Arizona basketball does the lineup shuffle
Arizona has depth. That’s been the theme in the early going.
Head coach Sean Miller just hasn’t been very open about his intentions for the rotation this season.
Against Charleston Southern, Miller started Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski, which was not surprising, considering Tarczewski is a legitimate 7-footer and Jerrett has been called one of the team’s best shooters despite being a freshman and a power forward.
Against UTEP tonight at 8 in McKale Center, Arizona fans can expect to see another myriad of lineups.
We know Arizona’s (1-0) sixth man will be Kevin Parrom, in the same role he starred in as a sophomore when he shot 50.8 percent compared to No. 2 overall draft pick Derrick Williams’ 59.5 percent.
But where does that leave freshmen Brandon Ashley and Gabe York, sophomore Angelo Chol and junior guard Jordin Mayes?
In Sunday’s win over Charleston Southern, Miller used York and Chol sparingly, as the two combined for 15 total minutes in the game. Lyons, Johnson and Hill played the most minutes at 30 apiece.
Mayes, however, was the surprise of the evening. He scored 10 quick points at the end of the first half, securing a four-point Wildcat lead at the intermission.
“Us being up four points at the half was a big function of his overall play,” Miller said.
Charleston Southern used a matchup zone, forcing the Wildcats to shoot 32 3-pointers and negating the Wildcats’ big men. The Buccaneers’ one player taller than 6-foot-8 wasn’t even a starter.
“We were forced to take a lot of jumpers,” Johnson said after the game. “When you have four guys that are 6-foot-9 and above, and they can all play, you’re definitely going to game plan for that. We just have to be prepared for it.”
Arizona had the size, but Miller chose to play with a smaller lineup akin to last season’s, with Ashley at center and Hill at power forward as a way to even the playing field with Charleston Southern’s speedy guards.
“We would have potentially, especially on defense, been ready for a more conventional team,” Miller said. “A bigger team that has post players, because that’s kind of who we are now.”
It also means that Miller and the Arizona coaching staff have almost an unlimited amount of lineups and styles they can choose, based on what happens in the game.
“You can potentially put a starting lineup out there with four guys over 6-foot-6,” Johnson said. “That speaks for itself. We’re going to have mismatches every single game down low, so we have to keep giving the ball to them.”
Unlike Charleston Southern, UTEP’s size is similar to Arizona’s, with three players 6-foot-10 or taller. Miller figures that the Miners will use a plan similar to Charleston Southern’s in order to throw off Arizona’s young and inexperienced big men.
“UTEP is every bit as good as Charleston Southern, maybe better,” Miller said. “They play a different style and that’s what starts to happen early. One style does not mirror the next. It’s so much about us being good at what we do.”