Improvements for top title contenders
January, 3, 2014
By Seth Greenberg | ESPN Insider
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesFreshman forward Aaron Gordon and the Wildcats can get even better.With conference play about to start, we’re at the point where we essentially know which teams have it, and which don’t. However, unlike in recent seasons, there’s no truly dominant group or anyone head-and-shoulders above everybody else. No team is without flaws, which means every team -- even the best -- can use some improvements.
Let’s take a look at my top 10 national title contenders and areas of improvement for each going forward.
1. Arizona Wildcats
Arizona has an elite, experienced backcourt in Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell to go along with a versatile frontcourt. Aaron Gordon, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson all can defend, score and rebound. The Cats’ length makes them hard to score against, and they have a lot of weapons offensively.
Area of improvement: Half-court offense
Despite having these weapons and doing an excellent job executing offensively, Arizona struggles to score in the half court at times. Though they rank 31st in the country in offensive efficiency, they only score seven post-up points a game. Tarczewski has been inconsistent as an interior finisher.
The Cats do a great job getting to the offensive glass (averaging 13 such rebounds a game), but they’re scoring fewer than 10 points per contest off those boards. Sean Miller’s team shoots 44 percent on stick backs. This is a byproduct of not being strong enough to play through contact. At times, Arizona can struggle shooting from 3-point range, and as a team averages just 38 percent. Guard Gabe York, arguably the Wildcats’ top long-distance shooter, hits 41 percent from that distance but has missed 15 of his last 21 attempts.
2. Syracuse Orange
Syracuse has a dynamic pair of forwards in Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair, a star freshman point guard in Tyler Ennis and a knockdown shooting guard in Trevor Cooney, who is playing with tremendous confidence.