No. 3 Arizona men’s basketball ‘itching’ to play after challenging offseason

Nov 1, 2017, 1:31 PM

University of Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller addressing the media on Tuesday ahead of...

University of Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller addressing the media on Tuesday ahead of their game on Wednesday against Eastern New Mexico. (Photo by Kevin Palacios / Cronkite News)

(Photo by Kevin Palacios / Cronkite News)

TUCSON, Ariz. — With the offseason dominated by talk of an FBI investigation, the Arizona men’s basketball team is happy to shift the topic of conversation.

“I think our guys are itching (like a lot of college teams) just to play a game and play against someone else,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said Tuesday. “Get back out there in front of our crowd. We look forward to doing that.”

Arizona hosts Eastern Mexico at 7 p.m. Wednesday in McKale Center, the first of two exhibition games the Wildcats will play before facing Northern Arizona in the season opener.

They are ranked third in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll released Wednesday and received 18 first-place votes, five more than second-ranked Michigan State.

Miller was asked if there was a possibility, because of the investigations that led to the arrest of assistant coach Book Richardson, that any players would be held out.

“Next question,” he said.

“We’re right now totally committed to having the best season we can have. We’re working on it every day.”

Arizona will be without guards Rawle Alkins, Dylan Smith and Parker Jackson-Cartwright against Eastern New Mexico, but the rest of the team will be available to play.

“I listen to Brian Kelly, football coach at Notre Dame, talking about some of the adjustments he felt he needed to make to maybe empower their program moving forward,” Miller said. “For us, (it’s) becoming a more comfortable team offensively regardless of what defense the other team plays.”

Alkins is five weeks removed from having surgery to repair a fractured bone in his right foot. Miller anticipates that Alkins will return to the lineup sometime in December but didn’t give a more specific timetable.

Jackson-Cartwright sustained an ankle injury last week and won’t play against Eastern New Mexico. Miller views playing him as an “unnecessary risk” and expects him to be available against Chico State.

Smith violated unspecified team rules and will not play in either exhibition game or in the season opener against NAU.

Arizona finished the 2016-17 season with a 32-5 record and won the Pac-12 Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament, Arizona made it to the Sweet 16 but was eliminated by Xavier, 73-71.

The Wildcats will host their second exhibition game against Chico State on Sunday before kicking off the season at home against Northern Arizona on Nov. 10.

Cronkite Sports

Cronkite Sports

Sports gambling in Arizona moves closer to reality

In the near future, the Arizona sports fan’s experience could include the ability to place bets inside sports venues while the action unfolds.

3 years ago

Higley quarterback Kai Millner committed to Cal this spring, despite visiting the campus just once ...

Cronkite Sports

Arizona high school football recruits still committing amid coronavirus

Despite visiting campuses few times if at all in some cases, class of 2021 high school football prospects from Arizona are committing at record rates.

4 years ago

(Photo via Cronkite News courtesy Mesa Community College Facebook)...

Arizona Sports

COVID-19 prompts junior colleges to push for cancellation of sports

The 2020-21 school year for Maricopa County community colleges may not include sports, schools await a decision by the district chancellor.

4 years ago

New Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez believes outreach in the Arizona Hispanic market is ...

Cronkite Sports

New Coyotes CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez looks to reach Latino community

New Coyotes CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez is the first Latino president and CEO in NHL history and hopes to reach new fans in the Valley.

4 years ago

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, who joined the Phoenix Mercury in the offseason, is ready to get the WNBA...

Cronkite Sports

Full pay, 22-game season in Florida on tap for Phoenix Mercury

Another league has agreed on a return-to-play plan in the month of July. This time it’s the WNBA, whose members include the Phoenix Mercury.

4 years ago

Phoenix Rising FC assistant coaches Peter Ramage (left) and Blair Gavin are awaiting details about ...

Cronkite Sports

Phoenix Rising players await news on resumption of USL Championship

Phoenix Rising FC and the USL Championship are set to resume play July 11 while players wait on more details for the return.

4 years ago

No. 3 Arizona men’s basketball ‘itching’ to play after challenging offseason