Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: Miller’s work as team chemist showing productive results

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Sean Miller discusses his team's performance last night against Oakland (YouTube screen shot, click on photo to access video)

Sean Miller discusses his team’s performance last night against Oakland (YouTube screen shot, click on photo to access video)

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WHAT IS PRODUCTIVITY RATING?:
PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

ARIZONA 101, OAKLAND 64
PRODUCTIVITY RATING

* — STARTERS
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HOW ARE THEY DOING?
Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents. Arizona is No. 12 with a strength-of-schedule ranking of No. 109.
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ARIZONA 101, OAKLAND 64

Craig Victor's 10 minutes were highly productive last night

Craig Victor’s 10 minutes were highly productive last night

The productivity of this year’s Arizona Wildcats is off the charts, with 10 players competing at a winning level when factoring this site’s rating system.

Sean Miller’s team is coming off its best productivity game of the season last night with a rating of .835 against punch-drunk Oakland, which is in the midst of a five-game Power 5 tour.

Arizona achieved at a high level on the basketball court and it did so in the midst of finals week on campus. Perhaps the game was a good release from all of the studying. But it says a lot about Arizona’s strength psychologically that they achieved their greatest productivity game (with seven players with at least an .800 rating) during crunch time with the exams and papers due.

“This is a difficult time of year for them, with final exams and finishing up papers,” Miller said in the postgame press conference. “Most of our players still have a final exam and in some cases multiple papers and finals to finish up here in the next couple of days so they’re juggling preparations for a home game and also the academic workload and the pressure to perform on these tests. So from that perspective I was very proud of their focus. I thought they came out and were ready to play.”

Arizona’s players will have their studies complete when they have a different type of late-night cramming, a 9 p.m. tip-off at dangerous UTEP on Friday night.

Miller has confidence that his Wildcats are playing at their best and starting to hit their stride close to the start of the Pac-12 season with the Miners next on the agenda.

Ten of his players have a productivity rating of .500 or better, a mark of winning, productive basketball.

The balance of the team is indicative of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as the productivity leader with a rating of .864 despite five other Wildcats leading in productivity over the last eight games. The last time Hollis-Jefferson led in productivity was against Missouri in the Maui Invitational three weeks ago.

Freshman reserve forward Craig Victor is the latest to lead in productivy with his 1.300 rating last night in 10 minutes. Gabe York had one of his best performances last night with a 1.143 rating but largely went unnoticed. That’s how balanced Arizona is playing right now.

The winning production extends all of the way to reserve forward Matt Korcheck, who has played only 17 minutes this season but has 17 productivity points in that span for an impeccable 1.000 rating. Just think how many Pac-12 coaches could use Korcheck in a more important role, from ASU’s Herb Sendek to Washington State’s Ernie Kent.

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Korcheck is Miller’s 11th option off the bench, but Korcheck accepts that role as a senior in the name of team chemistry. He fits in that way. The puzzle is coming together

Miller has his strengths as a recruiter, motivator and teacher. His work as a chemist — basketball-wise — is his best attribute. Before the season, Miller addressed Arizona’s chemistry a “work in progress” with CBSSports.com. That process has included Hollis-Jefferson accepting a sixth-man role for the second consecutive season, York thinking defense as much as offense, Stanley Johnson taking Miller’s team fundamentals over his own agenda, T.J. McConnell becoming the identifiable captain in place of the departed Nick Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley leading by example on the boards and on defense, etc.

Think of the productivity numbers this way:
.700 or above: Pac-12 player of the year worthy, with a rating of .800 or better as elite.
.600 to .700: Pac-12 honors worthy
.500 to .600: Significant contributor
Under .500: Like under the Mendoza line, needs work.

“When you look at our returning players, they’re in different roles and those roles have yet to be sorted out,” said in his September interview with Jon Rothstein of CBS. “Nick was our unquestioned leader last year but it remains to be seen who steps into that role during the upcoming season. Team chemistry isn’t necessarily a concern or an issue, but it’s something we want to sort out. We’re definitely a work in progress in regards to that area.”

While Arizona has not faced much of a challenge in the last three games after beating Gonzaga, the Wildcats have remained on top of their game. They have continued to evolve, rather than digress against suspect competition. The slow starts and lack of offensive execution for the Wildcats are not as pronounced as before. Miller has their collective ear when they could be aloof to the competition and the crunch of finals week.

“You can see we have more of a confidence about us as a group, more togetherness, more cohesion, and that happens with practices and games,” Miller said in the press conference last night. “We’re no longer starting out in a different way than we would have played the rest of the game. I feel we’re starting out in a more aggressive fashion that represents truly who we are.”

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SEASON PRODUCTIVITY RATING
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ARIZONA PAC-10/12
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR:
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ARIZONA SCHEDULE/PRODUCTIVITY RESULTS
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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