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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


3 Ways the UA will not get back to the Elite Eight

Kyle Hansen

Arizona men’s basketball guard Gabe York shoots a 3-pointer while UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton (10) plays defense during Arizona’s 57-47 victory over UCLA on Feb. 21 in McKale Center. York and the Wildcats have a chance to make the Elite Eight for a third straight year next season.

The defense rests

For the last two seasons, one thing has been synonymous with Arizona even more than dry heat or pretty women: defense.

It’s no coincidence that the Wildcats made it to back-to-back Elite Eights for the second time in school history when they had the kind of lockdown defense coach Sean Miller craves.

However, the Wildcats lost two NBA Draft picks last year who played stout defense and will likely lose all five starters this season.

How can you replace defensemen like forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, point guard T.J. McConnell, forward Brandon Ashley, center Kaleb Tarczweski or forward Stanley Johnson?

Freshmen fail

To replace the expected lost five starters, Arizona reloads with three four-star recruits and a five-star guy, the second-best recruiting class in the country going into the McDonald’s All-American game.

The thinking is Allonzo Trier will be the next superstar, one-and-done player for the Wildcats, and four-star guys will fill in at the one, the four and the five.

However, recruiting is far from an exact science; what if they fail?

Like the Alamo, Arizona fans remember busts such as Grant Jerrett (five stars), Josiah Turner (five) and Sidiki Johnson (four).

Recruiting analysts are about as successful as meteorologists.

Mr. Irreplaceable

Arizona’s known as Point Guard U, but before McConnell renewed the school’s accreditation, there were some lean years.

What if he doesn’t get replaced well enough?

Arizona’s options are a petite sophomore who hardly played this season (Parker Jackson-Cartwright), a freshman (Justin Simon), a combo guard who redshirted this year (Kadeem Allen) and a shooting guard (Gabe York).

McConnell personified Miller’s toughness and fight on the court and put a major dent in the record book in two seasons.

His assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and steals this year — and his career assists — were historic.

McConnell’s irreplaceable.


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

Recruits run rampant

It’s widely speculated Arizona will lose its entire starting five from this year. That’s a whole lot of lost production. Luckily for Arizona, coach Sean Miller has yet again put together a top-flight recruiting class. The class consisting of five-star Allonzo Trier and four-stars Justin Simon, Ray Smith and Chance Comanche is rated No. 2 in the nation, according to ESPN, behind the Kentucky Wildcats. Big contributions from each of the four recruits would go a long way to Arizona continuing its success from the last couple seasons.

Different in a good way

There’s no doubt next season’s Arizona team will look completely different from this season’s. A dominant front court was the Wildcats’ calling card throughout this season and often the difference when teams matched up against Arizona. With the starting frontcourt all expected to leave, Miller will have no choice but to send out a different type of team. Where shooting was an area of concern for Arizona over the past couple years, guards such as Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Gabe York, Elliott Pitts, Trier, Kadeem Allen and Simon give the Wildcats plenty of threats from deep. Don’t be surprised to see Miller trot out three or four guard lineups at times.

Miller further develops his coaching style

Everyone knows Miller can coach defense. Where he struggles is in half-court offensive sets. Far too often, the Wildcats struggle to get good shots and instead rely on talented players to get open on their own. Guys such as T.J. McConnell, Stanley Johnson and Brandon Ashley were classic examples of players who could do just that. It’s certainly a luxury to have players that can do that, but it’s not always the greatest form of offense. Just look at Wisconsin, which has talented individual players but is predicated on a system more than anything. Miller would do well to do the same.


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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