Arizona Basketball

McConnell only Arizona Wildcats player to rank in top five season assists, steals

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T.J. McConnell having a unique season that places him among the best Arizona point guards (YouTube video capture)
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The All-American teams are set to come out soon after the season and the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s top point guard will be announced April 10.

T.J. McConnell has strong credentials to be honored. He has the distinction in Arizona’s storied history of talented point guards of being the only one to rank in the top five in season steals and assists.

McConnell has 80 steals after recording five Saturday in Arizona’s 73-58 win over Ohio State in the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. That number is only seven shy of Mike Bibby’s school record of 87 set in 1997-98.

His six assists give him 228 for this season, 19 short of Russell Brown’s school record of 247 set in 1978-79.

McConnell, a senior, already has the distinction of having the best career assist-to-turnover ratio in the history of the program. His ratio of 3.12 (430 assists to 138 turnovers) ranks ahead of Steve Kerr’s 2.64 mark from 1984-88.

It was reported by CBS during yesterday’s game that McConnell became the first Pac-12 player to record a 15-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist and 5-steal game in the NCAA tournament since Cal’s Jason Kidd in 1993. McConnell is only the sixth player overall to achieve that feat.

McConnell had 19 points, six rebounds, six assists and five steals against the Buckeyes.

“I’ve said it all along, he’s our most valuable player because of what he’s done consistently over time,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “For T.J. to impose his will, work as hard as he did on that side of the ball (defensively against D’Angelo Russell), a lot of times that player doesn’t have enough on offense to help you.

“When you look at what he does for us on both ends, he’s like an All-American player. He reminds me a lot of what Aaron Craft gave Ohio State for so many years. T.J. has meant that to our program, not just the last two years, but he practiced with us three years ago, I’m telling you, he made our team better even in that year. I think he’s one of the best players that’s playing in college basketball right now.”

Kidd had 16 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals in a 66-64 first-round win over LSU in 1993. He almost matched that feat two days later in the second-round 82-77 upset victory over Duke (11 points, 14 assists, eight rebounds and four steals).

McConnell’s primary competition for All-American honors at point guard are the four other finalists for the Cousy Award: Duke’s Tyus Jones, Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos, Utah’s Delon Wright and Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet.

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Site founder and award-winning sports journalist Javier Morales has published his first e-book, “The Highest Form of Living”, a fiction piece about a young man who overcomes a troubled upbringing without his lost father and wayward mother through basketball and hope. His hope is realized through the sport he loves. Basketball enables him to get past his fears. His experience on the court indirectly brings him closer to his parents in a unique, heartfelt way. Please order it at Amazon (for only $4.99) by clicking on the photo:
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CAREER ASSIST-TO-TURNOVER LEADERS (MIN. 300 ASSISTS)

1. T.J. McConnell (2014-present) 3.12 (430/138)
2. Steve Kerr (1984-88) 2.64 (443/168)
3. Matt Muehlebach (1988-91) 2.20 (458/208)
4. Matt Othick (1989-92) 2.18 (552/253)
5. Mike Bibby (1997-98) 2.12 (377/178)

SEASON ASSISTS LEADERS

1. Russell Brown (1978-79) 247
2. Reggie Geary (1995-96) 231
3. T.J. McConnell (2014-15) 228
4. Damon Stoudamire (1994-95) 220
5. Mustafa Shakur (2006-07) 215

SEASON STEALS LEADERS

1. Mike Bibby (1997-98) 87
2. Jason Terry (1996-97) 85
3. Hassan Adams (2005-06) 82
4. Jason Terry (1998-99) 80
4. T.J. McConnell (2014-15) 80

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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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