Updated Apr 9, 2013 - 2:41 pm
Arizona Wildcats basketball an early top 10 pick for next season
A team generating a lot of buzz is the Arizona Wildcats, who seem to be a consensus top-five at the moment.
Sporting News writer Mike DeCourcy thinks UA is worthy of a top-three spot in his early rankings. About six months before next season's tip-off, early is right:
It's kind of interesting that someone who was a terrific college point guard, coach Sean Miller, has had to work his first four seasons with the Wildcats without benefit of a reliable playmaker. Now he gets Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell, who is quick, alert and has the benefit of two seasons as a starter and a year learning how to follow Miller's instructions. The Wildcats are loaded with young frontcourt talent, and those players will benefit from the presence of a true playmaker.
ESPN.com's Jason King has the Wildcats slated at fourth in the nation:
Sean Miller's squad loses three of its top four scorers (Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Mark Lyons) but the Wildcats should still be the class of the Pac-12. Arizona's highly touted 2012 recruiting class started off slow, but post players Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett made huge strides in February and March and should enter next season full of momentum. Shooting guard Nick Johnson (11.5 points per game) emerged as a leader on the perimeter. He'll benefit the most from the addition of Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell, the high-caliber point guard Arizona so glaringly lacked this season. McConnell averaged 11.4 points and 5.5 assists for Duquesne in 2011-12. Whether the Wildcats are a good team or an elite one will depend on the play of freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Gordon is the second-ranked power forward in the Class of 2013. Hollis-Jefferson is the fifth-ranked small forward.
Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Eisenberg also has UA in the fourth spot of his way-too-early rankings:
Arizona wasn't an elite defensive team this past season, and the loss of the team's most versatile defender (Hill) probably won't help that. The Wildcats' young front line also featured no dependable back-to-the-basket scorer this past season, something that needs to change if Arizona is going to go from being a very good team to one of the nation's elite. And lastly, the graduating seniors were Arizona's vocal leaders. New leaders will have to emerge now. The addition of McConnell will give Sean Miller the true point guard he lacked, which should help everyone else get higher-quality shots. Johnson showed signs of tapping into his immense potential as a sophomore and Hollis-Jefferson and Gordon are instant impact recruits who should give the frontcourt a boost, especially if the Wildcats opt to play Gordon at power forward instead of small forward.
The Wildcats, who were booted from the NCAA Tournament's round of 16 with a 73-70 loss to Ohio State when forward LaQuinton Ross hit a last-second three-pointer, are also a pick by CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman as the fourth best college hoops team in the country.
Although UA is a popular pick inside the top-five, USA Today Sports' Scott Gleeson has them sitting just outside of it, placing them seventh in his 2013-14 season forecast:
Sean Miller will have to replace his top two scorers — Mark Lyons (15.5 ppg) and Solomon Hill (13.4 ppg) but a top-notch freshmen class, led by top-five recruit Aaron Gordon, should position the Wildcats to dominate the Pac-12. Guard Nick Johnson (11.5 ppg) returns after a strong sophomore campaign.
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