Arizona Week’s Burning Question: What To Make Of Mark Lyons?Posted by AMurawa on June 28th, 2012
In this week’s Burning Question, along with the usual suspects from your friendly neighborhood RTC Pac-12 microsite, we’ve invited Adam Butler of Pachoops to weigh in on this week’s big question about the Arizona program. Without further ado, here it is:
Mark Lyons arrives in Tucson, along with a heralded freshman class. In the absence of other enticing options at the point guard, can Lyons earn a spot among the great names in Point Guard U’s history? Or is he merely a stopgap solution on the way to something else?
Adam Butler: As stop gaps go he’s certainly a better option than Curtis Painter but let’s dive deeper. The kid’s already been to four NCAA Tournaments and three Sweet Sixteens; he’s won three conference titles (counting his redshirt season) and twice been an All-Conference performer. His resume speaks for itself as he’s coming off a 15/3/3 season. But here’s what you aren’t going to read in his player bio: he’s playing for the coach he initially committed to; he’s finally getting a shot to prove he’s a worthy PG; and it’s his last opportunity to demonstrate that he’s not a disruptive malcontent. So what am I getting at? It’s do or die for Mark Lyons who controls his own destiny into PGU-lore. He and Arizona have somewhat serendipitously found one another in their respective time of point guard need and I have to think both parties will thrive. By some accounts Lyons is going to step onto this roster as the most talented player and – as previously stated – he’s stepping onto a pretty talented one. But what I believe makes Lyons more than a stopgap player is the toughness, swagger, grit, that je ne sais quoi that was so glaringly missing from the Wildcats’ 2011-12 team; an imperative component to any Sean Miller squad. Because of this I think Lyons’ role is bigger. He’s some version of a tone setter, helping to re-cement exactly what Arizona Basketball is. Of course all of my aforementioned high reward doesn’t come without high risk. He very well could be a disruptive malcontent on a formative and youthful team. His immediate emergence as starter and primary ball handler could cause discontent amongst the returners. His ballyhooed toughness may upset a team perceived as soft. So as all things high risk/high reward go, we’ll wait and see. Should be a good watch.
Andrew Murawa: I’m just not convinced that all of a sudden Mark Lyons, who hasn’t played the point since high school, is going to be able to step in and effectively run a team with national championship aspirations. This doesn’t mean I think Lyons is going to be an abject failure, nor does that mean I think Arizona is going to miss the NCAA Tournament again. It is just that I don’t think a team with an erratic shoot-first point can make it to the season’s final weekend, a goal that could be within this team’s reach, given the right point guard. Lyons steps into a situation where the expectations are high and the need is great, and as such, he’ll have plenty of responsibility for the team’s ultimate fate. Still, Sean Miller does have other tools on this roster that could help mitigate Lyons’ weaknesses, as guys like Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson, to name just two, can spend time with the ball in their hands. And Miller has some history succeeding with this type of point guard (see Momo Jones for the most recent example). But for the Wildcats to live up to their potential, they’ll need Lyons to walk a fine line, dialing up his ability to get teammates involved while maintaining the aggressiveness that has made him a desirable asset. If Miller can get Lyons to successfully walk that tightrope, maybe he can earn his spot among the great Arizona point guards, but the odds are good that when all is said and done, Lyons will go down as just another guy, unfit for consideration among greats like Steve Kerr, Mike Bibby, Jason Gardner and Khalid Reeves.
Connor Pelton: He certainly has a chance to be one of the best in the program’s history. Look at some of Arizona’s past point and combo guards; they’ve all had great supporting casts. Mike Bibby had Jason Terry, Salim Stoudamire had Channing Frye and Luke Walton, and Steve Kerr had Sean Elliott and Kenny Lofton. This Wildcat team has Sweet Sixteen talent, and with players like Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill, and Kaleb Tarczewski to not only share the ball with, but pull the defense away from Lyons as a scoring threat, the Xavier transfer will have a plethora of opportunities to shine in Tucson. With that being said, there is always a downside to these “transfer for one last season of college hoops” stories. When big names arrive on campus and only have five months to live up to their clippings, players will start to press, especially if things don’t go too smoothly early on. If Lyons stays inside himself and plays his game, good things will happen for himself and the Wildcats in 2012-13.