With all the talk surrounding another top-5 recruiting class led by Allonzo Trier, little has been said about our key returners from last year’s Elite 8 squad. Led by lone starter Kaleb Tarczewski, the Wildcats return a quintet of players who look to bring Arizona over the hump to their first Final Four in over a decade.
If the Wildcats are to build upon last season’s success, they need an improved and more assertive Tarczewski especially on the offensive end with so many new faces in bigger roles. On one hand good Zeus might have possessed the most consistent mid-range jump shot on the team and he anchored the best defense in the Pac-12, one of the top defenses in the nation. On the other hand, Zeus was quite frustrating at times as he routinely missed dunks and lay ups and was fourth in the starting lineup in rebounds, only beating out McConnell. If he could become more aggressive and increase his totals from 9 points and 5 rebounds to 11-12 points and 6.5 rebounds a game, the Wildcats will be in great shape.
Following the UNLV loss, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would be inserted into the starting lineup and Gabe York seemed to thrive as the sixth man. With the Wildcats versatility last season, he could be subbed in for any Wildcat starter as the point guard or shooting guard and the rest of the lineup could adjust without any compromise. This season his shooting will be even more vital as the Wildcats have nobody near the three point shooter he is.
Is it that much of a reach to say that sophomore point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright is more talented than McConnell? By that I mean I do not think it is that crazy the Wildcats offense reach higher feats when Cartwright runs the team. With Parker in, the Wildcats fast break becomes much more deadly as he weaves his way through defenders and sets up teammates with easy buckets. Granted, he will not have Stanley Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson who are both a handful to stop in transition, but PJC took great care of the ball last season with an assist to turnover ratio of almost 3 to 1 so his decision making is already high for a sophomore.
Elliot Pitts is the final returner from last year’s team to average at least 9 minutes a game and it might be a stretch for that total to increase this year. With the additions of Allonzo Trier, Kadeem Allen, and Justin Simon along with Gabe York, Sean Miller has an embarrassment of riches on the wing and Pitts provides excellent depth if he doesn’t redshirt.
It would not be a stretch of the imagination if none of the returning players with the exception of Zeus start this year but their contributions will be vital if the Wildcats want to have any success. Allonzo Trier looks like a bonafide star in the making but he is going to need veteran help for the team to excel.