2022-23 Non-conference opponent preview: Arizona

  • 08/03/2022 8:10 am in

Indiana’s 2022-23 non-conference schedule was finalized on July 1 and Inside the Hall will have a team-by-team look at all 11 opponents. Today: Arizona.

Indiana won’t get a break after it plays North Carolina at the end of November, as the Hoosiers are set to face the University of Arizona in Las Vegas on Dec. 10. The neutral-site game will be the first-ever meeting between the two storied programs.

Arizona is No. 16 in ESPN’s way-too-early preseason top 25 rankings as of July 26, for good reason.

The Wildcats are coming off one of their most successful seasons in program history, finishing the 2021-22 season 18-2 in Pac-12 play and 33-4 overall. Led by first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd, they won the Pac-12 tournament and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, eventually losing to Houston in the Sweet Sixteen.

Lloyd was named 2022 national coach of the year by the AP, NABC and USBWA and was also the Pac-12 coach of the year. All of those awards were well deserved, as Lloyd and his team set new program records for blocked shots (210) and total assists (726), and led the country in assists and assists per game (19.6). The Wildcats also finished the season in the top 10 in the country in multiple statistics, including field goal percentage, rebound margin and total blocks, to name a few.

Under Lloyd, Arizona developed a faster pace of play and strategies that have been compared to those of Gonzaga, which is not altogether surprising — Lloyd was an assistant coach with the Bulldogs for 22 years before going to Arizona in 2021.

Like Gonzaga, Arizona has also become a landing spot for top overseas talent, and much of its roster is composed of international players. Despite losing three top performers in Bennedict Mathurin, Dalen Terry and Christian Koloko to the 2022 NBA Draft, the Wildcats have maintained a solid core and are bringing in players who will only strengthen it.

One of the biggest pieces of news for the Wildcats came in June, when five-star point guard Kylan Boswell, originally in the class of 2023, announced his reclassification and intent to join the Wildcats for the 2022-23 season. Boswell, who averaged 13.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season, is expected to add to what should be a very strong Arizona backcourt.

Courtney Ramey, a guard who played for four years at Texas, will also appear in Arizona’s backcourt and will be able to fill holes left by those departed players, especially Terry, who was a key defensive contributor. Ramey will be joined by transfer Cedric Henderson Jr., a wing out of Campbell University, who averaged 14 points and 5.6 rebounds last season. Both players cited Arizona’s quick tempo as an influential factor in their decisions to transfer to Tucson.

Two freshmen will be joining the Wildcats from overseas in forwards Serbian Filip Borovicanin and Estonian Henri Veesaar. The 6-foot-8 Borovicanin most recently played in Belgrade, averaging 20 points and nine rebounds per game. Veesaar, at 7-feet tall, is expected to be more of a defensive contributor but also averaged double figures while playing with the Real Madrid youth program.

Veesaar won’t be the only 7-footer on the team, and Arizona’s height is something that will prove challenging for any opponent, including Indiana. Oumar Ballo and incoming freshman and Arizona Gatorade player of the year Dylan Anderson, both centers, are also 7-footers. Many other Wildcats are 6-foot-6 or taller.

Since Arizona has been able to maintain a solid — and tall — core, there are multiple players to keep an eye on, either because they could continue their strong performances last season, or could be primed to break out this season.

Kerr Kriisa (9.7 ppg), the Wildcats’ main point guard last season, will return to his position with even more riding on him. 6-foot-11 forward Azuolas Tubelis, who averaged 13.9 points per game for second-highest on the team, is also returning. However, both were somewhat streaky last season, and Tubelis has been sidelined over the summer with a wrist injury.

Two other returning players who flew under the radar last season but could come to life this season are Pelle Larsson and Adama Bal. Larsson was named the 2021-22 Pac-12 sixth man of the year after working to develop throughout the season, and gained even more experience in the FIBA World Cup European qualifiers over the summer. Bal, who saw limited minutes in his freshman year until the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments, was impressive overseas in the FIBA U20 European championships and could be poised to come off the bench when necessary.

Given the Wildcats’ size, there will likely be some large discrepancies between them and the Hoosiers on the floor. Logan Duncomb, who is listed at 6-foot-10, alongside Trayce Jackson-Davis and Malik Reneau, both 6-foot-9, will be the tallest players in cream and crimson. Jackson-Davis struggled last season to match up with players taller than him, but for success against the Wildcats that will have to change, and other Hoosiers will also have to step up.

Indiana may look to play more along the perimeter and avoid Arizona’s big and experienced backcourt. However, that would require better shooting from beyond the arc and fewer turnovers, two things Indiana struggled with last season.

One thing’s certain, though: Indiana wanted a tough non-conference schedule, and that’s what the team is getting.

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