Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas.
I want to submit, if that’s possible, Nick Johnson’s name for National Player of the Year. It’s strange for me to say that – clearly not because I’m an Arizona fan – but because as someone who watches the game at a socially unacceptable level, I did not believe he would have the opportunity for such. Arizona’s system is such that I sincerely did not believe he’d have the touches or scoring veracity to garner such attention. I’ve long felt Derrick Williams’ season was an anomaly within Sean Miller’s style but a necessary “evil” for the success of the 2011 Wildcats. This season, however, Miller had constructed his perfect beast. A defense-oriented group that meshed together in such a way that it didn’t matter who scored but rather who stopped. And that would be predicated on a team effort. Thus, I was quick to believe that no one on Arizona’s roster would win any [honor] of the Year award. But we now find ourselves 18 games deep and Nick Johnson is – well – the best player on the best team in the country. Mark Titus agrees with Bill Walton on this front, and Sean Miller agrees with both of them. As do I.
First, a little bit on Nick. Here’s a young man who arrived at Arizona as Miller’s most prized – or at least highly rated – recruit. At current pace, prized would indeed seem to be the right word in that the parallels to Sean Elliott seem obvious: local talent, first and greatest success under a new regime at Arizona, the face of the program, etc. I’m well ahead of myself but Johnson came to Tucson with his sights on big things. He was joining a Top 25 team as a part of the fourth-best recruiting class in the nation. Nick Johnson was meant for big things. But an elongated slump from Johnson and a generally underwhelming team chemistry kept his first Wildcats squad from amounting to much (which, when translated into Wildcat means: home loss to Bucknell in the first round of the NIT). Similarly, or at least to some extent, another late slump during his sophomore season would coincide with a 5-5 close to the season in which his field goal percentage dipped nearly 10 percentage points below his season average. Nick Johnson was good, but not there yet.