Coming into last season, head coach Sean Miller had one of his best recruiting classes in his 12 years at Arizona. That 2019-20 season, however, did not go as planned.
Having two five-star recruits and another four-star prospect raised the expectations beyond the team's ceiling. When Josh Green and Nico Mannion committed to the University of Arizona, Wildcat fans had Final Four expectations. Arizona went 1-4 against ranked teams and blew several leads along the way. They finished fifth in the Pac-12 regular season standings. Then, after only playing two games in Las Vegas for the postseason tournament, the entire Pac-12 and NCAA March Madness tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After getting a lot of late recruits in the past few months, the direction of the men’s basketball program has shifted once again. There isn’t exactly one standout player in this recruiting class, but with having five four-star players, the Wildcats will be focused on development and growing everyone’s games. Arizona’s 2020 recruiting class ranks best in the Pac-12 and fifth overall in the country according to 247Sports. They have six players coming from Europe, and without knowing when the season will start this year, it could stunt the early transition and growth of young foreign players.
About two weeks ago, former Arizona guard, Brandon Williams, decided to leave Tucson to pursue a future at the pro level. After playing 26 games in his freshman season while averaging over 11 points per game, people had big expectations for his career at Arizona. Injuries, however, forced Williams to miss significant time and ultimately derailed his career in Tucson. After Miller lost his top two guards this off-season, Williams was expected to take on a bigger role in his first season healthy after being hurt for over a year.
Moving forward, let’s take a look at the projected 2020-21 Arizona men’s basketball rotation for the upcoming season.
PG - Jamarl Baker Jr.
SG - Kerr Kriisa
SF - Dalen Terry
PF - Azuolas Tubelis
C - Christian Koloko
PG - James Akinjo
SG - Terrell Brown Jr.
SF - Bennedict Mathurin
PF - Ira Lee
C - Daniel Batcho
With only three returning faces in their rotation, Miller is focusing on the future of this program. The main goals should be to develop chemistry with this talented group of players while trying to make a Final Four run in the two to three years.
Starting the three-guard trio of Baker, Krissa and Terry could be a defensive nightmare for opposing teams due to their passing skills and their ability to create their own shots in the half court offense.
Arizona has a very versatile group that can play big or small while still being able to provide high-level scoring and defense on the floor.
A potential wildcard and breakout player of the year player could be Kerr Kriisa, who is considered the best international prospect in the country. In the Lithuanian NKL last season, Kriisa averaged 14.8 points and 6.0 assists while playing only 25 minutes a night. He also shot 39% from three-point range, which is above the NCAA average of 37.7%.
Expect this young team to have some ups and downs this season while still competing for the Pac-12 title.
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