Arizona Basketball

What Tarczewski’s prolonged absence means to Arizona Wildcats



Kaleb Tarczewski is out four to six weeks with a left foot injury (Pac-12 Networks video screen shot,)

Kaleb Tarczewski is out four to six weeks with a left foot injury (Pac-12 Networks video screen shot,)

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So much was anticipated in 2015-16 for Kaleb Tarczewski who intelligently put off his plans for a pro career by returning for his senior season.

Tarczewski, an accomplished student within Arizona’s business school, entered this season with the hopes of becoming the four-year player with the most victories in the history of the program. His 97 victories are only 12 shy of the Arizona record held by Matt Muehlebach, who was part of 109 victories from 1988-91.

His 112 career starts rank No. 9 on the Arizona charts and are 23 shy of Jason Gardner’s Arizona record of 135 achieved from 2000-03.

With the news today that Tarczewski will miss four to six weeks after suffering a stress reaction and strained muscle to his left foot, the career starts record will not be broken. The injury has already kept him out of games against Providence and Boise State in last week’s Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton and Anaheim.

Looking at Arizona’s schedule, Tarczewski stands to miss about 11 games until the six-week period is reached with a Jan. 21 game at Stanford. Tarczewski can play in as many as 22 games after that if the Wildcats play three games in the Pac-12 tournament and six in the NCAA tournament. That means he can have as many as 22 cracks at winning 13 games to overtake Muehlebach for the victory record. Otherwise, he’ll only have 13 regular-season games left in his Arizona career after his return if he comes back for the game in Palo Alto, Calif.

That makes passing Muehlebach a tough proposition.

More importantly, Tarczewski’s prolonged absence will affect Sean Miller’s rotation. The seventh-year Arizona coach was already in the midst of trying to mold his team following the season-ending knee injury suffered by freshman wing player Ray Smith in the preseason.


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Dusan Ristic, a sophomore 7-footer who has been highly productive overall, takes over as the starter at center. Freshman post player backup Chance Comanche, who averages only 3.6 minutes a game, figures to get more minutes although he is still developing and was once thought of as a potential redshirt candidate.

Miller will likely go with a smaller lineup on many occasions, as he showed late against Boise State on Sunday. Ryan Anderson, a stretch power forward, will likely play at the post if Ristic and Comanche are on the bench. If Anderson, Ristic and Comanche are not playing, lean wing forward Mark Tollefsen may play at the post.

With Tarczewski out, Comanche sitting on the bench and Anderson and Tollefsen fouled out in the last five minutes against the Broncos, Miller utilized an all-guard lineup of Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Elliott Pitts, Allonzo Trier, Gabe York and Kadeem Allen.

Arizona was outscored 10-6 by the Broncos in the last few minutes but held on to win thanks to Allen assisting Trier with a dunk and making a crucial three-pointer with 49 seconds remaining.

Matchups will dictate whether Miller can try that lineup often again.

In the next four to six weeks, when Ristic is on the bench, Arizona’s lineup will resemble the early Miller years when power forwards Derrick Williams and Jesse Perry manned the post.

One other aspect to consider about Tarczewski: How will the injury affect Arizona’s hopes for an NCAA tournament bid?

The committee sometimes takes roster issues into account with seeding, but usually that is not significant. The committee puts more weight on how a team performed with the roster at tournament time than what it had without an injured player. If Arizona slumps without Tarczewski — 1-1 at this point — and he returns in time for the tournament (which he should), a slump may not be held against the Wildcats.

But, again, Arizona’s seed (if it qualifies for the tournament) will not be affected greatly with Tarczewski out the next four to six weeks.


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[/ezcol_1half_end] 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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