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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Do the Cats need their bench?

    Junior guard Daniel Dillon leads the bench in minutes played with 11.4 per game
    Junior guard Daniel Dillon leads the bench in minutes played with 11.4 per game

    PRO: Use of bench may prevent early exit in tourney

    You know the talk that’s been made at the beginning of each of the last two years about the astounding depth Arizona will have? When J.P. Prince (since transferred), Mohamed Tangara and Fendi Onobun are all fighting for significant minutes, and some fans think Arizona can mimic the Rick Pitino Kentucky teams of the 1990s.

    But by the time Pacific 10 Conference play starts, UA head coach Lute Olson cuts his rotation down to eight or nine.

    This year the bench well is, well, particularly dry.

    Mustafa Shakur has played 34.8 minutes per game and no one in the starting lineup averages fewer than 30 minutes per game. Marcus Williams is the low man of the group, but that’s only because of his foul trouble in several games.

    Sure, Shakur and company played more minutes per game in high school and on the AAU circuit, but they didn’t have to face the kind of competition top-five college programs bring to the table in the NCAATournament.

    Look at the Associated Press top five.

    No. 1 North Carolina practically makes hockey line changes; No. 2 Florida had nine players in double-digit minutes in its last game; No. 3 Wisconsin threw four big men at Greg Oden in its win over Ohio State; No. 4 UCLA has plenty of firepower to complement Luc Richard Mbah A Moute and Arron Afflalo; and No. 5 Ohio State’s leading scorer comes off the bench.

    No one in the starting lineup will ever so much as peep out a complaint about playing fewer minutes, for obvious reasons, but at the end of the year, their bodies will disagree.

    Jawann McClellan is playing the role of Luke Walton this year in terms of his injury status, practicing off and on and playing with soreness.

    McClellan’s body would benefit from a break come March, but as of right now, Olson has yet to find a dependable bench player.

    Jordan Hill and Nic Wise often get the quick hook, and Daniel Dillon, as noted, is playing under 12 minutes per game.

    Of course, you want your best five players on the floor in crunch time, but when you have 30 games under your belt, you want your best five players to be fresh in the crucial moment.

    And if they’re not, that jump shot to win the game just might fall short.

    -Roman Veytsman

    CON: Lack of bench play is no big deal

    There’s no question that in an ideal world the Arizona men’s basketball team would be deeper.

    But of course we don’t live in an ideal world, so you’ve got to play to your strengths.

    What the Wildcats do have is a starting five to rival any in the nation – and that includes the heralded quintet defending champion and No. 2 Florida trots out.

    Besides, come tournament time it’s who’s playing – not who’s waving the towel – that really matters.

    Who would you rather UA head coach Lute Olson have on the court when it matters most: the starting five of Ivan Radenovic, Marcus Williams, Chase Budinger, Mustafa Shakur and Jawann McClellan, or young reserves such as Nic Wise, Fendi Onobun and Mohamed Tangara?

    That’s not a tough question.

    As it stands, guard Daniel Dillon gives the squad 11.4 minutes per game of tough defense, and forward Jordan Hill is growing into his role as a dependable reserve inside.

    But beyond that, after a lineup of bench players let a 24-point UA lead over California slip to nine in 3:30 on Dec. 28, Olson said he didn’t plan on ever playing more than two or three reserves at a time unless the game is well in hand.

    With the way he forgot about his bench Jan. 4 against Washington, playing them a whopping total of 13 minutes including just one in the second half, it’s clear Olson will only play who he trusts most in tough games, particularly in those away from McKale Center and certainly come tournament time.

    Also, don’t be too concerned with how many minutes the starters are playing. These guys played more during high school AAU tournaments.

    Although the starters average 32.5 minutes per game, the Wildcats play just two games every week, whereas many pro starters average more minutes and play a few more games every week and a much longer season.

    If nothing else, why not trust the man with 773 career wins?

    “”However many minutes they’re playing a game is not a problem,”” Olson said.

    -Michael Schwartz

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