Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona

Posted by AMurawa on November 5th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Arizona Wildcats

StrengthsSean Miller’s modus operandi in his time in Tucson has been to play a lot of guys every night. This year, he’ll be able to do that again; the only question may be who doesn’t find his way into the regular rotation. This Wildcat team has so much depth, there are 12 players who could rightfully expect consistent minutes. There are two players, junior wing Kevin Parrom and senior center Alex Jacobson, who are still working through injuries, but at least in the case of Parrom, he is expected to be back soon and to be a major contributor. The other great strength of this team is its athleticism, which has only been bolstered over the offseason with the addition of a highly athletic four-man freshman class of Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson. Those four may have their struggles adjusting to the higher caliber of competition, but they likely won’t be fazed by the athleticism of Division I performers.

Solomon Hill, Arizona

Solomon Hill Is Just One Wildcat Who Must Play A Bigger Role

Weaknesses. Not only do the Wildcats lose all-everything forward Derrick Williams, but they also lost their second-leading scorer from last season, Momo Jones. And for all the talent on this team, there is not one standout performer nor is there anyone who has proven his ability to consistently create offensive opportunities for himself. All four of the freshmen have shown flashes of those abilities, but they’ll need to prove they can do it consistently, just as returnees like Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill and Jesse Perry need to prove that they can handle larger roles.

Nonconference Tests.  Arizona gets their season started with the 2K Sports Classic, which will start with a game against St. John’s on their home floor at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats then will either face Mississippi State or Texas A&M to wrap up that tournament, a good test either way. A tough non-conference slate continues with a visit from San Diego State, then a tough three game stretch in the middle of December where they travel to Florida, then host Clemson before playing Gonzaga in Seattle.

Toughest Conference Stretch.  At the end of January, the Wildcats will host the Washington schools the week before traveling to the Bay Area schools, a tough four game stretch that would likely considered a success if it produced two wins.

If Everything Goes Right…  After some early growing pains, the freshmen – especially the guards – settle in and perform with poise and maturity. Turner takes the point guard role with force, getting some help from sophomore Jordin Mayes, but acquitting himself well. Parrom comes back from his rehabilitation and doesn’t miss a beat, turning into a potent offensive threat in tandem with athletic rookie Nick Johnson. And the frontcourt quintet of Hill, Perry, Chol, Sidiki Johnson and Kyryl Natyazhko prowl the pain, clean the glass and chip in offensively. As a result, the Wildcats are right in the mix for a conference championship, and even make a splash in the NCAA Tournament, winning a couple of games.

If Nothing Goes Right…  Turner never settles into the point guard job, and he and Mayes combine to turn the ball over a bit too much. Parrom, Fogg, Brendon Lavender and Nick Johnson never rise above the level of contributor, and up front, while Hill and Perry can score against overmatched opponents, they struggle to get good looks against high quality opponents. UA still is relatively successful, but never seriously contends for the conference title, and gets bounced from the NCAA Tournament in an 8/9 opening round game.

Projected Starting Lineup

  • PG Josiah Turner (Fr, 6’3” 192 lbs)
  • SG Kyle Fogg (Sr, 6’3” 188 lbs, 8.1 PPG, 1.0 2.6 APG)
  • SF Solomon Hill (Jr, 6’6” 225 lbs, 8.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG)
  • PF Jesse Perry (Sr, 6’7” 217 lbs, 6.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG)
  • C Kyryl Natyazhko (Jr, 6’11” 275 lbs, 1.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG)

This group looks locked in as the starters for now, although Parrom’s return will loom. When this lineup is on the court, the key scorers will likely be Hill and Perry, meaning this is not a very explosive offensive combination. But, just shifting to a smaller lineup – for instance, subbing in either Parrom or Nick Johnson at the three, then sliding Hill to the four and maybe Perry to the five and you’ve got a lineup with some offensive punch. Not that Natyazhko isn’t an effective player (he’ll be especially valuable as a strong body against UCLA center Josh Smith, for instance), he just doesn’t provide much of an offensive threat.

Impact Newcomer Josiah Turner – It sure seems like these Wildcats are going to go as far as Turner takes them. In the two UA exhibition games, Turner has been erratic, creating offense in spectacular fashion on one possession before getting out of control on the next two. If Turner can settle down and run the offense efficiently, he’s got enough pizazz to wow the McKale Center denizens.

Key Reserves

  • SG/SF Kevin Parrom (Jr, 6’6” 235 lbs, 7.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG)
  • PG Jordin Mayes (So, 6’2” 196 lbs, 4.9 PPG, 1.2 APG)
  • SG Nick Johnson (Fr, 6’2” 198 lbs)
  • PF Angelo Chol (Fr, 6’9” 217 lbs)
  • C Sidiki Johnson (Fr, 6’8” 235 lbs)
  • SG Brendon Lavender (Sr, 6’5” 212 lbs, 3.6 PPG, 0.9 RPG)

There’s not a huge drop-off from the starters to the reserves, but since it seems unlikely that Miller is going to go 11 deep on a regular basis, it is possible that Lavender, perhaps the team’s best three-point shooter, will only see spot duty. The freshmen bigs are going to be counted on for plenty of minutes in reserve, as well, so their level of production will be a big factor in how fast this team improves.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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