Considering Arizona basketball lineup recipes
Something needs to change. In Tucson, 21-4 isn’t enough.
Who would have thought that an 83.3 winning percentage and a No. 12 ranking would necessitate a lineup change? After the Colorado loss on Thursday, which was perhaps Arizona’s worst game of the season, that was the widespread reaction.
Arizona fans often delve into extremes, saying the Wildcats stink.
I even saw one Facebook status that read, “Mark my words, the Wildcats will be upset by a 14 seed in the NCAA tourney this year.”
That’s a direct quote.
It’s time for an exercise in relaxation. Breathe in slowly … count to three … breathe out. Relax, everything is going to be OK.
Now, some of the concerns are warranted and well-documented.
First and foremost, the Wildcats’ slow starts to games, and halves, have been an issue.
Head coach Sean Miller took the steps to rectify that situation by inserting sixth man Kevin Parrom into the starting lineup against Utah, relegating freshman forward Brandon Ashley to reserve duty.
It worked, albeit against a mediocre Utah squad. Ashley had 10 points and four rebounds off the bench, Parrom nine points and nine rebounds as the starter and the Wildcats were solid to open each half (9-7 lead in the first, 8-3 in the second) and won by four points, improving to 21-4.
Miller told reporters after the game that Parrom would likely remain in the lineup for the foreseeable future.
Are more changes on the horizon? Maybe, maybe not.
But Miller has four big men at his disposal and five ways he can use them.
Put all the (offensive) eggs in one basket
Lineup: Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson, Kevin Parrom, Solomon Hill, Kaleb Tarczewski
This is the likely rotation from here on out, and Parrom is in it because of the energy and scoring punch he brings. The idea behind this lineup is to prevent falling into big holes to start out, like 10-0 (Stanford), 16-5 (Washington) and 19-3 (UCLA). Hill starting at the four isn’t ideal, but this is probably Arizona’s most offensively prolific lineup.
The usual suspects
Lineup: Lyons, Johnson, Hill, Ashley, Tarczewski
Arizona went 18-3 with this cast of characters (Grant Jerrett and Parrom started instead of Ashley in four games). It was pretty efficient until Pac-12 play came around and Ashley’s production fell off. He had a 56.1 field goal percentage before conference, and 49.3 since.
Coming off the bench gave Ashley his most efficient game in weeks, so maybe the UA is better off that way.
Burst of energy
Lineup: Either Lyons, Johnson, Parrom, Hill, and Angelo Chol or Lyons, Johnson, Hill, Ashley, Chol
Chol rode the bench for most of the season, but his playing time has increased, as has the usage of annoying puns on his name (“Chol toll” for example).
He was the key to the Stanford win, and efficient in the Colorado loss. He’s high-energy, which is something Arizona often lacks at the beginning of games, and he can block shots.
I’m just not sure how Tarczewski would do coming off the bench; it already takes him long enough to get in a groove and Miller doesn’t seem too keen on putting him in. Chol starting seems to be the popular fan choice.
Lineup: Lyons, Johnson, Hill, Jerrett, Tarczewski
Jerrett on offense has left much to be desired — he hasn’t scored 10 points since Jan. 3 — but he might be the best all-around talent of the Wildcats quartet of bigs. He’s 5-of-8 from three in the last four games, plus he’s a solid shot-blocker, rebounder and defender thanks to his 7-foot-2 wingspan. He started the first two games of the season (both wins). But he’s not consistent enough to start and the Wildcats can’t afford to start with two inconsistencies (Tarczewski being the other) in one lineup.
Lineup: Lyons, Johnson, Hill, Chol, Tarczewski
This would never happen, but it’s fun to think about nonetheless.
Arizona’s interior defense would be solid, and Chol is probably athletic enough to defend the stretch fours of the world (UCLA’s Travis Wear, for example).
But, Chol and Tarczewski are limited offensively, and this leaves some of Arizona’s best offensive firepower (Ashley, Jerrett, Parrom) on the bench. And Tarczewski only plays 21.1 minutes per game, and often less than 20. Chol hasn’t proven yet he can play for an extensive amount of time.