N. Colorado-Arizona Preview
Arizona will bring guard Kadeem Allen along slowly as it begins a stretch of three games in five days.
Allen missed the second game of the season and played only four minutes Friday night in the third game against Sacred Heart because of a left knee sprain. He is the only available senior for the 10th-ranked Wildcats.
Arizona (3-0) will play host to Northern Colorado (1-2) on Monday night at McKale Center in Tucson as part of the non-bracketed part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. The Wildcats move on to play Santa Clara in Las Vegas on Thursday and either Vanderbilt or Butler on Friday.
Getting productive minutes out of Allen, a returning starter and the team's best perimeter defender, is critical during such a busy stretch for a team that has only seven other scholarship players, pending news on sophomore guard Allonzo Trier.
“Kadeem wasn't going to further injure himself,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said of Allen making a brief appearance against Sacred Heart. “That's why we were able to play him. You could make the argument that with what he's working through, getting him out there is actually a good thing. I think every couple of days, he'll feel better and better.
“Clearly, he wasn't himself. But by the time we get to Las Vegas, Kadeem might not be 100 percent, but he'll be further along than he is now and able to play heavy minutes.”
Trier, the team's leading returning scorer, having averaged 14.8 points per game last season, has not played in five games, including two exhibitions. School officials have not commented on his absence or a timetable for a potential return amid rumors of eligibility issues.
In the meantime, it is full speed ahead for Arizona's trio of freshmen, including forward Lauri Markkanen. He is averaging 20.3 points per game, shooting 59.4 percent from the field (19 of 32), 45.5 percent from 3-point range (5 of 11) and 94.7 percent from the free-throw line (18 of 19).
If anything, Miller wants more of the offense to run through the 7-footer from Finland, who is versatile enough to play some small forward while still packing a punch in the post.
“Lauri on the offensive end is a real mismatch at times,” Miller said.
Freshman guard Kobi Simmons is an athletic marvel with a 45-inch vertical leap. He is second on the team in scoring at 15 points per game, having gotten to the line 21 times.
And freshman wing Rawle Alkins is third in scoring at 12 points per game. He is strong and burly, also able to get into the lane and draw fouls.
Arizona, with Markkanen and 7-foot center Dusan Ristic as well as 6-11 Chance Comanche and 6-9 Keanu Pinder off the bench, will have a significant size advantage over Northern Colorado. Ristic used a similar edge vs. Sacred Heart to post 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
Northern Colorado is coming off an 88-72 loss at Santa Clara on Saturday night. The Bears opened the season with an 89-52 loss at Butler before beating Colorado Christian.
Sophomore guard Jordan Davis had 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in the loss to Santa Clara. He is averaging 23.7 points this season. Guard Chaz Glotta is averaging 14 points per game.
The Bears led Santa Clara by four at halftime before giving up 50 second-half points.
“When teams make a run, instead of settling down and trying to orchestrate the offense, we tend to rush things,” coach Jeff Linder said. “In turn, that drops your shooting percentage and increases your turnovers.”