#10 Arizona Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Arizona Wildcats

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #10
Conference Rank: #1 Pac-12

Arizona Team Page#10 Arizona Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Arizona Basketball Tickets

Despite winning 34 games and making it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, the Arizona Wildcats were blown up this offseason. This isn’t like the pros where a good team can stick together and build on success. In college, the pieces leave and it is out of the coach’s control. Sean Miller has now won at least 27 games in six of his last eight years, including his final two seasons at Xavier, yet he’s never gotten past the Elite Eight; four trips to that round (one with the Musketeers) and zero further. At some point, Miller will begin to fall under the guise of a coach who can’t win the big one. Starting over with a very new roster this year won’t help the cause even if Arizona will still be very good.

2014-15 Record: 34-4, 16-2
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Sean Miller
Coach Record: 163-52 at Arizona, 283-99 overall

Who’s Out:
Of their main nine-man rotation from last season, Arizona’s top four players are gone. This group includes players of all ages and skill sets, decimating the Wildcats roster. Freshman sensation Stanley Johnson left for the NBA. Sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson left early as well. Junior power forward Brandon Ashley and senior point guard T.J. McConnell also departed. Those four players were the team’s top four in minutes played and points scored. The first three led the team in rebounds, while McConnell dwarfed his teammates in assists. For a team like Arizona that finished as one of the best teams in the country in so many categories, both offensively and defensively, rejuvenating nearly the entire starting lineup will be a chore. Current 4-star freshman Ray Smith will also be out this year after suffering a knee injury in practice. That is an entire hypothetical small-ball starting five that is out of commission for Coach Miller.

Who’s In:
The reason Arizona is still the top team in the Pac-12 is because as it loses valuable players, new ones come in to take their place. Both the freshmen class and the transfer class for Zona are powerfully talented this season. The freshmen are led by 5-star shooting guard Allonzo Trier. Trier has been called an offensive juggernaut, something the defense-oriented Wildcats could always use more of. Joining him are 4-star recruits Chance Comanche (a thin center with a nice touch) and Justin Simon (a very tall point guard who needs to improve his jump shot). As far as transfers go, perhaps no team in the country has a better crop at its disposal this season. Former Boston College power forward Ryan Anderson leads the way. During his two seasons at BC, Anderson averaged more than 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Graduate transfer Mark Tollefsen played three seasons at San Francisco before switching to Arizona. He is a good shooter and also averaged 14 points per game his final season at his previous stop. Lastly is junior-college transfer Kadeem Allen, who redshirted last season. He was the NJCAA Division I Player of the Year in 2014 and should be ready to contribute in a major way this season.

Who to Watch:
Because Arizona played nine players most games last season and had steady contributions from as many as seven men each night, the loss of its top four is easier to stomach. The replacement pieces will be important, but the Wildcats also have five talented returnees ready to step up. Guards Gabe York and Elliot Pitts are outside threats. 7-foot centers Kaleb Tarczewski and Dusan Ristic can be game-changers in the paint. The most interesting piece, though, may be 5-9 sophomore point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. He didn’t play a ton of minutes last year but still managed to finish second on the team in assists per game. Replacing McConnell will be a huge ask of the diminutive PJC, but he has the heart and toughness to became a leader on this team.

Final Projection:
Arizona was amazing both offensively and defensively last year. With so much turnover, both its strengths and weaknesses are bound to change. Out are a couple of the better wing athletes in the country in Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson. Perhaps Arizona will shift to more interior play now that it has three viable centers to rotate in and out. Out is one of the best point guards in the country in McConnell. Maybe the Wildcats will use more wings and fewer standard lineups this year. Even after the injury to Smith, there are feasibly 11 guys deserving of major minutes this season. That won’t happen, so it will fall on Miller to determine the best use of his assets to get this team back to where it was a season ago.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Sophomore, Guard, 2.9 points per game
Gabe York, Senior, Guard, 9.2 points per game
Allonzo Trier, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Ryan Anderson, Senior, Forward, DNP last season
Kaleb Tarczewski, Senior, Center, 9.3 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 76.6 (20th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 59.7 (18, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.8 (5, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.8 (43, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.1 (291, 12)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.0 (92, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.9 (82, 4)
Rebound Margin: 8.8 (2, 1)
Assists Per Game: 13.9 (81, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.0 (43, 2)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#35 Kaleb Tarczewski

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#18 Ray Smith
#32 Justin Simon
#49 Chance Comanche


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