This is a different year for Arizona. After two seasons of utter dominance with Final Four expectations, the Wildcat fanbase has been a little bit spoiled. You aren’t supposed to go to the Final Four every year. But that’s what we’ve come to expect out of Miller’s men.
But even though an injury plagued season has derailed what the 2016 Arizona Wildcats could have been, they are still the class of the conference of champions.
That starts and ends with Dusan Ristic, who is Arizona’s most talented offensive player and perhaps one of the most offensively talented big men to ever play in Tucson.
Let’s not gloss over how amazing Ristic has been this year. Not only has he displayed deft footwork, he has the soft touch and scoring instinct that pro scouts covet. There are three high level NBA franchises that have identified Ristic as a draft pick, mainly for his ability to score the ball and his approachable learning curve. If he wants to go pro after this season, he could.
Ristic seems to score whenever he wants, it’s mostly a matter of his teammates finding him in the correct position. If this is what Ristic is giving us as a sophomore, he projects to be an All-Amweican center in his junior year and a legitimate threat to get picked in the NBA Draft Lottery.
That might sound like hyperbole, but Ristic is truly one of the special talents to come through the University of Arizona.
While Ristic brings offensive polish to the game, Arizona has unearthed a diamond in the rough with guard Justin Simon’s defensive prowess.
Supremely athletic with a massive wingspan, Simon is a physical freak at the guard position. His physical characteristics are reminiscent of NBA superstars John Wall and Russell Westbrook, and as he learns the college game those special traits will be even more on display.
Simon has shown the ability to beat every other player down the court, and his length has allowed him to finish when he gets there.
Of course, Simon often plays out of control at times, like you’d expect many freshman to do. But how many freshman point guards have the physical ability to reject the opposing team’s center at the rim like Simon did against USC?
Simon, despite his legendary surname, has showed that he is a unique talent. His ability to push the ball in transition is unreal, and once he learns how to care for the ball he will be one of the conference’s true game breakers.
Fans love to place the spotlight on star freshmen and future draft picks. But Arizona’s unheralded young players are the key to future success. In this landscape of college basketball it’s hard to tell who will will emerge as that type of player, but the program seems to be in good shape with Ristic and Simon developing quickly.