Pro/Con: Where should Arizona basketball be ranked preseason?
With the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country coming in, expectations are high for the men’s basketball team. Will the Wildcats live up to them?
Junior forward Solomon Hill attempts a layup in the second half of the Arizona Wildcats’ 64-63 road loss to the Colorado Buffaloes. Hill had 10 total points and two blocks in the game.
Kentucky just won the NCAA championship with a roster made up primarily of freshmen from a No. 1-ranked recruiting class, headed by Player of the Year Anthony Davis.
Arizona struggled this past season, failing to make the NCAA tournament, but the fact that Kentucky was able to win it all with primarily underclassmen has Arizona fans excited for next year and its top-notch recruiting class coming in. ESPN’s Andy Katz has Arizona ranked at No. 12 in his way-too-early 2012-13 preseason rankings.
Considering last year’s undeserved preseason No. 16 ranking, many might point to this as another case of overhype.
Not so fast. With the uber-talented recruiting class of Gabe York, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona will have talent for days.
The Wildcats were forced to play an undersized, 6-foot-7 Jesse Perry at center last year. In Jerrett, Tarczewski, Ashley and sophomore Angelo Chol, the Wildcats have four players who are taller than Perry and expected to be in the rotation.
Placing such high expectations on freshmen doesn’t always prove fruitful. But the development of Chol, the expected progression of Nick Johnson , the return of Arizona’s best player in Solomon Hill and a healthy Kevin Parrom will provide the Wildcats with depth they haven’t seen in quite a while.
Josiah Turner is the biggest question mark. After being suspended indefinitely before the Pac-12 tournament, many have questioned whether or not he will return to the program.
If Turner returns, his rough freshman year will be a thing of the past, and with all of the weapons around him, he has the ability to become the true point guard the city of Tucson thought it was getting last season.
If Turner does not return, Arizona should still be able to weather the storm. Head coach Sean Miller is expected to add at least one more recruit, and with a healthy Jordin Mayes and Johnson’s ability to play point guard, the Wildcats would still be a contender in the Pac-12.
With Turner in tow, and playing the way he is capable of, Katz’s No. 12 ranking will be an accurate one. Even without him, Arizona will still be a favorite in the Pac-12.
Based on talent alone, Arizona is a top-10 team in the country next season.
Nick Johnson, Josiah Turner (pending his return), Angelo Chol, Brandon Ashley, Gabe York, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski make up one of the most gifted groups of underclassmen in the entire NCAA.
Combine that young talent with the veteran leadership of Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom and the coaching prowess of Sean Miller and the Wildcats could own the Pac-12 and get back to the Big Dance.
But as this past season proved, talent doesn’t always translate into victories. So with that said, Arizona in no way should be considered the No. 12 team in the country heading into next season, as ESPN writer Andy Katz predicted on Tuesday.
There are simply far too many uncertainties surrounding next year’s team to place it among the elite squads in the country.
First and foremost, will Turner get his act together after a disappointing freshman season? Will he even be at Arizona next season?
If Turner can’t follow Miller’s requests or opts to leave Arizona, the Wildcats will be without a true point guard.
Johnson and York can play a little point, and Jordin Mayes is well versed at the position, but none of those three are true, pass-first point guards.
Arizona is making a run at Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell, but even if he chooses the UA over Virginia he’ll have to sit out a year due to transfer rules.
Name the last No. 12-ranked team that didn’t have a floor general.
You can cut your Wikipedia rampage short — that team doesn’t exist.
And the Turner situation is only one of several uncertainties surrounding next year’s team.
Can Parrom stay healthy? Will Johnson and Chol be able to make the leap from serviceable freshmen to elite Pac-12 starters? Will Arizona’s fab four develop fast enough to contribute early and often?
Although not as highly touted as the 2012 class, Arizona’s 2011 recruiting class proved what happens when you place massive expectations on four 18-year-old kids.
Arizona will be good. Miller finally has a team full of his recruits, and the Wildcats will make the NCAA tournament with at least two of UA’s four freshmen living up to the hype. But all of that most certainly doesn’t add up to a No. 12 ranking, especially before these kids have even stepped foot on the floor of McKale Center.
Proceed with caution before calling the 2012-13 Wildcats elite.