Arizona and Arizona State are two teams that resemble one another in structure but with very different pieces. Each is made up of a combination of youth and veterans, but one seems to have the better of both worlds.
For Herb Sendek, he'll be leaning on senior Carrick Felix as his leader who believes his role as elder statesman has him "in a good spot right now." A big part of that good spot, according to Felix, is having good teammates around. Running mates like Jahii Carson around who Sendek called "an electrifying athlete." The Sun Devil coach continued about his freshman, "He's very unselfish...a complete and total team guy."
Carson's willingness to learn should come as good news because Sendek promised to roll out a faster team this season; a promise that is going to have to be carried out by the uber athletic Carson and new backcourt running mate, Evan Gordon. The youthful backcourt will be relied upon to speed things up for the Devils, a pace Sendek believes will help "put [players] in the best position to be successful."
Down south, in Tucson, Sean Miller's team's veteran leadership will be coming in the form of Solomon Hill. The returning All-Conference performer has taken his position to heart, quickly working to instill a "hunger" - a word both Miller and Hill frequently used - in the freshman class. Perhaps most interesting about Hill's comments surrounding leadership centered around sacrifice. "The guys are changing from high school to college, and the social life is there, the partying is there, the after-hours spots are there. And I just tell the guys that putting your talents to hard work...those parties will always be there, your friend will always be there for you to go out, but it's about where are you at two o'clock in the morning," explained Hill.
Of course there could be reason to party in Tucson if all things gel together for this team. The dynamic crop of freshmen bigs makes the Wildcats remarkably balanced, but perhaps the most important piece of this team is their new point guard, Mark Lyons. The former Xavier Musketeer is a very good basketball player who found himself in a position to transfer immediately and is now in what would appear to be an ideal situation. And Miller believes that Lyons will ultimately be the one to define his season, "The challenges really lie with him. Combining hungry veteran leadership with talented newcomers, Mark Lyons is part of that hungry leadership." As for having a brand new veteran around, Hill doesn't see it as a problem, "I love that guy. He's hungry. Just as hungry as I am to get back to the NCAA Tournament. And it shows in practice."
Arizona and Arizona State are two teams in the desert looking to mix and match old and young to find the keys to success. One just might have a leg up on the other.