October 9, 2013 by Darian Nourian
Galen Central’s new weekly series will preview the basketball team of USC’s football opponent. With the USC football squad playing Arizona on Thursday night, here is a preview of the Wildcat’s basketball team. Read earlier previews of Washington State, Boston College, Utah State and Arizona State.
CLICK HERE for tickets below face value to USC football games from our friends at ScoreBig.
The Arizona Wildcats lost two starters from last year’s team, but with a stellar recruiting class featuring touted forward Aaron Gordon, they return in 2013 as a team that is not only the projected Pac-12 champions, but a national contender as well. They should be ranked in the Top 10 once preseason polls are released.
Last season, Arizona raced off to a 14-0 record, the best start in program history in over 80 years. They stumbled slightly in conference play though, going 12-6 and falling to UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals. They earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and their season ended with a Sweet Sixteen loss to No. 2 seed Ohio State.
USC will get a shot at their Pac-12 foes only once in 2014, in their third game of Pac-12 play. This clash between the two teams will be take place on January 12 at the Galen Center. When the two squads faced off at Galen last February, USC upset the 11th-ranked Wildcats 89-78 as the dozens of students who attended stormed the court.
The Trojans split their two meetings with the Wildcats last season, losing 74-50 when playing Arizona in Tucson.
Led by fifth-year head coach Sean Miller, Arizona returns three starters from last year’s team in sophomore power forward Brandon Ashley, sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski and junior shooting guard Nick Johnson, who will lead the Wildcats in his third consecutive year as a starter.
Johnson will be taking takes the reigns of this Arizona team after averaging 11.5 points on 45 percent shooting last season.
He will be getting a lot of help, though, from true freshman forward Aaron Gordon, who is already projected to be a Top 5 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft in many mock drafts. The two-time California Mr. Basketball and 2013 McDonald’s All-American MVP has great expectations surrounding him going into this season. And rightfully so, after being compared to a young Blake Griffin with an even greater skill set.
Gordon will not only be able to provide fuel power for the Wildcats on offense, but will be an asset on defense as well with his lengthy body.
With Gordon, Ashley and Tarczewski, the Wildcats should be able to make a living in the paint. If the Trojans hope to be victorious against Arizona, they are going to need to be able to contain, if not stop, the big men. Should they do so, we may see hundreds of fans storming the court of the Galen Center once again this winter.