Arizona basketball enters the 2013-14 season with high hopes and expectations. A potential Final Four team, ESPN had the Wildcats fifth in their preseason power rankings.
ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg previewed Arizona and while he does have some concerns, he sees a lot of potential with the team and it starts with junior point guard T.J. McConnell.
“What I love the most about Arizona is T.J. McConnell,” Greenberg said. “T.J. McConnell, to me, is the difference maker for Arizona. He’s the play starter, he’s the playmaker.
“He’s going to be an extension of Sean Miller. He’s going to be a guy that gets them set on the offensive end and most importantly, he’s a terrific ball-defender on the point of attack.”
Greenberg also praised freshman phenom Aaron Gordon, the 6-foot-9 forward out of San Jose, Calif., saying Gordon’s athleticism and play-making ability above the rim remind him of the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin.
Another key contributor for Greenberg will be junior guard Nick Johnson, who he called the most underappreciated player in Tucson.
“He came in and a lot of people thought he was going to be a one-and-done,” Greenberg said. “Now he’s already into his junior year. He’s given up a little bit of himself for the good of the group. He’s a terrific defender, he can finish in transition, does a nice job coming off screens, and he stays within himself.”
Despite those weapons, Greenberg sees Arizona’s lack of elite shooters as a weakness and is wondering where that production will come from.
“I think this team is void of a really knockdown jump shooter, a number of guys that can step in,” Greenberg said. “I love Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, he reminds me of Stacy Augmon. He can defend, he’s great in transition, he’s a 50/50 guy, but he’s not a jump shooter. Aaron Gordon, freakish athlete, gets to the offensive glass, he’s not a jump shooter.
“Do they have enough jump shooters to stretch the defense so those athletes can get in the lane and make plays?”
Greenberg set the ceiling high for the Wildcats, but he still has hesitations.
“If they create a great team chemistry, if they make enough jump shots, they can potentially get into the Final Four,” Greenberg said.
“But that’s a big if.”