Hassan Adams is a better player. It remains to be seen if he can consistently hit the outside jumper, but there is no doubt he is shooting, handling the ball and passing better than at any time in his collegiate career. In the two exhibition games Adams has hit 3-7 three-point attempts while dishing out 10 assists. If you throw in the Red-Blue game then he has made 6-11 threes, over 50%.
The one part of his game that has slipped, at least statistically, is his rebounding. He has been rebounding alright, but hasn't put up the staggering numbers he has in the past.
Chris Rodgers is looking good. Rodgers is getting minutes and he appears happy. He has led the team in scoring in each of the exhibition games and is quickly showing that he may be the second straight Portland-native to have a breakout senior season for the Wildcats. Even with a slow start against Team Georgia, Rodgers has hit 10 of the 15 three pointers he has let fly.
Rodgers seems to be embracing the system, while bringing his own personal flair to what the Cats want to do on offense. He has accepted a full-time move to the off guard spot, but that hasn't prevented him from averaging 3.5 assists per game.
Rodgers won't be able to replace Salim Stoudamire, but if he can consistently hit the outside shot and play within the system, then the Cats will benefit greatly.
Marcus Williams is the real deal. I loved Marcus Williams coming out of high school and he has done nothing but get better.
Last year on signing day I said: "He will be the Wildcats' tallest perimeter player the minute he gets on campus. He will compete with Jawann McClellan, Jesus Verdejo, Chris Rodgers and possibly Adams for time on the wing." Well, all he did was push Verdejo into a redshirt and with McClellan out until the middle of January he appears to be the first wing off the bench. The Cats are so high on him that they want to get him minutes at the four just to keep him on the floor.
Isaiah Fox will be a factor. Just how much the senior contributes remains to be seen but he has come into this year in great shape and with his head on straight. He may not start or score a lot, but he shouldn't be stuck at the end of the bench like he was a year ago.
Fox has shown that he can play both the five and the four, even with the Wildcat power forward playing more on the perimeter than normal in the new four-out, one-in offense.
The Cats are deep. This team may lack star power, but the depth is unbelievable. The Cats can go 12 deep with little or no drop off. Expect the Wildcats to continue to go deep into the bench if they continue to try to pressure and press.
WHAT WE DON'T KNOW
How will Mustafa Shakur play? It's not as if Shakur is a bad player, but he hasn't noticeably improved since his freshman year. The Cats need Shakur to make the leap. He has been steady the first two exhibition games, but the team needs him to be at least a minimal scoring threat.
Who will step up in the middle? Bret Brielmaier will get the start against Kansas, but he can't be the center of a Final Four caliber team can he? Kirk Walters was pulled out of his redshirt in an effort to get him ready for this season, but so far he has not looked great. He has been slowed by a viral infection and that may be a reason for his lackluster start.
Mohamed Tangara can rebound, but can he score enough to keep opponents honest? Isaiah Fox has been a pleasant surprise and he may eventually be the answer in the middle.
How much does Ivan Radenovic miss Channing Frye? Radenovic should feel right at home in the new offensive scheme, but has not played great in the exhibitions. One has to wonder if the loss of Channing Frye on the front line has affected the 6-10 power forward. Although he looks at home on the outside, does the loss of a proven inside scorer allow teams to cheat on Radenovic?
Will Chris Rodgers remain happy? The only thing keeping Rodgers from being a standout has been Rodgers. If he plays within the framework of the offense and keeps a good attitude then he can have a big year. If he starts to pout or tries to freelance too much, then he could find himself back on the bench.
How will Jawann McClellan play when he returns? Not only has McClellan dealt with family tragedy and academic woes, but he has also has been dealing with the leg injury which has plagued him since the Illinois game. It would be understandable if he struggled early on, but McClellan seems driven to have a big season to honor his father. If the leg heals by December 17th, then the Cats should be that much better.
Is there enough outside shooting? This could be huge for the Cats. Right now Adams and Rodgers are knocking down their shots, but will that continue? Can Shakur, Williams, Dillon and Prince hit enough to keep opponents honest? Will Radenovic ever live up to the praise Olson has given his stroke from the practice setting? What will McClellan bring when he comes back for Utah?
Team Georgia zoned the Wildcats and they struggled. You can bet teams will trot out the zone all season if the Wildcats are inconsistent from behind the arc. They don't need a Salim-esque shooting performance every night, but they need a few players who can be zone busters and force teams to try and play them 1-on-1.