Arizona's frontcourt potential
Gordon headlines a loaded, young unit that holds key to Wildcats' success
The Arizona Wildcats entered the season widely regarded as the team to beat in the Pac-12, and even as a somewhat popular pick to make the Final Four. I think it's safe to say that thus far, the Wildcats have lived up to those billings. After a hard-fought 69-60 win at San Diego State last week and a blowout 100-50 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on Monday in the NIT Season Tip-Off, Sean Miller's team is 4-0. (Give Miller credit for scheduling a true road game in mid-November against an opponent as good as the Aztecs.)
Next up for the Wildcats in the NIT Season Tip-Off is Rhode Island (Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Assuming they take care of business there and Duke does the same on its side of the bracket, there could be a game upcoming between the Wildcats and the Blue Devils in Madison Square Garden at the end of the month.
Miller's leading scorer is Nick Johnson, a 6-foot-3 junior who has registered a big increase in workload on offense. Fellow starter and Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is also a junior, one who looks like he'll provide solid performances at point guard.
But it's the frontcourt that stands out for its depth, talent, and -- not least -- its youth. That frontcourt rotation is composed of two freshmen and two sophomores: Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski. The Wildcats' fortunes will rise or fall in large part on the backs of those youngsters. Let's make an informed, albeit early, assessment of each member in this unit, before looking at the potential of the unit as a whole:
Gordon already has assumed a large role in the offense -- one rivaled only by Johnson -- and on the whole, the freshman has performed well enough to justify the hype. Coming into Tuesday's game, he's made nearly half of his 2-point attempts (17 of 36) and demonstrated an early ability to take good care of the ball as a co-featured scorer. Based not only on his first four college games, but also on what we saw from Gordon during his stint in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), we can say with some confidence that he'll attempt about five 2s for every 3 he tries.
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