Charleston Southern vs Arizona

Time: 06:00 P.M. EST
  •  

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Claims of Arizona's return to prominence last season turned out to be a bit premature, derailed by injuries, suspensions and unfulfilled promise.

There's no reason to think it'll happen again this year.

With another stellar recruiting class by coach Sean Miller, a transfer guard who could be a star and a talented core of returning players, the No. 12 Wildcats appear ready to re-claim their spot among the college basketball elite.

And not just for this season, which begins Sunday at home against Charleston Southern.

The way Miller has built the program during his three years in the desert, Arizona is set up to be good for the long haul.

"I believe with the talent level that we have on this year's team, some of the experience that we combine with it, we are positioned to be good and to do great things," Miller said. "What those are though, I don't know yet."

Expectations were high at Arizona last season after the Wildcats came within a few seconds of the Final Four the year before and Miller added a stellar four-player recruiting class.

The projections fell short.

Point guard Jordin Mayes was bothered by a nagging foot injury and forward Kevin Parrom wasn't the same player he was the year before after being shot and losing both his mother and grandmother just before the season.

Freshman forward Sidiki Johnson left the team in December and point guard Josiah Turner was suspended twice before transferring at the end of the season.

The Wildcats went 23-12, but missed the NCAA tournament and finished off the season with a big thud, losing to Bucknell at home in the opening game of the NIT.

Expectations are again up there this season, though they seem to be a little more on target.

A master recruiter, Miller again pulled together one of the best classes in the country, a group that includes four of the best incoming big men in the country.

Athletic guard Nick Johnson and physical forward Angelo Chol, two of the four players from Miller's previous recruiting class, are back. Parrom and Mayes are both healthy and forward Solomon Hill, an All-Pac-12 player last season, moves to his natural position of small forward.

If that wasn't enough, the Wildcats brought in point guard Mark Lyons.

A graduate of Xavier, Lyons has a year of eligibility left after helping the Musketeers reach the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament. Quick, heady and a good finisher at the rim, not to mention a strong on-the-ball defender, he could end up being one of the best transfers in college basketball this season, a player who could put the Wildcats over the top.

"Adding him to our team is very unique because he is a talented player, but the experience I described (three trips to Sweet 16) is really difficult to put into words," Miller said. "He gives us competitiveness, toughness and he's been in the arena in a big game."

The other four newcomers aren't bad, either.

One of Arizona's weaknesses last season was its lack of depth in the frontcourt.

It should become a strength this season with the addition of 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, 6-10 Grant Jerrett and 6-8 Brandon Ashley.

All four are athletic and versatile, giving the Wildcats a revolving door of big men who can swap in and out - with the 6-9 Chol - without a fear of them getting tired or a drop-off in talent.

They also should benefit Hill, who has played out of position pretty much since high school. Often matched up against bigger opponents his first three seasons at Arizona, he can now shift from the bruising blocks toward the perimeter, where he can better utilize his shooting touch, passing and ability to beat players off the dribble.

"It's always great to have depth," Hill said. "That's the reason we were successful two years ago and the reason we'll be successful this year."

Unlike last season, the Wildcats have reason to believe claims like that are legit.

They open with their first meeting against Charleston Southern, which suffered a 68-58 season-opening loss at Charlotte on Friday. Sophomore guard Saah Nimley scored 20 points but went 7 of 20 from the field.

The Buccaneers shot 29.2 percent (19 of 65) for the game, including 23.5 (8 of 34) from 3-point range.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 

Big South
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Winthrop15-323-679
UNC-Ash.15-323-865
Liberty14-419-12164
Gardner-Webb11-718-13200
High Point9-915-15232
Radford8-1013-17226
Campbell7-1114-16272
Char. So.7-1111-18293
Longwood3-156-23339
Presbyterian1-175-24344
Pac 12
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Arizona15-226-49
Oregon15-226-45
UCLA13-326-315
California10-619-951
Utah9-718-1082
USC8-821-838
Arizona St.7-1014-16133
Colorado6-1016-13114
Stanford6-1014-1475
Wash. State6-1013-15159
Washington2-149-19215
Oregon St.1-165-25295

Related Video

 

CBSSports Shop

Men's Nike White Villanova Wildcats 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt

Villanova Wildcats 2016 National Champs
Get the Locker Room Gear!
Shop Now

 
 
 
Other Games
UTMA 57 Final
CINCY 80
ALB 60 Final
OHST 82
SELA 47 Final
WISC 87
FAU 56 Final
UNC 80
ALST 35 Final
FLA 84
MAN 51 Final
LOU 79
SYR 62 Final
SDSU 49
JAST 47 Final
BAYL 78