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Arizona Wildcats (Last Year: 23-12, 12-6 in Pac-12)
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Kaleb Tarczewski (Fr)/Angelo Chol (So)
PF: Grant Jarrett (Fr)/Brandon Ashley (Fr)/Matt Korcheck (Jr)
SF: Solomon Hill (Sr)/Kevin Parrom (Sr)
SG: Nick Johnson (So)/Gabe York (Fr)
PG: Mark Lyons (Sr)/Jordin Mayes (Jr)
Gone: PF-Jesse Perry, SG-Kyle Fogg, SG-Brendon Lavender, C-Alex Jacobson, PG-Josiah Turner (overseas) PF-Sidiki Johnson (transfer-Providence), C-Kyryl Natyazhko (overseas)
That key transfer is Xavier guard Mark Lyons, who is reunited with Miller since the coach recruited Lyons to originally become a Musketeer. Lyons primarily played off the ball alongside Tu Holloway during his three years at Xavier, but transitions into the role of floor general at Arizona, which will be a challenge since he is used to being more of a scorer than true distributor.
Sophomore Nick Johnson will flank Lyons in the backcourt. As most freshman do, Johnson had his shares of highs and lows. He is more than a capable shooter and has off-the-charts athleticism for someone his height (6-3.) Johnson can also run the point if Miller needs.
After showing great promise during his freshman campaign, Jordin Mayes regressed some as a sophomore, mainly because he really struggled shooting the rock. I don’t think Mayes is at all a true point guard, but will run the show for the second unit. Freshman Gabe York is another combo guard who can really light it up from distance and should see quality minutes off the bench.
Besides Lyons, Miller picked up another transfer point guard in Duquesne’s T.J. McConnell. He must sit out this season per NCAA rules, but figures to become the lead guard in 2013-14 when he will have two years of eligibility remaining.
One of the Wildcats’ biggest weaknesses last year was their lack of a true low post presence. That should change this year with the addition of three top-10-caliber bigs. Seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski is a pure center who hasn’t even scratched the surface as to how good he can become. He is a decent enough scorer to get points on the block and also runs the floor extremely well. Energetic Angelo Chol brings length and rebounding to the floor, but is still rather raw as an offensive player.
Highly touted freshmen Grant Jarrett and Brandon Ashley will compete for minutes at power forward. Jarrett seems to have the upper-hand in winning the starting job and has terrific athleticism to complement his broadening 6-10 frame. He and Tarczewski together offer a ton of length inside, which will make it difficult for opposing teams to score in the lane. Ashley has great athleticism as well but is probably more skilled as a scorer. He can get to the rim off the bounce and has a solid mid-range game to boot. 6-10 JUCO transfer Matt Korcheck adds even more size inside, though I can’t see him earning regular minutes unless there is an injury.
With the improved depth and talent up front, Solomon Hill will be able to return to his more natural small forward position. He is a tough matchup for defenders not only because he can overpower smaller opponents on the block, but that he can also stretch defenses with his outside shooting and use his quickness to take defenders off the bounce. Athletic wing Kevin Parrom adds more versatility off the bench as he looks to bounce back from an emotional junior year. He is at his best in transition, but can also shoot the three ball and guard a couple of different positions.
Miller has brought a ton of talent to Tuscon in the past two years. The level of success this season depends on two things: how much of an immediate impact the freshmen frontcourt of Tarczewski, Jarrett, and Ashley will make and how well Lyons operates as the true point guard. I think Arizona is a year away from being a true Final Four contender, although I wouldn’t rule it out if everything meshes.
Player to Watch: Solomon Hill, SF
With all the young and new talent for the Wildcats, Hill might go as the forgotten man. He had to shoulder quite a load last season but can relax a bit with so much talent around him. That should open up more opportunities and I think he is the one dependable piece for Miller.
Key Non-Conference Games:
Predicted Pac-12 Finish: 1st
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