2013 preview: Here are stories to watch in 2013

2013-01-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:34:00Z 2013 preview: Here are stories to watch in 2013Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Sean Miller tweeted a photo on Monday wishing fans a happy new year.

A player wearing Jordin Mayes' number stood next to one in Nick Johnson's jersey, spelling out 2013.

Minutes later, Miller's wife, Amy, tweeted a question: "Is this the Year of the Wildcat? I think so."

We think it might be, too.

Here's a look at five Southern Arizona sports stories to watch in 2013:

1. Is this the year? Say what you will about the Arizona Wildcats' youth and strength of schedule, but this is a fact on the first day of the new year: The UA is one of only four unbeaten men's basketball teams.

The 12-0 Wildcats, ranked No. 3 in Monday's Associated Press Top 25 poll, are off to their best start since 1987-88; four more wins, and the UA would match the 16-0 mark set by Fred Enke's team in 1931-32.

Does that make them Final Four favorites? Not necessarily - there's a lot more basketball to play.

But Wildcats fans might want to keep Final Four weekend free, just in case.

2. Baseball comings and goings. At Hi Corbett Field, the Arizona Wildcats will try to repeat as College World Series champions. At Kino Stadium, the Tucson Padres will be playing what figures to be their last season before moving to a brand-new stadium in El Paso, Texas.

How both teams play out the season will be telling. The Wildcats boast three preseason All-Americans and a burgeoning fan base. More than 105,000 supporters packed the midtown park last year.

In what might be Tucson's last year, ever, with Triple-A baseball, the Padres will try to improve its league-worst attendance of 200,991 last year.

3. Build it; will they come? The UA's Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, which has been under construction in the north end zone of Arizona Stadium, is expected to be completed by the end of July. The Wildcats hope buzz from a New Mexico Bowl comeback win and the stadium renovation will boost attendance.

Arizona averaged 47,931 fans, about 1,000 fewer than it did in the 4-8 season the year before. And, amazingly, about 7,500 fewer than in 2010.

4. New divisions. The AIA last month approved realignment of several Southern Arizona high schools' team sports. While the details are confusing, and based on both school and sport, the takeaway is this: The six Tucson-area big schools will go from Division I to Division II starting this fall, saving money on countless trips to Phoenix.

That means more local games for Southern Arizona fans. A very good thing.

5. The next NCAA champ? We can't wait to see what silver medal-winning high jumper Brigetta Barrett does next. Here's one goal that could be within reach: leading the UA women's track and field team to an NCAA title.

The UA swim teams might be in the hunt, too. Same for gymnastics, which is ranked No. 19 entering this week's opener.

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