84-52 in an exhibition game on Oct. 28. Junior guard T.J. McConnell scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting and added three steals, zero turnovers and a game-high eight assists. Sophomore guard Gabe York added 14 points off the bench on 6-of-9 shooting.
Arizona possesses a mix of core returning players combined with a group of talented freshman. Junior guard Nick Johnson and sophomore forwards Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley return after combining to score over 25 points per game last season. Freshmen forward Aaron Gordon, who was ranked as the No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2013, and McConnell, who sat out last season after transferring from Duquesne, make up the rest of the projected starting lineup. Senior guard Jordin Mayes, freshman forwards Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Zach Peters, junior forward Matt Korcheck and York make the Wildcats one of the deepest teams in the country.
While the Wildcats don’t lack talent, their performance this season will rest on the shoulders of McConnell. Despite sitting out last season, he practiced with the team, which allowed him to gain invaluable experience in the system. Arizona has lacked a true point guard since the departure of Nic Wise, so Wildcats fans are optimistic that McConnell will be a good fit for “Point Guard U.”
The two facets of the game to watch are Arizona’s three-point shooting and defense. The Wildcats will need to improve on their .363 three-point shooting percentage, which ranked 66th in the country. They will also need to improve on their defensive efficiency, which ranked 47th in the country last season. These two areas might be what separates Arizona from being a good or great team.
Scouting Cal Poly
The Mustangs head into the 2013-2014 season after a 18-15 season, including a third-place finish in the Big West. The 2013-2014 Mustangs have enough talent to compete for a conference championship, but it won’t come easy as they play 11 teams that qualified for postseason play a year ago.
The Wildcats will be the highest-ranked team that Cal Poly has ever faced. Overall, the Mustangs are 2-4 all-time against Pac-12 teams, including wins over USC two years ago and then-No. 11 UCLA last season.
Cal Poly is led by senior forward Chris Eversley, senior guard Jamal Johnson and sophomore forward Brian Bennett, who combined to score nearly 30 points per game last season. Eversley produced 21 double-digit scoring games, six double-doubles and led Cal Poly in scoring 17 times last season. After averaging 15.4 points per game last season, he needs just 266 points to become the 19th Mustang to reach 1,000 points in a career. Johnson led all Big West players and finished 11th among NCAA Division I players with a 2.75-t0-1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season. Bennett started all 32 games as a true freshman and averaged 9.3 points per game.
The Mustangs are looking forward to the return of junior guard Malik Love, who led the team with 2.07-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, before missing last season due to injury. Senior guard Kyle Odister, who finished fourth on the team with 6.5 points per game, and sophomore guard Reese Morgan, who set a single-season program record by shooting 90 percent from the free throw line, also return.
Arizona vs. Cal Poly Series History
This will be the third meeting between Arizona and Cal Poly, but the first contest since 1957. The previous two games were played in Tucson, with the Wildcats winning both times. The Mustangs lost 66-65 on Dec. 17, 1957 and then 63-53 on Dec. 13, 1949. Cal Poly hasn’t played a game in the state of Arizona since losing 75-41 to Arizona State on Nov. 26, 2007.
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Topics: 2013-2014 Basketball Game Previews, Aaron Gordon, Arizona Wildcats, Arizona Wildcats Basketball, Brandon Ashley, Brian Bennett, Cal Poly Mustangs, Chris Eversley, Follow, Gabe York, Index, Jamal Johnson, Joe Callero, Jordin Mayes, Kaleb Tarczewski, Kyle Odister, Malik Love, Matt Korcheck, Nic Wise, Nick Johnson, Reese Morgan, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sean Miller, T.J. McConnell, Zach Peters