2014 Arizona Wildcats Predictions and NCAA Basketball Futures Odds
by Aaron Smith - 11/10/2014
There weren't many who questioned the hire of Sean Miller at Arizona five years ago, but anyone who did would look really bad right about now. Miller had to rebuild the once-proud Arizona program first, and he has done that and more. Miller has shown himself to be a great recruiter as well as a great in-game coach. The sign of a great program is a program that can withstand significant losses and still be one of the favorites to win the title the next year. That's exactly where Miller has the Wildcats right now.
The only thing left to do is execute better in March. Arizona lost in the Elite Eight last year. The Wildcats haven't been to the Final Four since 2001. They have been close a few times in the last five years, but they haven't quite been able to get over the hump. Miller understands that is where the team needs to be. He knows that expectations are high, and his expectations for the program are probably even higher than fans or those outside the program. The time for Arizona to win is now.
2014 Arizona Key Losses & Additions
Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson are two massive losses for the Wildcats. Gordon was the fourth-overall pick in the NBA Draft. He came into Arizona as the most highly-touted players the program had picked up in years. He played only one year for the Wildcats, but he was extremely successful in that one year. Gordon was a freak of an athlete who could run the floor as well as most guards. He could jump out of the gym, and his high-energy style was something every coach would love to have. Miller hated to see him go, but he knows Gordon made the right decision. Johnson was the Pac-12 Player of the Year last year. He led the team with 16.3 points per game, and he was the vocal leader of the team. He was a bit of a "tweener," and when he came to Arizona the expectations weren't all that high. Johnson's versatile game ended up being the key to the team's success the past few seasons. He will be missed.
Stanley Johnson will start right away, and he was one of the top recruits in the country. Johnson played at Mater Dei High School, where many greats have played before him. Gary McKnight, his high school coach, called Johnson the best player he'd ever coached. That's important because he also coached Miles Simon, who led Arizona to a national title in 1997. Johnson is a hard worker, and his game is very versatile. Kadeem Allen was the junior college player of the year last year, and he could play either point guard or shooting guard for the Wildcats. Parker Jackson-Cartwright will likely be the backup point guard this year. He is a 5-foot-8, dynamic player who can create great opportunities for his teammates.
2014 Arizona Backcourt
T.J. McConnell really helped the Wildcats last year. McConnell gave the team their first true point guard in several years. He's a pass-first guy who can change a game in a big way without ever scoring a point. His twitter handle tells you a lot about how he sees himself. McConnell is @ipass4Zona on Twitter. Clearly, this is a guy who knows what he is best at, and he'll be a team leader in his senior season this year. Johnson will likely be one of the best freshman in the country this year. His game is ready for college action immediately. Depth isn't a problem at all for the Wildcats in the backcourt. Gabe York and Elliot Pitts will see plenty of action. Allen and Jackson-Cartwright also look ready to jump right in.
2014 Arizona Frontcourt
The backcourt is good, but Arizona's frontcourt is absolutely dominating. Kaleb Tarczewski improved a ton between his freshman and sophomore seasons, and he'll be a force down low with his 7-foot body and long arms. He is the type of guy who quietly puts up big numbers and changes a game with his rebounding and defensive presence. Brandon Ashley was really coming into his own when he went down with an injury last year. Ashley is one of the best post defenders in the nation, and his offensive game is more than adequate. There are still some questions about his health, but if he's healthy then he will start and produce consistently. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson toyed with the idea of going pro after last year. Hollis-Jefferson ended up staying at Arizona, and that's one of the main reasons they are ranked where they are at the start of this year. This is a guy who is 6-foot-7 and can run the floor similar to the way Gordon did. Hollis-Jefferson can play small forward or power forward. He is the hardest worker on the floor, and he is much stronger coming into this season. Craig Victor is another newcomer who could see minutes at the power forward spot.
2014 Arizona Futures Odds
Arizona is a Top 5 team in everyone's rankings going into the year, and 5Dimes lists them at +900 to win the NCAA Championship this year. BetOnline lists them as the second-favorite to win it all at +800.
2014 Arizona Wildcats Predictions & NCAA Basketball Picks
I love what Miller is doing with this program. Arizona is going to be great for a long time. The Wildcats could have used Gordon and/or Johnson returning for sure, but they'll still be very good. I'm a little concerned that they will rely on so much inexperience in the backcourt outside of McConnell. The Wildcats might make the Final Four this time around, but I don't think they'll be able to cut down the nets.
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