Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: Inner-workings will keep UA competitive



Sean Miller's practice sessions are what will make Arizona a winner come March (ESPN screen shot)

Sean Miller’s practice sessions are what will make Arizona a winner come March (ESPN screen shot)

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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)


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Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents. Arizona is No. 13 with a strength-of-schedule ranking of No. 117.
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Coaches always like to say they concern themselves more about their team than the opponent. That’s not only coach-speak for Sean Miller this year in the struggling Pac-12.

Judging from the lineup shuffling before and during the ASU game, Miller is consumed first and foremost with fine-tuning his team. Games against ASU, Washington State, Cal, etc., classify the same. Throw a blanket over them.

The eighth-ranked Wildcats know heading into the Pac-12 season that they are their own worst enemy. The lone exception appears to be Utah, which is 11-2 and coming of a sweep of the L.A. schools in Salt Lake City by a combined 56 points.

No team should be taken lightly, especially an Oregon team coached by Dana Altman on Thursday night in Eugene, Ore. The Ducks have won six straight games and are 11-3. They have dangerous senior guard Joseph Young, a sure-bet to be an All-Pac-12 player this season.

That challenge will be won in practice when the Wildcats go against themselves. Who will emerge as the top defender to go against Young? Gabe York? Elliott Pitts? Stanley Johnson? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson?

Coming off the UNLV defeat, one in which Brandon Ashley was constantly beat in the lane, Miller made the comment that the Rebels “picked on who they wanted to pick on and it worked.”

Ashley made the determination in practice that he did not want sand thrown in his face again. Miller said Ashley earned the gold jersey, signifying the team’s best practice player, six consecutive days leading up to the ASU game.

ASU leading scorer Savon Goodman, who was averaging 15.8 points in his four games with the Sun Devils, was completely shut down by Ashley and Arizona’s interior defense. He only attempted three shots in 19 minutes and scored only two points on free throws.

Miller warned Ashley and others of the “really, really hard days of practice” ahead after the UNLV loss. Arizona responded.

With how Miller shuffled his starting lineup and was in Johnson’s ear in the second half of the ASU game, he’s submitting another challenge to the youngster. The other players will take note. If Miller is like this with a 5-star talent, he won’t be easy on anybody.


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That is what bonds a team: No favorites and no double standards.

Johnson did not earn the starting assignment against ASU for the first time this season. Neither did York. Miller said Johnson and York were not penalized. He only wanted to change things up and Hollis-Jefferson and Pitts practiced well enough to earn the starting assignment.

With how deep Arizona is this season, anybody who practices well, such as Ashley did last week, Miller knows promising results should follow. Ashley is matched daily against capable freshmen Craig Victor and Dusan Ristic. They would be welcomed additions to any Pac-12 team. They could start for at least half of them.

Ristic had the most productive game of the Wildcats against ASU, tallying 14 productivity points in 11 minutes. The 7-footer’s positioning and execution around the basket is improving.

Victor, when given the opportunity in extended minutes, has played well with a season productivity rating of .667.

Nine of Arizona’s 14 players have a productivity rating of .500 or better. That .500 mark signifies winning basketball. Miller is getting productive results from those players in at least half of their minutes.

Kaleb Tarczewski (.481) and Pitts (.305) are the only regulars who fall below the .500 line.

If Tarczewski and Pitts can improve past the .500 mark, and the others increase their productivity (no player lacks room for improvement), Arizona will be difficult to beat come March.

That progression will come in practice and how players respond to Miller;s challenges and potential shifting of the lineup.

Arizona’s team mechanics and functionality before they take the court for a game will be the difference in the end.


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[table “” not found /] 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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