Since transferring from Xavier to follow head coach Sean Miller to Arizona, Wildcats senior point guard Mark Lyons has faced his share of criticism. When heading into a program known for producing standout backcourt generals like Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Jason Terry and Khalid Reeves, the spotlight can be incredibly daunting.
Lyons has shown Arizona fans that he is capable of what can be easily deemed as “Russell Westbrook Syndrome.” At times, like his game-winner against Florida in December, he exhibits the makings of a dominant point guard destined for next-level dominance. At other times, like his wild shooting spree that led to a loss at UCLA last week, he seems to be sabotaging his own starting job.
What many people forget is that he is playing for a new team at a new position and is trying to lead the Wildcats in the best way he knows how. He is the perfect example of a shooting guard trying to adjust to the point guard position, much like many other players in his position. Point guards have transitioned from a distributing position to a shoot first position over the past few years.
Luckily for Lyons, Miller is standing right beside him throughout all of the criticism–mainly because he doesn’t have any other suitable option at point guard.
For the Wildcats, a distributor doesn’t fit their needs. Lyons serves as the only go-to scorer on the floor and his team-best 15.1 points per game prove why he deserves the ball in crucial situations.
It’s fitting that Lyons’ final game in McKale Center will be against the rival Arizona State Sun Devils with the opportunity to once again win over the Arizona faithful.
“I mean, I don’t give a (expletive) what other people think about him,” Miller told Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star.
Arizona (23-6, 11-6 PAC-12) no longer has the opportunity to win a PAC-12 Title as they did while leading the conference for much of the 2012-13 season, but Lyons still has the opportunity to lead the Wildcats to a PAC-12 Conference Championship. With all he have gone through of late, nothing will be a surprise from here on
John Engel is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports, covering the PAC-12 and Mountain West conferences. John works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in addition to Rant Sports. Follow: @engelsportsguy.