Arizona Post-MortemPosted by AMurawa on April 11th, 2013
Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: Arizona.
What Went Right
You know, after all is said and done, after all the chatter about his strengths and weaknesses, you gotta say that the Mark Lyons experiment turned out pretty well. Yes, the end of the season and a not-quite-buzzer-beating loss to Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen is disappointing, and a fourth-place Pac-12 finish isn’t what was expected, but down the stretch, this team was clicking pretty well behind Lyons. With a dearth of other create-for-themselves offensive players (outside of Solomon Hill), Lyons was a pretty good fit here. He never materialized as the distributing floor general some had hoped, but he was a good version of himself — scoring efficiently, playing hard and zipping people up defensively.
What Went Wrong
For a team with three hardened veterans among the seven-man rotation, this was a surprisingly inconsistent team. Much of that can be chalked up to three freshmen occupying the rotation at the four and five spots. As talented as Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett are, they were still freshmen growing into their bodies and into their games. There were blown assignments, soft defense and the handful of boneheaded plays. But, the bright side is all three of these guys got tremendous experience, displayed their major upside and are expected to return next season.
Lyons deserves a lot of credit for what he did for this team on both ends of the floor, and especially in the waning moments of games. But make no mistake – this was still Solomon Hill’s team. Highly efficient, capable of scoring either through quickness, strength or touch, and just as willing to make the unselfish pass as he was to pop the open jumper as well as a ready and able defender both on the perimeter and inside, Hill was always one of the conference’s – and the nation’s – most underrated players.
Lyons, Hill and Kevin Parrom depart, and all three are big losses. Between the trio, the team loses 37.3 PPG, 12.1 RPG, and 7.4 APG, and an indefinable amount of leadership, the latter of which may be the biggest concern. Without a doubt, Sean Miller has got the recruiting train rolling into Tucson, and there is going to be no shortage of talent, but who will those guys look to next season when the going gets tough?
Players Coming In
Miller welcomes in three different ESPN 100 recruits, two of whom just got done appearing in the McDonald’s All-American game. Aaron Gordon is the biggest name, rated fourth in the nation by ESPN, and he put on one heck of a display in earning McD MVP honors with 24 points, most of them coming on insane dunks. He’s an athletic combo forward who has earned comparisons to Blake Griffin, and he’ll likely be penciled in as the starter at the three from day one although he’ll need to prove his ability to do more than just dunk. The other McD-AA for Arizona is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a 6’7” small forward rated as the 16th best player in the 2013 class. Four-star off-guard Elliott Pitts rounds out the class, but then there is also junior T.J. McConnell, a transfer from Duquesne whom it appears will be the lone true point guard on the Wildcats roster next season. As such, while he’ll be surrounded by plenty of talent, he may be the single most important figure on that team next season.
Reason for Hope
Duh. Talent. Look up and down that roster. The frontcourt is going to be so loaded – Gordon, Ashley, Tarczewski, Jerrett – that a guy like Angelo Chol, a junior with plenty of upside, may not have a chance at cracking the rotation. There is speculation that he may transfer or even redshirt, the latter of which could be a really good move, allowing him a chance to hone his skills and spend the year playing against some of the best bigs in the nation. (Miller has been focusing on backcourt help in 2014, and given the likelihood that at least one if not two frontcourt Wildcats could be gone following next year, Chol could be due for a big role in 2014-15 is he sits out a season.) While this year’s freshmen were inconsistent, all three of them flashed major potential and look to be in line for a breakout seasons next year. Provided the backcourt is in position to set them up, the Wildcats’ frontcourt could be a one of the Pac-12’s best in the modern history of the sport.
Reason For Concern
Despite all that depth up front, here’s how the Wildcats backcourt looks like it will shake out: McConnell at the point, Nick Johnson at the two, then erratic Jordin Mayes backing up the one, and unproven albeit supremely athletic Gabe York backing up Johnson. There are nice parts there, but none of them are really sure things, especially the two coming off the pine. If you had to take an educated guess, you’d think that the combo of McConnell and Johnson could have the potential to be seriously dangerous (McConnell, for those Pac-12 folks who haven’t actually seen him play, is the real deal), but until that happens, some concern is justified. Then there’s the question of who steps into the leadership role. The fact that McConnell has been with the program for a year gives him the edge, and certainly a three-year vet like Johnson could earn that role, but we’ll have to wait and see. Oh, and adding one more reason for hope – the fact that we have to dig so deep for reasons for concerns probably indicates just how good this team should be.
B. The way the Wildcats’ season ended, playing well and losing to a tough Ohio State team in a well-played and hard-fought game in the Sweet Sixteen, leaves a pretty good taste in the mouths of the demanding Arizona fans. But still, the fact is that this was a team with top 10 talent that never really played like a top 10 team. It finished fourth in a pretty average Pac-12 and lost three times to UCLA, and while, yes, getting back to the NCAA’s second weekend was nice and this team left some good memories behind, the fact is that this team underachieved. The Wildcats get a B because it is awfully hard to give a team that went 27-8 and lost in heartbreaking fashion in the Sweet Sixteen any lower than that, but in the grand scheme of things, this team probably left some chips on the table.