Early predictions place the Arizona Men’s Basketball team in high regard, as they are expected to place first in the PAC 12 and within the top 10 in the nation. Head coach Sean Miller has instilled a consistency and excitement in Tucson that is reminiscent of the Olson era, returning Arizona Basketball to the elite group of national powerhouse programs.
There is much to look forward to in the upcoming season such as the Jordan-esque acrobatics of Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, the acquisition of Miller’s first true point guard, T.J. McConnel, and the dominant potential of sophomores Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley. But despite the lofty expectations for the 2013-2014 squad, there are a few burning questions that need to be answered before we can start cutting down nets and pouring confetti from the rafters.
First off, was Aaron Gordon worth the price Arizona paid for him? The incoming forward was among the most sought after players in his class. College coaches drooled over his raw athleticism, explosive play, and work ethic. In fact, had Gordon been eligible for last year’s NBA Draft, there is a solid chance he would have been the number one pick. That being said, his decision to attend the U of A was not without recourse. Within weeks of Gordon’s commitment, the Wildcat’s promising forward, Grant Jerrett, cast his lot in the NBA draft. Shortly after, defensive enforcer and fan favorite forward Angelo Chol packed his bags and transferred to San Diego State University. The common consensus is that both players abandoned ship due to concerns over sharing playing time with Arizona’s freshman phenom. Gordon has all the talent in the world, which is good, because he is going to need it in order to fill the empty shoes of two former Arizona players.
Secondly, How will Arizona generate outside scoring? The only prominent shooter returning from last year’s team is Nick Johnson, who shot roughly 39% from the three-point arc. Johnson is far too talented at slashing toward basket to be camping behind the three-point line for an extended period of time, so other Wildcat players are going to have to step it up this season. The most obvious players to watch will be senior Jordin Mayes and sophomore Gabe York, who are both efficient outside scorers, but need to bring their game up a notch to fill the void. The Wildcats shot a collective 3 for 14 from downtown in their Red and Blue scrimmage, and should that continue, the season could be filled with adversity.
Finally, Who is Arizona’s go to guy when the game is on the line? The Wildcats are searching for players to fill the gaps led by seniors Solomon Hill, Mark Lyons, and Kevin Parrom, who were all comfortable taking the team on their shoulders should the occasion call for it. This season, however, the Cats are without a true senior other than Jordin Mayes, who will likely be coming off the bench. It will be interesting to see who answers the necessary call for leadership.
Nov. 8 is the day that the unraveling of these mysteries begins, as Arizona faces off against Cal Poly at home. If the Wildcats can address these looming questions and play to their potential, they should dominate their opponent early, and may continue to do so all the way to the Final Four.