Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: McConnell comes through when UA needs him most

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T.J. McConnell is a leader whether it's a vocal one or his play on the court (ESPN video screen shot, click on photo to access video)

T.J. McConnell is a leader whether it’s a vocal one or his play on the court (ESPN video 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 60, UTEP 55
PRODUCTIVITY RATING

* — STARTERS
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HOW ARE THEY DOING?
Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents. Arizona is No. 15 with a strength-of-schedule ranking of No. 141.
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ARIZONA 60, UTEP 55

The mark of a captain is a player who stands tall in a team’s greatest time of need, not only the guy who scores a lot of points or is named to the most All-American teams.

T.J. McConnell will not be on anybody’s NBA draft board in the first round come June. But as he showed Friday night at UTEP, he will be the No. 1 player in Sean Miller’s plan of attack as Arizona works its way toward the goal of a Pac-12 title and No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

McConnell is as valuable to Arizona’s hopes of a deep run in the postseason as point guards Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby and Jason Gardner before him.

Before Friday’s game, won by Arizona 60-55 in a hostile environment at the Don Haskins Center, I phoned the pre-game show on 1290-AM The Source, hosted by Anthony Gimino, Steve Rivera, Mike Luke and former Arizona basketball and football player Kelvin Eafon.

I made the comment that what I want to see the most is how McConnell handles that leadership role really for the first time in Arizona’s first true road game. Nick Johnson was the leader of last year’s team sharing the same backcourt as McConnell.

Will McConnell become a calming influence by playing with composure and efficiency? How will he lead Arizona’s response following a potential UTEP run with a partisan crowd against the Wildcats?

Arizona’s fortitude playing at UTEP, after the Miners clawed back from a 15-2 deficit, was different than facing San Diego State in Maui in front of a split crowd.

McConnell lived up to the mantle of being a leader without question in his first true test.

My question to Gimino, Rivera and the group was answered emphatically by the senior guard who had nine points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Struggling from the field entering the game (shooting 38.2 percent), McConnell often broke down UTEP’s defense and made 4 of 8 shots, all high-percentage looks created off the dribble.

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It was fitting that in a game in which Arizona had its worst productivity rating of the season at .395, McConnell led the Wildcats with a .657 rating. It was the first time McConnell has led Arizona in productivity this season.

He stepped up and put some of his faltering teammates on his shoulders. That’s how a resourceful team executes. During McConnell’s shooting struggles earlier this season, many of his teammates carried the Wildcats to victory. Take away McConnell’s stats against UTEP and Arizona has two assists and 14 turnovers and is out-rebounded in the game.

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.

Freshman sensation Stanley Johnson had 17 points and four steals against UTEP but Arizona won because of how McConnell impacted Arizona in all facets of the game.

“T.J. embodies all the qualities in players we want at the University of Arizona,” Miller told Jay Bilas of ESPN two weeks ago. “He happens to be the point guard but if we can find a power forward or center with his mentality … It also comes down to how much he cares.

“T.J. embodies the qualities that you want you want … and you know what? It’s contagious. It’s making his teammates better through the pass and because of how good of a defender he is. It’s that mentality that he’s brought into the locker room that has really spear-headed us into some great things.”

After the UTEP game, Miller said of McConnell: “I thought he was poised and he stepped up in a big, big way.”

He stepped up when Arizona needed him most. That’s Arizona’s recipe for success this year on the road to Indianapolis.

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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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