#2 Arizona Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

Arizona Wildcats

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #2
Conference Rank: #1 Pac-12

Arizona Team Page#2 Arizona Men's Basketball 2014-2015 PreviewBuy Arizona Basketball Tickets

The Arizona Wildcats were a special team last year. No, they didn’t win the Pac-12 tournament; that ended with a loss to UCLA in the championship game. And no, they didn’t reach the Final Four; that goal fell one step short as well with an Elite Eight overtime loss to Wisconsin. However, with 33 wins and a one-seed in the tournament, the 2013-14 season was probably the best of Head Coach Sean Miller’s (relatively) young career. The fact that this roster is turning over talent may hinder a successful follow-up at first, but this year’s team could end up being even better.

2013-14 Record: 33-5, 15-3
2013-14 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Sean Miller
Coach Record: 129-48 at Arizona, 249-95 overall

Who’s Out:
The biggest name gone from this Wildcats team is Aaron Gordon. The bouncy freshman filled up box scores during his one year in Arizona before being selected in the lottery of the NBA draft. Gordon’s defense, athleticism, rebounding and all-around effort will be hard to replace. He certainly wasn’t the most gifted player offensively, but Arizona will surely feel the hole left by him on both ends. With a team-leading 8.0 rebounds per game and just shy of two combined steals and blocks per game, Gordon was a Swiss army knife-type of talent. Of course, while Gordon was the biggest name to casual basketball fans, Nick Johnson was the team’s best player last year, and he is also gone. Johnson led the team in scoring by a fair margin on his way to being named Pac-12 Player of the Year. His savvy play and leadership generated much of the fire power for a defensive-oriented club. More than even his departed point totals, Johnson’s ability and desire to be the team’s go-to guy will be perhaps the hardest thing for Arizona to replace.

Who’s In:
The reason hopes are high for Miller’s club is because he somehow managed to replace two powerful players in one offseason. Gordon and Johnson specifically will be hard to duplicate, but the production should be generated rather easily from who Miller has added here. It starts with one of the elite recruiting classes. Small forward Stanley Johnson is arguably the top freshman in the country entering the season. At 6-6 and 225 pounds, he doesn’t come in as the athlete that Gordon was but could still physically dominate opponents from game one. With Johnson come fellow freshmen Craig Victor, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic. These three very different players (a forward with scoring moves, a 5-9 point guard and a 7-footer respectively) all seem like they could be plugged right into a second unit immediately. And as icing on the cake comes news that Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson will be coming as well. Although Anderson has to sit out 2014-15, he is a supremely gifted power forward who will help aid the transition of this club next season.

Who to Watch:
Top freshmen are great, but the real buzz being generated around Arizona is because of the quintet of returning stars this team is going to rely on. Seven-foot junior Kaleb Tarczewski, junior forward Brandon Ashley and sophomore wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are the meat and potatoes. All three could leave early for the NBA after this season. Ashley especially is a welcome return for Wildcat fans after the double-digit scorer got hurt the first day of February last season and missed the remainder of the year. His healthy comeback, along with RHJ’s growth could be the two biggest changes from last year. The top five is filled out by sharp-shooting Gabe York and point guard T.J. McConnell. McConnell isn’t flashy or overly impressive on the stat sheet, but he may be the team’s most important player in its attempt to replace Nick Johnson’s court leadership.

Final Projection:
Arizona was one of the best defensive teams in the nation in 2013-14. With all of the size and length returning in the frontcourt, that shouldn’t change much this year. The only difference may be an improvement on the other end of the court. Brandon Ashley is back, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be given a chance to dominate on offense and Stanley Johnson comes in as one of the top two or three freshman in the country. With the senior point guard and seven-foot center in the middle, it all adds up to one of the deepest and most talented teams in college basketball. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this squad do just as well, if not better than last year’s team.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
T.J. McConnell, Senior, Guard, 8.4 points per game
Gabe York, Junior, Guard, 6.7 points per game
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sophomore, Forward, 9.1 points per game
Brandon Ashley, Junior, Forward, 11.5 points per game
Kaleb Tarczewski, Junior, Center, 9.9 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.9 (108th in nation, 7th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 58.6 (6, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.9 (47, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.0 (4, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.4 (25, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.4 (82, 6)
Free-Throw Percentage: 65.9 (296, 11)
Rebound Margin: 7.1 (9, 1)
Assists Per Game: 15.1 (37, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.2 (24, 2)

Madness 2015 NBA Draft Rankings:
#4 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
#11 Kaleb Tarczewski
#17 Stanley Johnson
#37 Brandon Ashley

Madness 2014 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#4 Stanley Johnson
#40 Craig Victor
#51 Parker Jackson-Cartwright
#105 Dusan Ristic


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