With the McDonald’s Red-Blue Game just about three weeks away, it’s time to start getting excited about hoops season! Here’s a look at our preseason “Most Likely to” Awards, which take a look at what you might see out of the Wildcats on the court this year.
Most Likely to… grab 15 rebounds in a game: Kaleb Tarczewski. Zeus has played with exceptional rebounding forwards in his time at Arizona, and this year will be no different. However, Tarczewski is poised to play his largest role as a junior and will be relied upon heavily when the Wildcats need to deploy size in the lineup. You can expect some big rebounding numbers out of Tarczewski this year.
Most Likely to… get a triple-double: TJ McConnell. For all of McConnell’s talents like passing, defense, and leadership, people tend to forget that he’s an excellent rebounding guard as well. McConnell has a nose for the ball, and seems to have a knack for pulling defensive rebounds out of the air and pushing the break. McConnell will be Arizona’s most relied on ball handler, so he’ll have plenty of opportunities to accumulate assists and points. If he can put together an exceptional rebounding night, McConnell would be the most likely Wildcat to notch the elusive triple-double.
Most Likely to… inherit Aaron Gordon/Nick Johnson’s dunk crown: Stanley Johnson. Although sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson might have a little bit more bounce, Johnson is one of the rare offensive players who inflicts more physical pain on the defender when there’s contact at the rim. Johnson’s physicality and power will result in some thunderous jams this year, many of which will end up on ESPN.
Most Likely to… surprise people: Kadeem Allen. Most casual fans still don’t know about Allen, a junior college transfer who was also recruited by Kansas, Indiana, and Cincinnati. Allen is a potent scorer who brings a tough minded attitude to the court. Allen will be hungry to prove that he belongs at an elite D-1 program, so don’t be surprised if his play attracts some attention.
Most Likely to… intensify practices: Ryan Anderson. Just like McConnell, Anderson comes to Arizona as a transfer. The forward will sit out a year due to transfer rules, but he will still be able to participate in practices and provide another skilled post player to up the ante on a daily basis. Anderson is coming off a shoulder surgery, but without any setbacks he’ll be able to contribute to practices right away.
Most Likely to… hit a game winning shot: Brandon Ashley. As one of the most experienced and offensively talented players on the team, Ashley is a natural fit to be Arizona’s go to guy in crunch time. The junior forward can mix it up down low and finish at the rim, or he can step out and hit the three point shot. His diverse offensive game is matchup proof.
Most Likely to… need our patience: Dusan Ristic. The transition to the college game can be difficult for post players, especially when that player is also an 18 year old from another country. Hailing from Serbia, Ristic is a talented big man who will bolster Arizona’s post depth. But fans shouldn’t be expecting him to contribute from day one like the program’s recent star freshmen have. Ristic is a player who needs to to develop and acclimate to the speed of the game, so fans should be patient with him.
Most Likely to… break out: Gabe York. As both a deadeye three point shooter and a supreme athlete, York’s talent has been under wraps for most of his Arizona career. This could finally be York’s chance to emerge from a crowded back court and blossom as a player. If York takes the next step in his development, the Wildcats will be a potent offensive team.
Most Likely to… win Pac-12 Player of the Year: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Hollis-Jefferson is a jack of all trades, and will be asked to do a little bit of everything for the Wildcats. As a sophomore, Hollis-Jefferson will log heavy minutes as Arizona’s defensive stopper and will be an integral part of the offense. With his ability to contribute in multiple ways and the big opportunity ahead of him, Hollis-Jefferson is a good bet to be the conference’s best player.
Most Likely to… come on strong at the end of the year: Craig Victor. The freshman from Findlay Prep is a talented player, but will have an uncertain role with all of Arizona’s talented forwards ahead of him on the depth chart. It might be tough for Victor to secure consistent minutes, but his talent and scoring potential make him a candidate to push for minutes as the year goes on and players start to wear down physically. His youth and energy could be a big positive for Arizona as long as he doesn’t stop fighting for a spot in the rotation.