Pac-12 Team Previews: Arizona WildcatsPosted by PBaruh on October 29th, 2012
Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Arizona Wildcats.
Strengths: Sean Miller finally has all his pieces down in Tucson. This Wildcat team is talented, filled with depth, and has some serious athleticism. With all Miller teams, great defense is expected and this squad is no different. Offensively, these Wildcats can score, they can get out and run, and execute their offense efficiently in the half-court. With the backcourt stacked with transfer Mark Lyons and returning guards in Nick Johnson, Kevin Parrom and Jordin Mayes, the Wildcats will be fresh for all 40 minutes and be very hard to stop. Lyons is a much better facilitator than Josiah Turner was, and is very comfortable transferring over from Xavier having been recruited by Sean Miller there. On the front line, Solomon Hill can score down low or stretch the floor with a good mid-range game as well as hit the occasional shot from beyond the arc. To help Hill out, Miller brought in the second best recruiting class overall featuring bigs Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Grant Jerrett. All are expected to contribute right away, but nothing is ever certain with freshman. However, it’s pretty safe to say that based on their talent level the three combined will be able to replace Jesse Perry’s production. Additionally, Angelo Chol returns with another year of experience, and although he is still raw offensively, he can defend and rebound well for his position. Sean Miller is now in his fourth year at Arizona and this team has the potential to become elite.
Weaknesses: It’s hard to point out any weaknesses on this team. But, as of now, the Wildcats don’t have a proven player who can really take over a game — there’s no Derrick Williams here. Yet, at least. Also, they are relying on freshman in the post to help carry some of the scoring burden. And most importantly, while Lyons is certainly a talented ballplayer, he has not yet proven his ability to handle the point guard position full-time. If everything comes together as Arizona fans hope, this Wildcat team may not have many noticeable weaknesses, but there are plenty of questions that need to be answered between now and then.
Non-Conference Tests: Arizona’s first tough non-conference test comes with its match-up against Long Beach State on November 19. It’s a home game and Arizona should take care of business, but Long Beach is a battle tested team used to playing a very tough non-conference schedule, a schedule which helped propel them into the NCAA Tournament last year. Arizona also travels cross-country to Clemson to take on the Tigers in their building, never an easy task. But their toughest test comes one week later when the Wildcats return home to play the Florida Gators. The Gators are stacked this year as they return Patric Young, Erik Murphy, and Kenny Boynton and will be a tough match-up for the Wildcats. After that, they partake in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawai’i. They start off with East Tennessee State, who they should get by, but then will face either Miami (FL) or the home team, Hawai’i. It’s likely Miami will win and they would be an intriguing opponent for the Wildcats as the Hurricanes have big man Reggie Johnson in the frontcourt and experienced Durand Scott in the backcourt. It’s no sure thing, but if the bracket ends up as expected, the Wildcats could meet San Diego State in the championship game. The Aztecs will have already played Syracuse and UCLA at that point in the season and be ready for any match-up that comes their way. Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley will make Sean Miller’s defense work all game as they combined for over 33 points per game last year. If Arizona is able to advance past East Tennessee State, they will be in for some tough games, but the tournament should be a good measuring stick for the Wildcats as they head into conference play.
Toughest Conference Stretch: Arizona lucked out with the conference schedule this year by only having to play Stanford and Cal once and both at home. They also have five of their first seven conferences games at home and are likely to drop only one of those games — either at home against UCLA or Colorado. The toughest stretch comes in the middle of conference play when they travel to take on Washington State and Washington, then return home for Cal and Stanford, followed by a visit to Colorado and Utah. An upset is possible up north against the Huskies, the Bay Area teams are always problematic and the Coors Event Center is never an easy place to win, given not only the altitude in Boulder, but the Buffaloes collection of talent.
If Everything Goes Right… Arizona wins the Pac-12 Conference regular season title and also wins the Pac-12 Tournament. They beat UCLA late in the year to claim the league title, and they stay ranked near the top of the Top 25 all year. Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, and Kaleb Tarczewski all contribute substantially to form an elite trio of freshman talent. Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson both live up to expectations with good years and claim All-Pac-12 First Team honors. Mark Lyons does everything Sean Miller expects, facilitating and scoring when necessary. Arizona picks up at least a three seed in the NCAA Tournament and makes a run to the Elite Eight. They cannot advance to the Final Four as their opponent game plans to stop Hill and Johnson and the elite trio of freshman succumb to the pressure with a trip to Atlanta on the line, but the Arizona program is on its way back to being a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, it still turns out to be a great year for the Wildcats as Sean Miller proves once again that he was a great hire.
If Nothing Goes Right… The Wildcats finish a disappointing fourth in the Pac-12 as their freshman are unable to contribute as expected. Hill has a sub-par senior year and Johnson cannot improve on his play from last season. The team is unable to get stops on defense and bounce in and out of the Top 25 throughout the year. Lyons struggles at his new school and although the Wildcats are able to reach the NCAA Tournament, they only get a ten seed and are eliminated in their first game. Just two years after his Elite Eight run, Sean Miller is looking for answers and no player seems safe down in Tucson.
Projected Starting Lineup
- PG Mark Lyons (Sr. 6’1″ 210 lbs, 15.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.8 APG at Xavier last year)
- SG Nick Johnson (So. 6’3″ 200 lbs, 9.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.4 APG)
- SF Solomon Hill (Sr. 6’7″ 220 lbs, 13.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.6 APG)
- PF Grant Jerrett (Fr. 6’10″ 235 lbs.)
- C Kaleb Tarczewski (Fr. 7’0″ 255 lbs)
Lyons, Johnson, and Hill will definitely be starting to provide good scoring and leadership. The front-court could easily change by the first game, though. Brandon Ashley could impress and steal a starting spot. Whoever it is, there will be a freshman big man starting for the Arizona Wildcats this fall.
- PF Brandon Ashley (Fr. 6’8″ 235 lbs.)
- G/F Kevin Parrom (Sr. 6’6″ 220 lbs, 5.o PPG, 2.9 RPG)
- F Angelo Chol (Soph, 6’9″ 225 lbs, 2.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG)
- G Jordin Mayes (Jr, 6’3″, 200 lbs, 4.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG)
- G Gabe York (Fr, 6’2″ 185 lbs)
Kevin Parrom and Angelo Chol will be standout players off the bench for Sean Miller. Parrom battled through injury last year, but when healthy, he’s a reliable and smart player who can play defense and put up points when necessary. Angelo Chol should be much improved with another year and will be a defensive and rebounding asset off the bench. Throw Brandon Ashley in the mix and you have a Arizona team that has a ton of quality size that will be hard to match.