Pac-12 Burning Question: Which Newcomer Will Have The Biggest Impact?Posted by AMurawa on October 25th, 2012
Gather ‘round everybody as we break out this week’s Burning Question around the Pac-12 and get opinions from all of our correspondents.
“Last week we talked about which of the returnees will have a breakout year. This week, we’ll turn our eye to the newcomers. Of all the newcomers in the conference, who will walk away at the end of the season with the Newcomer of the Year award?”
Parker Baruh: With UCLA and Arizona having two of the top three recruiting classes in the nation, it would seem like the best newcomer would be coming from one of those teams. However, this year in the Pac-12, I’m going to stay away from Shabazz Muhammad at UCLA and go with Colorado’s Josh Scott as the impact newcomer. Scott was the highlight of the Colorado recruiting class along with Xavier Johnson, and he provides something Tad Boyle has never had at Colorado or as a head coach for that matter, a freshman who can score inside the paint consistently. Although Scott needs to add weight to his 240-pound frame, his length is outstanding and he can rebound very well on both ends. With potential conference player of the year Andre Roberson starting opposite him, Scott will be able to take advantage of multiple match-ups and sneak in for easy putbacks. He averaged 17.4 points and 7.0 rebounds in Colorado’s five-game pre-season trip to Europe and although he’s not going to come out and put up great numbers right away, as the season progresses, 10 points and eight rebounds per game is not out of the question. He can run the floor very well, which is crucial in Tad Boyle’s offensive system. Consequently, he’ll be able to pick up easy points with the guards finding him in transition. What will separate Scott from other post players around the league is the fact that he doesn’t try to do too much. He’s a good and willing passer and will hit cutters or open shooters when necessary. If Josh Scott can provide scoring and rebounding on the front line with Andre Roberson, teams will have a very hard time stopping Colorado’s offense and give up second chances all game long.
Kevin Danna: I really like Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski‘s chances as being the newcomer of the year in the Pac-12 for this simple reason: How many 7-footers are there in the conference that have offensive game? Only one, and it’s the freshman center out of St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts. Outside of Aziz N’Diaye and maybe Tony Woods or Eric Moreland, I don’t really see how many guys will have success guarding Tarczewski one-on-one. He has a great back-to-the-basket game, so while it will be a lot tougher for him to stuff it every time down the court, he will be able to rely on his left shoulder baby hook. He doesn’t have the fanciest footwork, but there’s not a lot of wasted motion from this guy, so if he gets a bead on somebody, he’s not going to fiddle around and let a defender have a chance to make up for his mistake. So then you try to double team the guy, which would be fine if he wasn’t a good passer. The problem for opposing defenses, though, is that he has great court vision on the low block. If he’s getting doubled, then easy math says someone has to be open, and Tarczewski has a good sense of where the cutter will be coming from. He is also a guy who can run the floor reasonably well and fill that trail post role nicely. If he gets bodied out of the paint, don’t be surprised to see him hit an eight- to 10-foot turnaround jumper. I love what this kid can do.
Andrew Murawa: Let’s not overthink this. Not only is Shabazz Muhammad on the very short list of this year’s best recruits in the nation, he’s also on the very short list of the best players in the nation. Newcomer or returnee; wing, point guard or big man; Pac-12, Big East or SEC. We can match Muhammad up against all sorts of excellent players across the country and I can make a solid argument why this guy is a bigger threat. He’s got an NBA-ready body from the get-go with elite athleticism that makes him a monster in the open court. In the halfcourt, he’s got the ability to use a great first step to get by his defender, or if his man is backing off of him, he’s an excellent mid-range scorer with range out to three. And defensively, especially playing for taskmaster Ben Howland, he has the ability to be among the handful of best perimeter defenders in the nation. And to top it all off, he’s going to go hard in an effort to not only beat but to embarrass his man every night he’s available. Which, of course, brings us to the elephant in the room: How many nights is he going to be available, given not only the NCAA investigation into potential extra benefits he’s received, but also the breaking news about his shoulder injury? Let’s put the shoulder injury aside for now and assume that’s a mere bump in the road. The consensus seems to be that Muhammad is going to miss games as a result of the NCAA investigation, but I’ve yet to hear anybody guess that the number of games is going to be more than 15. Let’s say the number is 15, meaning Muhammad is back on January 5, for game two of the Pac-12 slate, meaning he’ll be around for more than 94% of conference games. While he’ll certainly need some time to get locked in with his teammates, he’ll have more than enough of it to allow his athletic gifts to shine.
Connor Pelton: It’s goodbye Jesse Perry and hello Brandon Ashley in Tucson. Not a bad trade if you ask me. Ashley is mobile for his size, and while he can’t play all the way out on the perimeter, he can knock down anything within 18 feet consistently. He’ll be joined in the post by senior Solomon Hill and fellow freshman Kaleb Tarczewski (not a bad pick for Newcomer of the Year himself). Hill has range and a versatile skill set that should keep defenders occupied, and while Tarc is a bit of an unknown, all accounts say the sky’s the limit for him. Ashley’s length, bounce, and excellent timing makes him a viable threat for any tip-ins or putbacks underneath the hoop, so opponents will be forced to find him and box out whenever a shot goes up.
For Ashley to earn the major minutes he needs to compete for this title, he’ll need to come out with energy every chance he gets on the floor. He struggled with that in high school, but I doubt that will be much of a problem when you’re playing D-I basketball. Ashley will play the majority of his freshman season on either of the blocks, but with Hill and Kevin Parrom graduating after this year, he will eventually play the three in Sean Miller’s offense. However, even a better burning question for Arizona would be whether or not Miller can keep all of his high-profile freshmen in Tucson for more than one year. Overall, he may not have the star power to match that of Shabazz Muhammad, or even the most potential in his own frontcourt, but I think Ashley is the final piece needed to lead the Wildcats to an Elite Eight run in 2012-13. There’s a reason schools like Kentucky and UCLA wanted this guy badly, and he’ll prove it this season.
Adam Butler: I think the one thing that behooves Mark Lyons’ candidacy as Newcomer of the Year is that he’s almost not like a newcomer. He initially committed to play for Sean Miller and has since played for Chris Mack who also runs the pack line defense and received his tutelage from Sean Miller. From an X’s and O’s standpoint, Lyons has a leg up on newbies in other jerseys. But beyond the system, Lyons and Arizona are the perfect marriage. Two parties that needed one another, found one another, and should thrive. It’s the kind of story that would be all over a Match.com or JDate commercial. You could substitute this tale for any of the intertwined love stories in Love Actually – at least the ones that turn out well.
I’d be interested to see what the criteria are for Newcomer of the Year because if Lyons fills the role he’s needed to play at Arizona, he’s not going to grossly overwhelm you. He’ll have solid numbers to be sure, but this is Solomon Hill’s team and very well could become the Nick Johnson scoring show. But this team will not go without Lyons. He’s the toughness that the program has needed and the swag – as they say – that’s been missing. Look, I loved Kyle Fogg, but he’s not a program centerpiece or the one to set the tone for a team. He managed late, but from tip-to-buzzer, Lyons is going to be the tone setter. And although I’m making his case for Newcomer of the Year, I think what he’ll really be doing is re-affirming – in the most timely of unions – the Arizona Basketball Brand.