The Arizona Wildcats enter the 2013-14 season as the most overlooked team in college basketball’s top 10. It seems nobody wants to give the Wildcats the attention that they deserve, but make no mistake, this is a team that will have everyone talking about it by the end of the season. Arizona enters the season ranked 5th in the coaches’ poll and 6th in the AP poll, but there is a very good chance they outplay those rankings.
Starting in the backcourt, Arizona is thrilled to have point guard T.J. McConnell join the team this year. McConnell transferred to Arizona from Duquesne, and he gives the Wildcats the first true point guard they have had in several years. McConnell’s pass first game will be a perfect fit, and he is a very well rounded and productive player on both ends of the court.
Next to him, Nick Johnson will start at shooting guard, and his ability to shoot the three will be vital. If the Wildcats have one major weakness, it’s shooting, and Johnson will be relied upon to stretch the floor. Senior Jordin Mayes and sophomore Gabe York will be the main reserves, and York in particular could make a significant impact this season.
However, the real reason the Wildcats are a national championship contender is their frontcourt. Aaron Gordon, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski form a front line that can only be matched by Kentucky. With all the talk about Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker, Gordon has become the forgotten freshman. Gordon has an incredible motor and work ethic, and he will be one of the best two way players in the country. He is a very versatile scorer from the small forward position, and he should be a lock down defender. Arizona fans should enjoy him now, because he won’t be there for long.
Gordon will be joined by sophomores Ashley and Tarczewski, who are both very promising big men. Ashley could take a huge step forward as a post scorer this season, and he should be the team’s second option to Gordon. Tarczewski is a very good defender and rebounder, and he has the ability to control the paint. For reserves, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Zach Peters and Matt Korcheck will all factor into the rotation up front, with Hollis-Jefferson having the potential to be a very important player off the bench.
With all this talent, it would seem the sky is the limit for Arizona. They are the overwhelming favorites to win the Pac-12, and they should be able to accomplish that goal. Of more interest, however, is how far this team could go in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona is a legitimate national title contender, and in my opinion they are fourth best team in the country. I don’t believe that Arizona will win a national championship, but an Elite Eight berth is a fairly safe bet with a Final Four appearance as a very strong possibility.
Sean Miller has done a fantastic job restoring Arizona’s status as one of college basketball’s best programs, and they will be in the running all year. The development of their young frontcourt is the key, and they could have the Wildcats playing basketball in April.