Fight or flight
Arizona men's basketball's offensive production has been off the charts. Can it continue at the current pace?
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Whether the Lorenzo Romar effect is ahead of schedule or Sean Miller had a change of heart in coaching philosophy, one thing is certain: Arizona is playing a style of basketball equivalent to the air raid offenses of college football that is a far cry from the typical Sean Miller teams of recent memory.
Through the first two games of the 2017-18 season, Arizona has scored over 100 points in each contest and has made an average of 60.3 percent of its field goals. The Wildcats have also hit 20 of their 41 3-point attempts, or a 46 percent clip.
“I don’t know if I’ve coached a team that had more (field goals),” Miller said after Arizona hit 39 of them in the win against UMBC. “That’s a lot of made field goals… I believe that we have a lot of talent on offense and can go both inside and outside.”
Prior to this year, Sean Miller teams at Arizona have only eclipsed triple-digit scoring just six times in eight years. The ‘Cats have already done it twice this year and the season is only 80 minutes young.
Add in the fact that sophomore guard Rawle Alkins hasn’t even touched the floor due to his recovery from a broken foot and freshman guard Brandon Randolph only played four minutes against UMBC as he worked his way back from a concussion, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Arizona score over the century mark multiple times again this season.
Even more, senior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright says he expects Arizona’s quick style of offense to continue throughout the year.
“Coach wants us to play fast,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “On makes and misses we try to get out and not shoot fast and take bad shots, but getting up fast and getting a good shot.”
Jackson-Cartwright, who operated Miller’s methodical offense the last three seasons, seems to be enjoying the new run n’ gun style so far.
“It’s unexplainable, really,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “Just so many weapons on the wings and in the post. I just try to get the ball out as fast as I can and find people.”
With such a talented core led by a National Player of the Year candidate in Allonzo Trier and a possible No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton, Arizona’s offense is going to be its biggest strength. But Sean Miller teams are invested in defense and Miller knows that in order to be the complete team he hopes for, that defensive prowess must comeback in some form.
“In some regards, a couple of our players that will eventually emerge, are going to be those that are going to hang their hat on defense,” Miller said. “Because we need more of those types of guys right now. We need more balance.”
Still, it’s been a marvel to watch Arizona score in the blink of an eye during the first two games.
Who knows, maybe it’s history repeating itself? Lute Olson eventually changed his philosophy to a fast-break, three-guard lineup to win the 1997 National Championship, after his previous defensively reliant teams couldn’t break through. Maybe Miller is going through a similar phase.
March is a long ways away, though. Until then, it’s probably best to sit back and watch the fireworks.
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