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The Underuse of Zeus

July 26th, 2014 News 8 Comments

zeus slide
Ivy Hunt-Ashram

Do you know how many 7-footers there were in college basketball last year? 96. That’s approximately two trees for every seven teams, and more accurately one for every 3.656.

When you consider that most of those players had little to no impact on the landscape of Top 25ish college basketball, you can see the importance of having the truly elite, skilled 7-footers on your team.

So why is it that Arizona’s Kaleb Tarczewski, as one of the premier skilled big men in the country, hasn’t been more of a focal point?

To be fair, that’s a bratty question. Arizona was the best team in college basketball last year and undefeated until a starter went down to injury. There’s nothing wrong with the formula, so we’re essentially splitting hairs.

But over the last two years, Arizona hasn’t really played through their big man in the middle, an advantage that few teams have.

A lot of it has to do with the quality of talent assembled around Tarczewski. Arizona has been flush with talent at basically every position during his two years in Tucson. Arizona has had extraordinary balance, and that has hidden the impact of some players.

Another factor is that teams have adapted to Arizona’s size advantage, and have forced the Wildcats to play more of a perimeter game.

The size and strength that Arizona has put next to Tarczewski at the power forward and small forward positions have forced the defense’s hand into packing the paint or being eaten alive. So you can see why playing through Zeus in the middle could be difficult.

But maybe the most important reason why Arizona doesn’t play through Tarczewski is that he’s not a selfish player. He’s more concerned about winning basketball games than his field goal attempts.

Tarczewski is not the type of player to demand the ball when it disrupts the offense. Instead, he crashes the boards and plays solid interior defense.

But that doesn’t mean Arizona shouldn’t try to exploit Tarczewski more often. Part of Sean Miller’s challenge next year will be finding creative ways to get Tarczewski the ball.

One way Tarczewski can help is by consistently hitting the short jumper like he showed he could do toward the end of last year.

Of course, that won’t be a major part of the offense, especially with Brandon Ashley stretching the floor. But if Tarczewski can step out and hit that shot, he’ll have a dimension to his game that will always allow him to be effective no matter what the defense does.

But at the end of the day, Tarczewski is the player he is. He’s going to give you 100% effort, a team oriented attitude, and some serious skill for a 7-footer.

Here’s to hoping we see him rewarded for his hard work with a few more touches per game.

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8 Responses to “The Underuse of Zeus”

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  1. LWash

    July 27, 2014

    This is a very nice article. I’m looking forward to Kaleb’s play next year. I think we his work with Joseph Blair which allows him to play with a another big man as big as himself. His legwork and body movement definitely improved last year.

  2. Jeff

    July 27, 2014

    Zeus’s jumper was underused until Ashley was injured. With AG, Rondae, Ashley, and Nick on the team last year, however, it was just difficult to give everyone the touches their talent deserved. I’m curious whether Zeus will be as efficient this year if he gets more chances on offense, but I would like to see Zeus improve on his 0.5 assist per game rate.

  3. titan4wildcats

    July 27, 2014

    Very thoughtful article and thank you for writing it Ivy. I think that Zeus developing a jumper would make him even more of a headache for opposing teams than he already is. He has the stroke….as evident by his free throws. I’d put money on it that he’s already in the process of becoming a jump shooter and wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he extended his shooting out past the 3 pt line. Not only would it add to his prowess in the paint, but would also get him a higher draft number when he gets his ticket to the big league. JMO.

  4. coolcat

    July 27, 2014

    The reason Zeus does not get the ball more is because he allows the ball to be stripped far to often. He was better last year than the year before and should be better this year. He is not tricky at all about keeping the ball away from defenders and repeatedly brings the ball right in front of the defender so they can knock it away. Compare how many times Gordon and Ashley had the ball stripped on the inside and you will see what I am talking about. If he can perfect his trickiness this year he will have the ball in his hands a lot more down on the block and under the basket.

  5. JesusShuttleworth

    July 27, 2014

    It would be nice to see Zeus avg. 11 boards a game

  6. DoubleJ

    July 28, 2014

    Great topic and I, too, hope Zeus can be involved more consistently. To be fair to the staff, I would also offer that, if Zeus can improve his ability to handle more passes, he can create more scoring opportunities without needing more touches. Either way, more Zeus=more wins.

  7. Larry Dunham

    August 2, 2014

    Zeus has played hard ever since arriving. My only real disappointment is the defense vs Kaminsky of Wisconsin last year. I expect him to have a really improved year, unfortunately it will probably mean being drafted next spring.

  8. john spehn

    August 2, 2014

    Zeus needs to stop bringing the ball down to be stripped. Come on Bill Walton! Help a kid out. Bill Walton, in his heyday, was among the top 3 centers of all time. Big red was maybe the best of all time in keeping the ball up and not bringing it down to get stripped. Luke, ask your dad to prop zeus up. I believe Zeus could make this team AZ’s best ever.

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