December 2, Gardner Webb: The Bulldogs return Jerome Hill and his team-leading 14 points and eight rebounds per game. He will get matched up with Donta Harper, who is expected to make a big jump one season after putting up 10 points and 4 rebounds each outing. The main issue the Bulldogs will have is with their guard play, although Tyler Strange averaged about five assists per outing and will be a senior next season.
This is another game where the opponent does not have much of a chance. Gardner Webb played Duke, Missouri, Georgia, and Xavier last season, so it probably won't be shocked when it gets to McKale. Still, it's just not a good enough team to win.
December 6, Gonzaga: Arizona fans may overlook how good Gonzaga is because of what happened in the tournament, but that would be foolish. The Wildcats won't face a better team all season. For starters, Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, and Kyle Dranginis are returning along with Przemek Karnowski in the post.
In addition to the players returning, the Bulldogs will now have Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer eligible and will add Domantas Sabonis, who has gotten high praise. Earlier this week, Gonzaga announced that it had also added USC graduate Byron Wesley to the roster as well. Basically, this team has a ton of pieces and was able to fill the hole left by the departure of Sam Dower last season.
Gonzaga has the size and guards to match up with Arizona and this is going to be one of the few games that the Wildcats have a legitimate shot of losing at home.
December 9, Utah Valley: Yet another team looking to replace a lot of production, Utah Valley will come into McKale over matched. It is losing its best guard in Holton Hunsaker, who averaged a team-leading 14 points per game. UVU is also looking to replace its starting center, Ben Aird, who led the team with eight rebounds per outing and also scored 11 points.
Forward Zach Nelson put together a solid freshman campaign and will be asked to go a lot more this season, as will forward Mitch Bruneel. The problem that the entire team will have is that there is a complete lack of size and almost its entire three-point production is gone.
December 13, Michigan: Most expected Michigan to be better than it likely will next season, but this is still not an easy game by any means. Nik Stauskas, Glen Robinson, and Mitch McGary are all gone and that is obviously a ton of production. Caris LeVert will likely lead the Wolverines in scoring and he is coming off a season in which he averaged 13 points per game.Michigan will hope incoming freshmen Kameron Chatman and D.J. Wilson be able to come in right away and contribute. The Wolverines will struggle with size, but there is a ton of talent in the backcourt.
This is a well enough coached team where we would be surprised if Arizona ran away with it, but this isn't the game it could have been. There should still be plenty of excitement surrounding it though and it has the potential to be a good one.
December 16, Oakland: This game would have been more fun if Travis Bader and his three-point shooting were still at Oakland, but they aren't and thus Arizona won't get much of a challenge. The best returning player is 6-foot-10 center Corey Petros, who averaged 13 points, 8 rebounds, and shot 57 percent last season.
In addition to Petros, Oakland will ask 5-foot-9 guard Kahlil Felder to step up. He put together nine points and six assists per game and while a lot of those assists were because of Bader's shooting ability, Oakland is confident he can once again lead the offense successfully.
December 19, UTEP: UTEP will be a decent squad this upcoming season, as it returns its leading two scorers in Julian Washburn and Vince Hunter. Some may not like Tim Floyd, but it is difficult to deny that he is a good head coach and at the very least will have the Miners ready to compete. He is hoping that C.J. Cooper has improved from last season, but will likely rely on two freshmen guards.
Shaquille Carr and Chris Sandifer have a lot of raw talent and at should be able to contribute right away. In fact, if UTEP is going to be any good, both players pretty much have to make some sort of impact. Arizona is going to win this game, but there is some talent on the opposition.
December 23, UNLV: The Rebels have to be disappointed in the talent that they lost from last season. Gone are Bryce Dejean-Jones, Khem Birch, and Roscoe Smith, who accounted for nearly 35 points and 25 rebounds per game.
UNLV has no choice but to rely on younger players. Christian Wood is going to be asked to step up and will likely start at one of the forward spots. Cody Doolin is a transfer from San Francisco who averaged 13 points and 7 assists, so he will be expected to run the point. You can also pretty much put Rashad Vaughn, Goodluck Okonoboh, and Dwayne Morgan in the starting five as well.On paper, the Rebels will be among the most talented teams Arizona faces, but there is much more than talented needs to win basketball games. That talent, however, will give UNLV a chance and at the very least, the game should be entertaining to watch.