Because he has only one final this week, sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski has a lot of time to rehab his sprained ankle.
But that still doesn’t mean he’ll play in the Wildcats’ game Thursday against Southern.
“Kaleb hurt his ankle pretty good,” UA coach Sean Miller said Monday. “I don’t know if he had a severe sprain but it’s a legitimate sprain. … He’s pretty much around the clock right now working to get better. Each day from this point on he’ll improve. But we don’t know about Thursday yet because it’s only Monday.”
Miller said freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and junior Matt Korcheck are the most likely to receive more playing time if Tarczewski does not play.
Korcheck is ahead of the Wildcats’ other post reserve, Zach Peters, Miller said.
“Everybody will have to pick it up,” Miller said. “If Kaleb is not able to go (Korcheck) would be the next frontcourt player we would call on. Matt’s one of our hardest workers.”
Not quite unanimous
Beating Michigan on the road wasn’t enough for Arizona to leap into a unanimous No. 1 pick. For the second straight week, the Cats collected 63 of 65 first-place votes in the Associated Press Top 25.
Syracuse, 10-0, received the other two first-place votes and finished second in voting overall, followed by Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Ohio State and Syracuse also took the other first-place votes in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
While the Wildcats beat the Wolverines, Syracuse bolstered its case by winning at St. John’s on Sunday. UA and Syracuse have comparable strengths of schedules, according to the Sagarin ratings: Arizona’s is ranked 123 and Syracuse’s is 125. However, Kenpom.com lists Arizona’s SOS at No. 108 and Syracuse’s at 204.
Also in the AP Top 25, Oregon was ranked 13th, Colorado 20th and San Diego State was 24th.
Looking out for No. 1
Even after the Wildcats were first voted No. 1 last week, Miller said “I don’t know if any of us were walking around here like ‘We did it, it’s over.’”
Predictably, then, Miller said there is more to do this week. UA faces Southern on Thursday while finishing up finals and then will play NAU on Monday before taking a half-week off for Christmas.
“This is actually as crucial a part of our season and a unique part of our season as we’ll have,” Miller said. “This is a huge week and I think everybody on our team has no less than four final exams, then we have a very dangerous game Thursday with Southern.”
Praise for Johnson
Nick Johnson’s statistics say a lot these days. The junior guard is leading the Wildcats with an average of 15.5 points per game, while often taking on opponents’ best scorers and playing any of three perimeter positions.
In UA’s 72-70 win at Michigan on Saturday, the junior guard held Wolverines sharpshooter Nik Stauskas to 1 of 4 three-point shooting while also sinking six free throws in the final 24 seconds.
But Miller also looks beyond all that.
“The value of him is not just in assists, points, his production — it’s his meaning of the versatility for our team,” Miller said. “He’s doing so many things now for us that don’t show up on the stat sheet. You could make the case that he’s our most valuable player. “