Off to the best start since 1987, Arizona is 9-0 and heading into the final weekend of the non-conference schedule. The Wildcats are heading on the road to compete in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
The Diamond Head Classic is populated with good challenges for Arizona, including the likes of San Diego State and Miami. Both of those teams are possible opponents for the Wildcats as the tournament progresses.
First up for Arizona in Hawaii is East Tennessee State. The Buccaneers are off to a rough start on the year, winning just two games of the nine they have played. They are currently riding a four-game losing streak and lost those four games by an average margin of 21.25 points, including a 19-point loss to North Carolina and a 21-point defeat at the hands of Charleston Southern.
ETSU will serve as just a small challenge for Arizona as the Buccaneers have really struggled this season and are winless since November 29th. Playing in a smaller, unfamiliar gym can be difficult for younger players and having this game against East Tennessee State will allow the Wildcats to adjust to the new setting.
Small forward Lester Wilson is the leader for the Buccaneers. The redshirt freshman has been the most consistent player on a roster that has seen plenty of fluctuation. He is averaging 17.9 points per game, and 6.8 rebounds, which is good enough for second best on the team. Wilson is the biggest threat on the team, but should be matched up with Solomon Hill, which could suppress his production.
Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard slides in at the other small forward position for the Buccaneers. The junior is new to the team after transferring from Roane State Community College, but has started to fit in nicely, playing in eight games and starting the last three. Gadsden-Gilliard isn’t much of a scorer, but is a good defender against similar forwards. He will be at a disadvantage going up against Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley.
Only one player has started all nine games for the Buccaneers and that is Hunter Harris. The junior is a power forward, but acts as a center in ETSU’s smaller lineup. The junior is also a transfer from Volunteer State Junior College, but has contributed immediately. Harris leads the team in both rebounds (6.9 per game) and blocks (1 per game).
Rashawn Rembert takes the reigns as point guard for East Tennessee State. The sophomore guard has had some issues with ball control, committing 20 turnovers and dishing out just twelve assists. He does score eight points and gets a steal each night, but does little else for his team.
The final starting spot goes to Jarvis Jones. The redshirt-senior is one of the most explosive players that will see the court for ETSU on Saturday. He has only played two games this season, but started both of those games. Jones’ impact was felt immediately as he has scored 24 points and picked up seven steals in those two games. He is a player that could have a big night if he isn’t given much respect on defense.
Mario Stramaglia should be the first Buccaneer off the bench. He has only played in seven games on the year, but has seen his playing time increase as the rotation began to fluctuate. He is a player that was given the opportunity to step in and become the starting point guard, but did not handle the position well as he committed fifteen turnovers and had just eight assists.
Backing up the forwards will be John Walton. The junior is a big athletic forward that can be a pain in the side of the Wildcats at certain times. Walton averages about five points and five rebounds per game. However, he also has issues with fouls, as he has picked up a foul just about every eight minutes he has played.
Yunio Barrueta is another guard that will come off the bench. Just a freshman, he has seen some early action in his career, starting three games already. Barrueta is another player that was given a shot to be the starting point guard, but wasn’t ready for the task. He has also had some turnover problems with eleven giveaways to just seven assists.
Arizona shouldn’t have much trouble with East Tennessee State. The Buccaneers have two senior starters, Marcus Dubose and Sheldon Cooley, who were suspended indefinitely early in the year. Since their departure, the guard play has really suffered for ETSU.
The Wildcats will likely get some room to breathe in this game if they take care of business early. Arizona has superior guard play and should benefit greatly because of it. If the players come out prepared, the starters should be able to rest for a majority of the second half.