Overall Rank: #26
Conference Rank: #5 Pac-10
2006-07: 20-11, 11-7, 3rd (t)
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Arizona has talent, but they never lack talent. What they need is team chemistry, toughness and a sense of purpose. Coach Lute Olsen is one of the best around and it will be up to him to turn a bunch of super athletes with NBA dreams into a group who can come together and make a run in March.
Mustafa Shakur was often criticized for underachieving, but the point guard still averaged 11.9 points and 6.9 assists during his senior year. The only thing he was really guilty of was making the expectations on him so high. He will be missed more than many think. The Wildcats also lose a couple frontcourt starters in Marcus Williams and Ivan Radenovic. Williams led the team with 16.6 points and added 6.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Radenovic was a beast at times and averaged 15.1 points and a team high 7.6 boards. There is plenty of potential coming back, but those are a couple of experienced, dominating players that need to be replaced. J.P Prince played in just three games for the Wildcats before opting to transfer to Tennessee.
The Arizona fans have the same high expectations for incoming freshman Jerryd Bayless as they did for Shakur. The 6-3 guard could be running the point all year long, but it may be asking a bit too much to be better than Shakur right away. Bayless is more known as a scorer than a passer, but he can do everything. If he can be a leader as a freshman, Arizona is in good hands. Laval Lucas-Perry, Jamelle Horne, Zane Johnson and Lucas Spencer will add some depth on the wings. Lucas-Perry can does not have the outside shot to be a dominating two guard at this point, but he is a good scorer and can handle the ball. Horne is a great athlete with a long reach. He will likely spend most of his time at the four spot this year and, if he lives up to his potential, Horne could be starting sooner than later. Johnson has a ton of versatility and will be able to help the team on many levels. Alex Jacobson, a 6-11 center, will spend this year gaining strength and working on his game. He may find a few minutes here and there, but the team will not need him to do much for now. That is in large part due to the return Kirk Walters. Walters started 26 games during the 2005-2006 campaign, but missed nearly all of last season with an injury. He is not the most dynamic player, but he is a big body who can block shots, grab some boards and do a little work on the offensive end.
Who to Watch:
Walters should be starting at the center spot for now with sophomores Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger at the forward spots. Hill was a pleasant surprise for the Wildcats last year and earned 12 starts as a freshman. At 6-10, he is good shot blocker and rebounder. Given more playing time and another year of experience, Hill could develop into a bigger offensive threat as well. Hill and Walters are the two guys who can man the center spot and it will leave depth concerns if both of them are starting. However, until a freshman like Horne is ready to take over a starting job, they could both be starting. Budinger has the three spot all locked up. The 6-7 forward averaged 15.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals as a freshman. He has a smooth stroke that stretches well beyond the three-point arc and will take a majority of the big shots for the Wildcats. His defense needs some work, but few will complain if he can equal his numbers from last year. Bret Brielmaier will work hard on the glass and do the dirty work off the bench, but his minutes may be cut by some of the newcomers.
Jawann McClellan is the most consistent outside shooter on the team, but that is not saying too much. Still, McClellan is a good scorer, will hit the outside shot and will bring some much needed senior leadership to the perimeter. Nic Wise will battle with Bayless for minutes at the point. Wise rarely got the opportunity to show his stuff as a freshman last season, but he was a relatively highly touted player coming out of high school. His lack of flash keeps him out of the headlines, but that could be exactly what the team needs. Daniel Dillon will provide some depth and leadership at the shooting guard spot. The backcourt has plenty of talent, and so does the frontcourt, but that does not mean much with Arizona. This is an NCAA team either way, but they have the potential to be very special.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jerryd Bayless, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Jawann McClellan, Senior, Guard, 9.6 points per game
Chase Budinger, Sophomore, Forward, 15.6 points per game
Jordan Hill, Sophomore, Forward, 4.7 points per game
Kirk Walters, Senior, Center, DNP last season