When the Arizona Wildcats tip off their 2014-15 men’s basketball season, they’ll do so without their two leading scorers from the season before.
With both guard Nick Johnson and forward Aaron Gordon declaring for the NBA Draft, coach Sean Miller saw 28.7 points on a per-game average enter another league.
Johnson, the Pac-12 player of the year, gave Arizona 16.3 points per game last season. Gordon, a freshman last year, added 12.4.
With the departures in mind, ESPN college basketball writer Dana O’ Neil speculated Monday about Miller’s scorers.
She says Arizona’s offense could legitimately impact the landscape of the 2014-15 college basketball season.
I’m wondering who Arizona will turn to for reliable scoring.
There’s a caveat to this worry. I believe the Wildcats are good — top-5 good, potential Final Four good, and yes, even potential national champion good — so file this under more mildly concerned than all-out panic.
But it’s still a legit question.
There aren’t many point guards in the country more reliable than T.J. McConnell. A healthy Brandon Ashley, mixed with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski, gives the Wildcats a terrific frontcourt in a year that looks to be loaded with terrific frontcourts.
But here’s the but. When the game is on the line and Arizona needs a bucket, who does coach Sean Miller go to?
The Wildcats aren’t built to win with offense. With defense and offensive rebounding as good as theirs, that’s fine. You do, however, still need to score in this sport, especially in key situations.
Another Johnson, she suggests, may be a key answer to the question she poses — pointing to freshman Stanley Johnson, who averaged 25 points per game as a prep at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. A 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward, Johnson was given a five-star ranking by Scout.com and Rivals.com while earning a 97 score on ESPN’s 1-100 rating system.
Returning scorers Brandon Ashley (11.5 points per game) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (9.1 PPG) will also be looked to for critical scoring, one would presume.