Recognize This Kid? (via ESPN)
An absurdly early look at the 2009-10 Pac 10 Basketball season. Each team will be scrutinized in a ruthlessly clinical fashion, and a final post will wrap up the predicted final standings at the end of the season. For no particular reason I decided to go in alphabetical order, so first on the block is rebuilding traditional power Arizona.
Key Returners: Nic Wise (15.6 PPG, 53.6 eFG%, 4.6 APG)
Key Departures: Chase Budinger (18.0 PPG, 55.4 eFG%, 6.4 RPG, 3.4 APG), Jodan Hill (18.2 PPG, 53.7 eFG%, 11.0 RPG)
Key Recruits: Solomon Hill (SF - #54 ESPN 100, #28 Rivals 150), Kyryl Natyazhko (C - #39 ESPN 100, #75 Rivals 150)
Projected Starting Lineup:
The Lowdown: Last year Arizona took 1,869 shots (and for those keeping track at home, that breaks down to 1,333 two pointers and 536 threes) and made 701 trips to the free throw line. Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill combined for 757 of those field goal attempts and took 335 of the free throws (good for 40.5% of the total shots and 47.8% of the total free throws taken). So if I haven't made the point clear enough by this point just let me come out and beat you over the head with it, in losing those two players Arizona has lost a gigantic whale sized chunk of their offense. Replacing a star is one thing, losing two lottery picks when the team was basically three players and some utility guys is in a whole other realm of... well I don't know exactly what, but its presents a challenge none the less.
Luckily for the Cats they appear to be likely to retain the best second best returning PG in the Pac 10 in Nic Wise. To be frank, the diminuitive guard was absolutely horrible as a freshman but has become a legitimate star over the past two seasons. At this point it is clear that Wise is not afraid to take the clutch shot (does anyone else remember that NBA Range + three pointer against SC?) and he has flashed the ability to take over a game for short periods of time. Arizona's success next season is hugely dependent on how Wise deals with the increased defensive thanks to the departure of the other stars and how he facilitates the offense on a team that will be made up of supporters in a starring role for the first time along with a freshman starter or two.
For a moment things looked dire in UA's coaching search after being unable to land either former Memphis coach John Calipari, USC's Tim Floyd, or Xavier's Sean Miller, but only a day after being turned down Miller called back and accepted the job. The hire certainly deserves an A, maybe even and A++ in this age of grade inflation, but there is no doubt that the new coach has a minor rebuilding project on his hands. Miller has already done a great job in salvaging a recruiting class that literally fell apart, but making the most out of the young talent and under-achieving returning talent will be the order of the day. While the potential is there, neither Solomon Hill or Kyryl Natyazhko are expected to be the type of high major impact players (think Jerryd Bayless, OJ Mayo, etc) that can elevate a program in their first year. Moreover, if Arizona wants to make waves even in a weakened Pac 10 Jamelle Horn is going to have to start playing up to his talent level.
For the team to finish in the top half of the Pac Sean Miller is going to have to get the incoming freshman to play at high level quickly and coach up the talent that is already there. No small task but not impossible either, which along with other in conference turmoil and the return of a bona fide star makes it very difficult to forecast where the Wildcats will stand at the end of next year.
Magic 8 Ball Says: Does Arizona have a shot at finishing in the top three of the Pac 10? "Reply hazy, try again"