It’s no secret that one of the reasons behind Arizona’s stellar 2013-2014 season was exceptional chemistry. Not only did the members of the team enjoy playing with one another, their skill sets were very complementary.
The Wildcats only lost two significant contributors from last year in Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon, who are both cashing NBA checks now. But Johnson and Gordon were a huge part of Arizona’s success and chemistry last year, as both had team first, win at all costs mentalities.
And with an influx of new faces into the program, Arizona will need to rebuild the synergy that made them such a special unit last year.
So how does a team, with many new pieces involved, develop that chemistry? It’s easier said than done.
The first part of it is having clearly defined roles. Luckily Arizona returns a lot of talent, making the starting roles a little easier to predict as we head into practices. It’s plenty reasonable to think that Arizona’s returning core of TJ McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, and Kaleb Tarczewski will shoulder most of the burden while relying on their experience together last year.
Arizona’s experienced players will have to lead by example, and that in turn will create a smoother transition for the new guys. So long as Arizona’s top dogs are consistently doing the heavy lifting, the pressure on newcomers like Stanley Johnson or Kadeem Allen will be greatly relieved, allowing them to focus on executing their role within the offense.
When most freshmen and transfers try to do too much right away, it can throw a big wrench into team chemistry and their own development. Arizona’s leaders need to make life easier on the newcomers by hitting the ground running in practices.
The other big piece to the chemistry equation is the man that makes the Wildcat offense go. McConnell is entering his senior year, his third at Arizona including the year he sat out due to NCAA transfer rules.
On a team as talented as Arizona, it takes a special type of point guard to distribute the ball well enough to keep everyone happy. Luckily McConnell is that point guard. Granted the Wildcats had a roster full of team-first players last season, but McConnell did a masterful job spreading the wealth to his running mates.
With the embarrassment of riches at the Wildcats’ disposal this year, McConnell’s ability to create shots for anyone and everyone will be critical to keeping an offensive balance throughout the season. That offensive balance is what can keep players happy in such a deep and talented rotation. McConnell ensures that everyone is going to get their piece of the pie.
Don’t worry one bit about Arizona’s chemistry, even if it takes more than a few games for the Cats to find it. Whenever you are folding new players into the mix, there’s going to be some rough patches. But Sean Miller has done an excellent job recruiting talent without the ego. This is a special group of players, one that values winning above all else. And as long they have McConnell at the helm, the sailing will be smooth.