#4 Arizona Men's Basketball 2013-2014 Preview

Arizona Wildcats

2013-2014 Overall Rank: #4
Conference Rank: #1 Pac-12

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The Pac-12 has not been an elite basketball conference for a number of years now. However, one of its historic greats, the Arizona Wildcats, should be back in the Final Four hunt this season after failing to live up to high expectations in years past. While this Wildcats team should be really good and make waves come tournament time, it may make the race for the Pac-12 title pretty boring, especially with the uneasiness surrounding UCLA and questionable upsides of the likes of Oregon and Colorado. The conference is Arizona's to lose.

2012-13 Record: 27-8, 12-6
2012-13 Postseason: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
Coach: Sean Miller
Coach Record: 96-43 at Arizona, 216-90 overall

Who’s Out:
Last year, the Wildcats were a very good offensive team. The job for Coach Sean Miller will be to replace a number of those offensive options. Four players played at least 800 minutes last year. Three of those men were seniors and are now gone. Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom accounted for over 50% of the Wildcats' scoring in 2012-2013. Lyons, although not terribly efficient, was the team's number one option. After transferring from Xavier, he finished out his fine career by averaging over 15 points per game as a Wildcat. Hill, who was selected in the first round of the '13 NBA Draft, was the team's leader. With 130 career starts, Hill was a factor and a force for four years at Arizona. Along with the productive Parrom, Grant Jerrett is also gone. The freshman Jerrett decided to enter the NBA draft after just one, up and down season. While he personally could have used more seasoning, the team could have also used his talents this coming season.

Who’s In:
Nevertheless, the team moves on. With four main contributors gone from a team that only rotated 7-7.5 guys, you would expect the team to be in rebuilding mode, trying to recover from the mass exodus. That is no where close to the case here in Arizona. First, the returning players are exceptional. Guard Nick Johnson may have been the team's steadiest player last season. And the two returning sophomore big men, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski, both had tremendously effective freshman seasons. Tarczewski especially had an awesome rookie year at center, as the seven footer started all 35 games. But to buoy an already good returning class, Sean Miller brought in some high powered recruits. Incoming freshmen forwards Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon will look to be contributors right away, as the freshmen were last season. Coach Miller also managed to nab Duquesne transfer guard TJ McConnell, who should be a viable option at the point from day one.

Who to Watch:
With all the love surrounding Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle as the top incoming freshmen in the country and possible top NBA draft picks in 2014, lots of folks are sleeping on Aaron Gordon. While Hollis-Jefferson should be a good recruit for Arizona, Gordon is the prize of this class. The five-star power forward out of San Jose is already being compared to Blake Griffin. Scouting reports call him relentless in the paint and a terror on the glass. He has amazing ups and athleticism. While this Arizona roster is good, Gordon is the one who could put them over the top and into elite status. He is the player on this team with that upside, even as a freshman.

Final Projection:
The down Pac-12 makes the journey for the conference crown rather uninteresting. Arizona should win the regular season title rather easily. The hopes for this team rest in March though, where fans will have a Final Four or Bust mentality. With great incoming freshmen teamed with great returning sophomores, the Wildcats are very young and very talented. The junior guards, Johnson and McConnell, will be the veterans on this squad tabbed with being the leaders. If there is one flaw on the roster it may be lack of depth after the starting five where Jordin Mayes sits as the only man with much game experience coming off the bench.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
TJ McConnell, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Nick Johnson, Junior, Guard, 11.5 points per game
Aaron Gordon, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Brandon Ashley, Sophomore, Forward, 7.5 points per game
Kaleb Tarczewski, Sophomore, Center, 6.6 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 73.4 (42nd in nation, 2nd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.6 (99, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.5 (63, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.1 (93, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.7 (43, 1)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.1 (50, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 74.9 (22, 2)
Rebound Margin: 6.3 (19, 1)
Assists Per Game: 13.6 (115, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.1 (162, 7)

Madness 2014 NBA Draft Rankings:
#15 Kaleb Tarczewski
#74 Aaron Gordon
#83 Brandon Ashley
#98 Nick Johnson
#101 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Madness 2013 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#3 Aaron Gordon
#14 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
#127 Elliott Pitts


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