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Men's analysis: UA men's team full of question marks

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA head coach Lute Olson directs his players from the sideline earlier this month in an exhibition game.
By Christopher Wuensch
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 21, 2003
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Does Arizona have the depth in its lineup to challenge for the Pac-10 title?

Much has been said this off-season about the lack of depth in the Wildcat lineup.

If the preseason is any indication, the starting five will eventually consist of Channing Frye, Salim Stoudamire, Andre Iguodala, Hassan Adams and freshman Mustafa Shakur. Coming off the bench to spell the Wildcats down low will be Kirk Walters and Isaiah Fox. Backcourt help will come from Chris Rodgers.

After those three off the bench, the Wildcats will need to rely on walk-on Beau Muhlbach. A major injury to the starting five could be potentially damaging to Arizona's season, but shouldn't be devastating.

Who will lead this team?

This is a young Wildcat squad loaded to the brim with talent, but who will step up and become a leader, both on the court and in the locker room, still remains to be seen.

Frye, Stoudamire and Fox have been in the Lute Olson system for the longest and at first glance are the obvious answers. Frye is a good fit for the leadership role, but the guidance may come from elsewhere.

Iguodala's stock is rising fast among the Wildcat ranks. The sophomore has great command of the floor at both ends of the court and is well respected amongst his teammates. Much of the Wildcats' season will rest on his shoulders.

What is the identity of this team?

Last year's squad was one was founded on senior experience and leadership. This year's squad has the potential to be strong down low, with the veteran Frye and the emergence of Fox and Walters, but success will come from the Wildcats' greatest asset: speed.

Arizona will move the ball up the court with a quickness faster than any other Wildcat squad in years, thanks mostly to the emergence of Shakur. The freshman's sheer athleticism alone will create scoring opportunities down low for Frye, long-range jumpers for Stoudamir, or chances from anywhere on the court for Iguodala.

Who is the most dangerous player on the court?

Hassan Adams, hands down.

Scoring will come from all over for the Wildcats this season, but not one player has the potential to ignite rallies like Adams.

Last season it seemed as if every major rally Arizona put together was initiated by an Adams highlight-reel dunk, and if the summer workouts to improve his mid-range jumper prove successful, Adams could elevate his game to a whole new level.

Frye, Stoudamire and Iguodala will supply their share of entertainment for the Tucson faithful and Shakur may be a year away.

But Adams will soon emerge as a fan favorite.

Can this team win the Pac-10?

Once again, the road to the Pac-10 title goes through Tucson, and rightfully so.

Standing in the Wildcats' way will be a tough Stanford squad that enters the season ranked No. 19 in the country.

Control of the Pac-10 could very well come down to head-to-head matchups between the Wildcats and the Cardinal. The two meet early into the Pac-10 schedule, their last meeting coming on February 7. Matching up with its size down low will be the key to fending off Mike Montgomery's Cardinal squad.

Oregon and California should make life difficult for the rest of the conference as well.

Where does Arizona stand against the nation's elite?

For all the talk of lack of depth on Olson's squad, the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll still dubbed this team the fourth-best in the country to kick off the season.

Arizona enters the 2003-04 campaign ranked higher than the quartet of Final Four teams from last season: Syracuse, Marquette, Texas and emerging rival Kansas.

The Wildcats will get a shot at Marquette on their home court on Dec. 13. As the Orangemen of Syracuse proved last year, you don't have to be a No. 1 seed to bring home a national title, but the Wildcats may be there anyway.

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