Though most people are gearing up for NFL Sunday tomorrow, diehard Arizona hoops fans are also psyched about the basketball season being right around the corner.
With the annual Red-Blue Game just over a month away, PGU is ready to look ahead to the 2014-15 season. Here are 15 bold predictions for what’s in store for the Cats this time around.
But before we begin, it’s time to pat myself on the back. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but this is toot-worthy.
Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote this same column looking ahead to the 2013-14 season. My first bold prediction was eerily prophetic:
“1. Junior point guard TJ McConnell, who establishes himself as the Wildcats’ floor general and engine of the offense, surpasses Arizona legends Mike Bibby and Russell Brown for the 6th best single season assist total in school history. McConnell falls just short of 5th place, held by assistant coach Damon Stoudamire’s 1993-94 season.”
McConnell finished last season with 202 assists, just enough to edge out Brown’s 200 and Bibby’s 199. Bullseye. The clairvoyance goes further, as McConnell also fell just short of Stoudamire’s 5th best single season of 208 assists.
If you’d like me to suggest your Powerball numbers, I’d be happy to oblige. But in the meantime, here are those predictions I was talking about.
1. A senior McConnell will surpass assistant coach Stoudamire’s single season assist record — twice. McConnell will log the 3rd best single season assist total in school history, besting Stoudamire’s 1993-94 mark as well as his 1994-95 season total, which is currently third to only Reggie Geary’s 231 assists in 1995-96 and Brown’s 247 in 1978-79.
2. Incoming freshman Stanley Johnson will lead the team in scoring, AND rebounding. The Wildcats lost their top two scorers last year, but welcoming the Stanimal will help take the sting out. Johnson is a capable scorer and a constant mismatch problem, but he will make a surprising impact on the defensive glass in leading the Cats with over 7.5 rebounds per game.
3. Arizona will steam-roll their non-conference opponents for a perfect record, bringing Sean Miller teams to 38-0 in non-conference play over the last three years.
4. Brandon Ashley, who has hit 14 three pointers in his college career, will bury 52 treys in the 2014-15 season. His 1.3 triples per game will be second best on the team.
5. The player who will lead Arizona in three pointers made will be Gabe York, but he will dramatically improve his shooting percentages as a junior. York will connect on over 41% of his long distance attempts, and raise his field goal percentage from 37% to 44%, making him one of the top shooters in the country.
6. The Wildcats will push the tempo on offense this year, scoring 80 points or more in ten games. Arizona eclipsed the 80 point mark six times last season.
7. After a stellar season with all around statistical contributions, McConnell will be the first Arizona player to win National Player of the Year honors since Jason Gardner in 2002-03.
8. Johnson will break the McKale Center record for free throw attempts, set by Jerryd Bayless’ 16 against Stanford in the 2007-08 season.
9. Despite #1 seed Arizona being the conference’s only top 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Pac-12 will advance three teams to the Elite 8.
10. Junior college transfer Kadeem Allen will be Arizona’s most reliable reserve scorer, and his solid practice play will even earn him multiple starts throughout the season.
11. In the Wildcats’ two games against Oregon State, their margin of victory will be over 50 points. In their two games against Oregon, their margin of victory will be less than 10.
12. After getting just two double-doubles last season, Kaleb Tarczewski will go for eight in 2014-15.
13. After a National Championship victory, all five of Arizona’s starting lineup are selected in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft.
14. Freshman Craig Victor surprises in practice and becomes Ashley’s direct backup at power forward by the end of conference play. He comes on strong down the stretch, and the added depth is critical in keep Arizona’s starters fresh for their title run.
15. Arizona will end up with the #1 2015 recruiting class, securing multiple top flight post players to compliment the already impressive group of wings.