With college basketball on the horizon, it’s time to get excited about what’s in store for the Wildcats this year. Here are five reasons why Arizona will bring home the 2014-15 championship:
If Arizona fields a lineup including Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, and Kaleb Tarczewski, there might not be an opponent in the entire nation that can match up with Arizona’s physicality.
Particularly on the wings, Arizona will have a tremendous physical advantage on both offense and defense. Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson have NBA-ready bodies and are both known for imposing their will around the basket. They will batter and bruise opponents all season long.
Though talented freshmen may dominate the college basketball headlines, Arizona’s greatest strength will be their leadership. Ashley and Tarczewski anchor the paint as juniors, with a third year Gabe York as well.
Returning players with multiple years of experience in the program is vital to any National Championship run. Arizona is fortunate to return experienced players at critical positions, including fifth year senior TJ McConnell.
Point Guard Play
Speaking of McConnell, those five years of experience will come in handy when he’s running the show this season. As Sean Miller noted at Pac-12 Media Day, the cerebral point guard has been an All-Conference player every season he played, twice at Duquesne and once more last season with Arizona.
Having a steady point guard who is capable of facilitating the offense is critical, especially on a team with as many talented pieces as Arizona. But McConnell isn’t just a one dimensional player, he brings it on defense as well. Part of why Arizona was one of the best defensive teams in the nation last year was McConnell’s gritty on ball defense of opposing point guards.
It’s no secret that Arizona’s defense carried them to their historic 21-0 start last year. Arizona was able to lock up teams defensively, allowing them to stay in close games and grind out wins.
The same formula will be applied this year on what projects to be another elite defensive team. Utilizing Arizona’s multi-talented forwards, the Wildcats will be able to switch defenders easily and still contain penetration while defending the post. Defensive versatility is a hallmark of championship teams.
Nobody wins a championship without great coaching, and that’s something Arizona has in abundance. Miller has amassed a stunning regular and postseason record in his time as coach, despite inheriting a program that was in a turbulent period.
But Miller’s ability to coach five star talent in a team oriented system is truly special. The culmination of that was visible last year, as Arizona fielded a roster of McDonald’s All-Americans yet remained one of the most balanced in the country. They also parlayed that balance into the best start in school history.
If Arizona wins the championship this year, it’ll be because of Miller’s design. Of course a lot will have to go right, it takes a lot of good fortune to take home the title.
But with the group Miller has put together, there’s no reason they can’t go all the way.