The 12th-ranked team in the nation gets its 2012-13 season off the ground this afternoon, as the Arizona Wildcats take on the Buccaneers of Charleston Southern at the McKale Center in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
The Wildcats are coached by Sean Miller who is entering his fourth year with the program and has already seen significant success in the desert with a record of 69-35. Last year, Miller guided the team to a 12-6 mark in the Pac-12, good enough for fourth place in the standings, and 23-12 overall.
In terms of season-opening success for the Wildcats over the years, in the last 27 campaigns the team has a mark of 23-4. When opening at home, Arizona is 65-12.
Charleston Southern, a team which operates in the Big South Conference, is coming off a season in which it posted a 19-12 record overall and was 11-7 in league play. The squad actually already has one game under its belt for this season, having lost to Charlotte on Friday in a 68-58 final at Halton Arena.
Charleston Southern opened the meeting with Charlotte on a 5-0 run two nights ago in North Carolina, but the visitors ended up shooting a mere 8-of-34 from the floor, including 5-of-20 behind the three-point line, in the first half. Overall, the Bucs sank just 29.2 percent of their field goal tries in the meeting and were 8-of-34 on the perimeter when they weren't turning the ball over 17 times. Saah Nimley was responsible for a game-high 20 points, but he connected on just 3-of-12 on the outside and 7-of-20 from the floor overall, not to mention he was guilty of six miscues. Arlon Harper came off the bench to contribute 12 points before fouling out which means the other four starters combined to shoot only 6-of-26 and were responsible for just 15 points. On a positive note, Mathiang Muo and Paul Gombwer did combine for 21 total rebounds, 12 at the offensive end, but really that's just a result of the Bucs shooting the ball so poorly to begin with.
These days having an experienced senior on a roster is a rarity, but the Wildcats have one of those in Solomon Hill who is also an honorable mention preseason AP All-American. Hill was second on the team in scoring last season with 12.9 ppg and topped the team in rebounding with 7.7 per contest. More surprisingly, Hill also led Arizona in assists (91) in his 35 starts. Granted, he wasn't handing out huge numbers of assists, but the fact that he has that capability makes him tougher to defend because he does keep his options open. Another well-rounded performer is Nick Johnson who was responsible for 8.9 ppg and 85 dishes as he started 28 games for the squad. However, Johnson could stand to work on his shot selection because he made good on just 36.9 percent from the floor. The addition of Xavier transfer Mark Lyons is huge for the Wildcats because it instantly adds a 1,000-point scorer to the lineup and he provides immediate leadership as someone who has already graduated from a four-year program but still has eligibility remaining.