TUCSON, Ariz. — No. 8 Arizona rolled through the opening part of its schedule before facing a bit of adversity this week against Southern Mississippi.
Now the schedule is about to get tougher: A road game against Clemson today and No. 6 Florida a week later at the McKale Center.
This bump in competition couldn’t have come at a better time for Wildcats coach Sean Miller.
With a team that relies on freshmen at key positions, Miller likes the idea of building up their confidence before throwing them into the ring against heavyweights.
“I think we’ll learn a lot about our team in the next two games,” Miller said. “I don’t think it’s the defining moment of our season, but I do think we’ll have a team that will be ready for both.”
The Wildcats have been ready for whatever opponents throw at them so far this season.
Living up to the hype of a team that has a talented group of veterans and another stellar recruiting class by Miller, Arizona (6-0) raced through the first five games of its schedule, scoring 85 points per game while winning by an average of 25 points.
The Wildcats faced their first test against Southern Miss on Tuesday.
Struggling against the Golden Eagles’ shifting zone, Arizona sped up on offense and spent most of the night throwing passes that were easily picked off or sailed out of bounds.
The Wildcats finished with 27 turnovers, doubling their season average, but pulled out a 63-55 win.
Clemson is young but athletic and should be the toughest defensive team Arizona has faced so far. After that, the Wildcats face a marquee matchup in the desert the following Saturday against Florida, which beat them in overtime a year ago in Gainesville.
The two-game stretch will be a tough test, but the Wildcats should be ready after backing up all those easy early-season wins with the gut-check victory over Southern Miss.
“To be 6-0 matters to our team,” Miller said. “You may say, ‘Of course it matters,’ but you would be surprised how sometimes when things don’t go well for you, it’s not about the 6-0, it’s about you. I like that collective thinking with our team.”
It’s worked so far. Now it’s time for the Wildcats to see if they can keep it going against stiffer competition.