The Arizona Wildcats (30-8, 14-4 Pac-10) had a resurgent season under second-year head coach Sean Miller. After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 24 seasons, the Wildcats rebounded to an Elite Eight appearance in 2010-2011. After a brief flirtation with the University of Maryland, Miller chose to remain in Tucson.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, leading scorer Derrick Williams did not make
the same decision, leaving school to become the second pick in the NBA Draft
(enjoy the winning atmosphere in Minneapolis, Derrick). Starting point guard
MoMo Jones has also decided to transfer.
According to NCAA Basketball odds available
at 5dimes, the Arizona Wildcats are
a 40/1 futures play to cut down the nets in April. Is ‘Zona, minus its
superstar, worthy of a shot at a big payout?
The top returning scorer
for the Wildcats is senior guard Kyle Fogg (8.1 ppg, 2.4 apg). Fogg’s shot
suffered during his junior season, as he only hit 37% from the field. Despite
his shooting woes, he led the team in three-pointers made with 50. Fogg is
known as a hard-nosed defensive player, and he will need to improve on both
ends of the court if Arizona is to repeat it’s 2010-2011 success.
Sophomore Jordin Mayes (4.9
ppg, 1.2 rpg) will be a contender to take over at the point. He picked up his
game during Arizona’s tournament run, scoring 7.9 ppg. He showed flashes of
potential during his freshman year, but it remains to be seen whether he can
run the club as the starter.
Senior Brenden Lavender
(3.6 ppg) is a hard-working bench player who specializes in the trey (Miller
actually says that he is the best shooter on the team). He will play a slightly
larger role next season.
ESPU 100 guards Josiah
Turner (Quality Education Academy, NC) and Nick Johnson (Findlay Prep, AZ) are
likely to have an immediate impact on the team. Turner is considered one of the
top natural point guards in this year’s class, and it would not be a surprise
to see him in the starting lineup by the middle of the season. Johnson is a
excellent shooter and strong defender. Expect both players to have a major
impact in the West over the next few seasons.
Two starters return in the
frontcourt, junior Solomon Hill (8.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and senior Jesse Perry (6.6
ppg, 4.4 rpg). Hill is the only Wildcat back who started each game in
2010-2011. He is a strong defender and rebounder (10 boards vs. UConn in the
Elite Eight) with an improving offensive game. Perry has nice range on his
shot, and will get a chance to showcase his talent in 2011-2012 due to the
absence of Williams.
Guard-forward Kevin Parrom
(7.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg) will be called upon to help on the inside. He shot 51% from
the floor last season, and has the ability to score from anywhere on the court.
Parrom can defend any position on the floor, making him an invaluable bench
Miller also added two ESPNU
100 power forwards to his roster in Angelo Choi (Herbert Hoover HS, CA) and
Sidiki Johnson (Wadleigh HS, NY). Choi is a lefty who rebounds well and can hit
a mid-range jumper to complement his inside game. Johnson is a strong finisher,
but he is a bit less-polished than Choi. Both recruits, however, are likely to
see immediate playing time, and I would expect both to make an impact on the
Sean Miller often gets
overlooked when listing the top young coaches in America, but he definitely
belongs on that list. It took a season for him to get the Arizona house back in
order after Lute Olson left a bit of a mess. He is now pulling in fantastic
recruiting classes on a yearly basis. He will keep the Wildcats competitive in
Arizona is a lock to make
the NCAA Tournament next season. This does, though, feel like a little bit of a
“between” year. 2011-2012 will be the season when Turner, Nick Johnson, Sidiki
Johnson, and Choi emerge and learn their craft. Look for those players to do
something special when Miller’s 2012 recruiting class joins the party in
This is a learning year.
Look for the ‘Cats to finish at or near the top the Pac-12 and make the second
weekend of the NCAA Tournament. I would not recommend NCAA Basketball bettors to place a futures wager on them
(2012 could be a different story, though).