Arizona won the Pac-12 for the third time in four years. Great season? Not so great.
The conference was terrible and the Wildcats went out in the first round of the NCAA tournament. And they were involved in the FBI investigation and lost several recruits. About as bad a season as a conference champion can have.
And they did all this with a player who could be the overall #1 selection in the NBA draft.
You might think that a team that loses it's entire starting lineup and almost all of its recruiting class would be in terrible shape the following season. However, they are not.
As you will see, the more I have studied this roster, the more I have raised my estimate of Arizona's outlook.
Minutes Points Rebounds Assists
Parker Jackson-Cartwright 32 8 2 5
Dusan Ristic 27 12 7 1
Keanu Pinder 10 2 2 0
This is the smaller part of what they lost, although PJC is their assist leader.
IN THE DRAFT
Minutes Points Rebounds Assists
Deandre Ayton 34 20 11 2
Rawle Alkins 32 13 5 3
Alonzo Trier 34 18 3 3
They have lost their starting lineup. That included all 5 leading scorers, their top 4 in assists, and their top 5 rebounders. They are almost rebuilding from the ground up.
Ryan Luther is a 6'9" grad transfer (3-star) coming from Pitt. He scored 13 points with 3 assists, but he was a rebounding machine with 10 per game on a terrible Pitt team.
Justin Coleman is another grad transfer, who played 2 years at Alabama coming off the bench. He was a 4-star, Top 100 out of HS. Then he transferred to Samford for a year, and now he is going to Arizona.
Coleman is a 5'10" PG who was another 4-star, top 100 player coming out of HS. At Samford he averaged 14 points and 7 assists in 25 minutes. He seems like he will backup Brandon Williams at PG.
Albany grad transfer Joe Cremo is coming to the Wildcats. Unfortunately for Arizona, it is the Villanova Wildcats. Arizona really wanted him.
They also went after grad transfer Matt Mooney of South Dakota, but he is going to Texas Tech.
They are still recruiting center Bryson Williams of Fresno as a transfer, but he would have to sit out a year.
Minutes Points Boards Assists
Dylan Smaith 15 4 2 1 Jr 3-star 185
Brandon Randolph 11 4 1 0 So 4-star 35
Alex Barcello 10 2 1 1 So 4-star 83
Ira Lee 10 2 2 0 So 4-star 60
Emannuel Akot 10 1 1 1 So 5-star 42
That's not much production, but with the talent playing ahead of them, these guys were meant to be role players last season. Now they need to play a much larger role.
However, they are good prospects, being mostly 4 and 5-star recruits out of high school.
Dylan Smith was a transfer from UNC-Ashville.
The biggest problem is the lack of size. The only size on the roster will be 5-star Chase Jeter coming off his transfer year and Ryan Luther.
There is also the question of a point guard. Brandon Williams will probably start, but he is more of a score-first player. Or will transfer Justin Coleman start?
RECRUITS (#21 class, #5 in Pac-12)
Brandon Williams 4-star 32 PG Kansas, UCLA, Oregon, Gonzaga
Devonaire Doutrive 4-star 68 SG ASU, Georgetown, UNLV
Omar Thielemans 4-star 113 SF Stanford, Colorado St, Drake, Maine
Given the chaos this season, getting three 4-star players is pretty good recruiting for Miller. However, based on the offer lists, it doesn't seem like all 4-stars are created equal.
Omar Thielemans is from Belgium and has flown under the radar. It is not clear whether he is a hidden gem or a project.
Chase Jeter, a 6' 10" forward, transferred last year from Duke, and will be eligible after sitting out. In his second season at Duke, he averaged 15 minutes, 3 points, 1 block, and 3 boards. He was a 5-star, ranked #15 coming out of high school.
Arizona lost their entire starting lineup, including 3 players going pro early. Most of their incoming recruiting class decommitted. You might expect them to have a decimated roster. You would not expect them to have the most Top 100 players in the Conference. But they do.
They return 5 players who saw action and 4 are Top 100 out of HS. They have a recruiting class of 3, all of whom are Top 100. And they have 4 transfers who are eligible this year, with three of them Top 100.
That is TEN (yes TEN) Top 100 players. That is the best in the country and a number only Kentucky or Duke can hope to match.
With 5 returning players and 4 transfers, they have 9 players with plenty of college playing experience. They just have to all learn to play together.
It is almost as if Sean Miller and Dana Altman have traded rosters. Altman has been putting his teams together by blending in a bunch of talented transfers every season. Miller built his teams by bringing in a top freshman class every year.
But talent is talent and experienced talent is better. This roster doesn't have the star power of a typical Sean Miller team, but they are sneaky good.
They have a good chance to win the Pac-12, and I will want to vomit when all the "experts" rave about the great coaching job Sean Miller did.
The low expectations game has already begun. Jon Wilner, who usually gets it right picks them 5th and writes, "The í19 Wildcats might do more with what they have than any Arizona team in years. Chemistry and urgency are often easier to muster when expectations are low, and they havenít been this low in Tucson since the early Miller era."
For all of us rooting for Arizona to collapse into a desert wasteland, we are likely to be disappointed. They have way too much talent. But there is still hope. The FBI isn't done investigating.
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