Tucson, Ariz. — Arizona basketball officially tipped off the 2013-14 season with its annual preseason media day Wednesday, which as always seemed to be centered around expectations for the team.
But with the team fresh off a Sweet 16 appearance and an offseason highlighted by a highly-ranked freshman recruiting class, this year’s questions about expectations seemed to carry more weight.
“I don’t really worry about it and I don’t think our team should,” head coach Sean Miller said, “because part of the reason you want to be here as a coach, as a player, why we have 14,500 at our Red and Blue game, is because we have high expectations.”
The highly-touted freshman class that is causing such heightened expectations is led by forwards Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and shooting guard Elliot Pitts.
Gordon, who has even been compared to the likes of Los Angeles Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin, said he doesn’t mind the expectations and, as Miller suggested, embraces them with open arms.
“No one puts higher expectations on myself and my team than I do,” Gordon said. “I knew coming to Arizona those expectations with me and our team were going to be there. I wouldn’t have come here if I thought there was going to be low expectations.”
Though there are high expectations for this Wildcat team — there are also many concerns that were addressed Wednesday. Arizona lost three of its top perimeter shooters from last year and aren’t sure yet where the production will come from.
“I don’t know right now if I can say we’re not a good shooting team,” Miller said. “We have a lot of guys we can count on who haven’t done it or are going to have to do it better.”
Midway through non-conference schedule last year, Southern Miss exposed a flaw in the Wildcats’ team: Arizona struggled against zone defenses. The flaw was then later exploited by Oregon and California. Miller admitted to it and said that he doesn’t expect opposing teams to try anything different this year.
While a zone can limit frontcourt players’ abilities to score, a team that can pass and shoot the ball well from the outside has the best chance of scoring on a zone.
Miller didn’t say who he thought could be that guy, but all the guards, along with sophomore forward Brandon Ashley, admitted to working on their perimeter shooting and being more confident in it.
It seems all the pieces are in place for the Wildcats to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
For the first time Miller has what he calls a “true point guard” in transfer T.J. McConnell.
The Wildcats are athletic on the wing with Hollis-Jefferson and Gordon.
Leadership can come from junior guard Nick Johnson and senior guard Jordin Mayes, the only player on the roster who was part of the Wildcats’ 2011 Elite 8 team.
It’s clear why expectations are so high this year, but the team Miller has in September is not the same team he’ll have in March.
“We have a lot of great parts and it’s fun to think about it, but how that comes together…we have to have some caution and wait and see,” Miller said.
•This story was courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat.