Arizona Basketball: The Biggest Strength of Every Wildcat

cat strength

Casey Sapio-USA Today Sports

The No. 8 Arizona Wildcats (17-2, 5-2 Pac-12) are preparing to embark on their second conference road trip on Thursday as they travel to the Evergreen State to take on a pair of struggling teams.

The Washington Huskies were riding high at 4-0 in the Pac-12 after a resounding 10-point victory over the Colorado Buffaloes at home. Then the Utah Runnin’ Utes came to Seattle and took the wind out of their sails, beating them by nine. This led to a horrible road trip for the Huskies wherein they lost back-to-back games to the Oregon schools.

The Washington State Cougars have been struggling, as anticipated, in Pac-12 play. They are currently 2-5 in conference, with wins over Utah and Oregon State.

As the ‘Cats prepare for this road trip, let’s take a look at the good and bad of each player in Sean Miller’s rotation.

Since it is best to start with the good news first, here is the biggest strength of every Wildcat.

Mark Lyons

lyons UCLAMark Lyons is clutch.

Save for last Thursday night’s game against UCLA, he has been the go-to guy when needed. His poor performance in that game had nothing to do with the fact that he fouled out, but it didn’t help either.

He leads the Wildcats in scoring with 14.9 points per game as well as assists with 3.1 per game. Lyons is the man that the Wildcats trust—if and when they are trailing in the final minutes—and he pulls through.

When the game is close, one tends to look at how a team has shot from the charity stripe. In such games, a miss or two here and there can be the difference in the game. Lyons also leads the team in free throws and is No. 2 in the Pac-12.

Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill is a monster on the court for Coach Miller and the ‘Cats. He leads the team in minutes and is the “Iron Man” when it comes to crunch time.

His senior leadership is paramount and when he is up, the team is up; when he is struggling, so are the Wildcats.

Other than minutes per game, Hill doesn’t the lead the team in any category, but he is No. 2 or No. 3 in every category.

His leadership and strong overall play are his biggest contribution to this team.

Nick Johnson

Nick UCLANick Johnson is a quick defender that will burn you whenever he can. The team leader in steals plays at such a quick tempo that it’s difficult for many to keep up with him.

His 2.21 steals per game not only lead the Wildcats, but he also tops the conference and is No. 35 in the nation.

Johnson’s strong defensive play affords him the opportunity to be third on the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game and tied for second in assists with 2.7 per game.

Kevin Parrom

Although Kevin Parrom has only started one game, his presence has been felt in many ways in every game.

The senior swingman/sixth man provides the necessary spark coming off the bench. He is electric and motivates his team like no other.

Miller can trust Parrom to keep a good handle on the ball as he rarely commits turnovers, averaging only 1.1 per game. He also plays a smart game by keeping the fouls to a minimum with an average of less than two fouls per game.

His smart, consistent play is what makes Parrom a strong candidate for the NCAA sixth man of the year.

Brandon Ashley

ashleyBrandon Ashley is looking to be the top freshman of the vaunted 2012 recruiting class. Although projected one spot behind Grant Jerrett on the ESPN 100, Ashley has outperformed Jerrett.

His 111 total rebounds lead the team as well as his 84 defensive boards. He also gets back on offense with precision accuracy. He leads the team in field goal percentage, hitting 54 percent and has made every three-point shot he has attempted.

Ashley took over the starting power forward position from Jerrett after the first two games and has yet to relinquish it. His remarkable play at both ends of the court is a testament to his hard work and sharp eye.

Kaleb Tarczewski

The 7’0″ center rebounded nicely in Saturday’s game against the Trojans.

I am not just talking about the seven boards that he pulled down that afternoon, but also the 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting.

Tarczewski trails fellow freshman Ashley in rebounds and field goal percentage for second best on the team.

Where Zeus excels is keeping the ball in play for the Wildcats by pulling down a team-leading 46 offensive rebounds. The big man will only get better once he starts to build his confidence against the lesser teams in the conference over the next four games.

Grant Jerrett

jerrett uscThe highly touted freshman started the first two games for coach Sean Miller but struggled a little bit out of the gate. He was replaced by fellow frosh Brandon Ashley and has found his groove coming off the bench.

Averaging only 18.2 minutes per game, his defensive prowess is so much that he leads the team in total blocks with 16. He also averages over four rebounds per game and has 10 total steals.

His offensive output could improve but I see that happening as he gets more comfortable with Miller’s grand scheme.

Jordin Mayes

Jordin Mayes is a reliable backup point guard to Mark Lyons. He comes in off the bench and makes the most of his minutes.

The 6’3″ junior out of Los Angeles has seen his fair share of ups and downs with the Wildcats and has become stronger coming off the bench when necessary.

In the 13.1 minutes that he averages per game, his 13 total steals are impressive as is his 25 total assists.

Remaining Bench Players

Due to the depth on the Wildcats roster, there are many other contributors to the team, just not on an every game basis.

  • cholAngelo Chol—has played in 16 games, strong rebounder.
  • Gabe York—has played in nine games, good eye for the basket, strong passer.
  • Max Wiepking—has played in five games, sharp-shooter.
  • Quinton Crawford—has played in five games, tough on defense.
  • Jacob Hazzard—has played in five games, still learning.
  • Drew Mellon—has played in five games, good speed.

The Wildcats have a strong team that is one of the deepest in the conference, if not the nation. The combination of Lyons and Johnson in the backcourt paired with five amazing front court players is what makes this team the No. 8 team in the country.

The main concern that seems to occur with so many high-quality players is they all try to carry the load of the team when a more concerted team effort is called for. If all players’ strengths were to come together at the same time in harmony, this team would be unstoppable.

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