Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: Fans offer opinion on UA’s strengths, weaknesses



Kaleb Tarczewski has the biggest room for improvement among the Wildcats according to some fans (Pac-12 Networks video screen shot, click on photo to access video)

Kaleb Tarczewski has the biggest room for improvement among the Wildcats according to some fans (Pac-12 Networks video screen shot, click on photo to access video)

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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 the Pac-12.
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I posed this question the other day to Arizona Wildcats fans on a Facebook page devoted to the basketball program that includes more than 4,200 members:

“What do UA fans like most about this year’s team? What do they want to improve the most?”

Thirty-four fans responded in a two-day period and many of them had multiple answers rather than a decisive opinion of what is foremost good and bad with the Wildcats in their eyes.

Here are the Top Five answers for each category:

What needs to improve the most:

1. The play of Kaleb Tarczewski and his hand-to-eye coordination

2. Avoiding playing down to the competition

3. Brandon Ashley’s aggressiveness

4. Perimeter shooting

5. Defensive consistency

Other areas in need of improvement according to the fans: Intensity on the road, toughness, more unity like last year’s team, making 1-foot shots, killer instinct, dominance like last year, playing more in sync on offense, free throws, Stanley Johnson’s defensive miscues, inability to pass ball into the paint, team chemistry and Matt Korcheck’s playing time.

What do fans like the most?

1. T.J. McConnell’s play and leadership

2. Johnson being fun to watch and his athleticism

3. Arizona at its best against the top teams

4. Intensity, especially at home

5. Unselfishness and togetherness

Others areas fans like of this team: Ability to score, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s “moves”, Arizona’s record is better than it should be, energy and clutch play of Gabe York and steady improvement overall of the team.

The answers were more critical than complimentary of the Wildcats, who are ranked No. 7 with a 20-3 record overall and tied for first place in the Pac-12 at 8-2.


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Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents.
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Some answers countered others, such as the complaint of a lack of team chemistry contrasting the praise that Arizona is unselfish and shows togetherness.

Where fans agreed the most was the play of Tarczewski, a junior nicknamed “Zeus” who is not as God-like with his numbers from last year. He averaged 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds last season. He is at 8.3 and 5.0 this season. He shot 75.6 percent from the free-throw line last season. He is at 68.5 percent this season. He averaged a blocked shot a game last season. He has only 14 in 23 games this season.

In today’s press conference the first question posed of Sean Miller was, “Is Kaleb meeting your expectations?”

“Probably not right now,” Miller said. “I would say that some of what Kaleb brings to the table in terms of his overall value you don’t really see on the stat sheet.

“I’ve said it from the outset of our season he is where he is supposed to be. He is physical. He is hard-working. He is hard-playing and he’s very determined on defense and that impacts a lot for our team.”

Tarczewski actually has 13 steals this season, which is almost equal to his total (15) from his first two seasons.

Many of the respondents were critical of Tarczewski’s hands. Miller agreed today, mentioning that Tarczewski has struggled the most on offense, catching the ball, finishing and having confidence.

“I believe he can get that confidence back,” Miller said. “It’s up to us as a coaching staff to help him get that confidence back because we are a better team when he can contribute 10 points or more in a game and he is certainly capable.”

Tarczewski has always been turnover prone with 63 last season after posting 54 as a freshman. He is at 40 this season and on pace to have about 54 by the end of the regular season. Most big men are turnover prone. One of Arizona’s most fundamentally-sound centers — Sean Rooks — had 230 turnovers in his four-year career. Tarczewski is at 157.

Does Tarczewski have room for improvement? Yes. Does he have an athletic Aaron Gordon playing next to him to free him up more this year? No. Gordon’s ability to attract defenders is not happening as much with Ashley, who is not as athletic as Gordon and is not involved around the rim as much as Gordon.

Tarczewski is not a part overall in the offensive flow because much of Arizona’s scoring is predicated on McConnell, Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson and Ashley. Tarczewski attempted 219 field goals last season with Ashley out with the foot injury in the last two months and Nick Johnson, Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson being the main scoring threats.

He has attempted only 125 field goals through the first 23 games. He is on pace to attempt only 168 by the end of the regular season.

In other words, Tarczewski may not be as tuned in as he was last season because he is not as much in the focal point of the execution. It’s up to him as a third-year player to overcome that and be prepared at all times rather than fall back.

Another significant area of agreement among the fans is Arizona playing up and down to its competition level. There is some truth to that.

The Wildcats are 4-0 against RPI Top 50 teams Gonzaga, San Diego State, Utah and Stanford. They have lost to No. 71 Oregon State, No. 95 ASU and No. 98 UNLV.

Johnson is another hot topic on the team with many fans enjoying his aggressive style of play. Some detractors questioned his willingness to pass off the dribble, improve the team chemistry and play tough on defense at all times.

McConnell’s leadership and performance overall is far and away the most positive aspect of the team mentioned by fans. He has become a fan favorite in the mold of Arizona’s most popular point guards (Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry and Jason Gardner).

One other thing a few fans agree on, despite it not directly involved with Arizona’s team — the referees. They want them replaced with others who are not whistle-happy.

Everybody has an opinion, right or wrong, from Lexington, Ky., to Madison, Wis., to Tucson. That’s the beauty of sports.


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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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