The Dukes return an all freshman backcourt from lat year and they finished 4th in the Atlantic-10 Conference. It was their highest conference finish since ’94 and they now have put together their fourth straight 15 win season. Guard TJ McConnell won A-10 Rookie of the year, by scoring 10.8 points per game and dishing out 4.4 assists per game. He did so in 30.6 minutes a game, the highest of all returning players.
Betting Line from Bodog: ARIZONA -9
Dukes coach Ron Everhart realizes the next steps for his talented guards:
“They still have to develop that quality where they have to continue to play throught those phases…They were basically under the gun, and they performed well, but we need them to become legit and productive sophomores.”
B.J. Montiero is the other half of the awesome backcourt. Montiero averaged 11.4 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, and 2.3 assists. At 6’5″ 205, he brings a little size to the backcourt, since McConnell is a little guy at 6’1″
Losing Damian Saunders and Bill Clark will hurt, however. They are going to have to get bigger contributions from Sean Johnson, and Montiero is going to have to make the step towards being an elite NCAA two guard. Everhart still realizes rebounding might be the biggest problem, saying that the team needs to “rebound by comittee.”
One of that committee will be Derrick Martin. The 6’9″ redshirt freshman is very athletic, and coach Everhart said “the sky is the limit, potential-wise.”
The story for the Wildcats may be the loss of their best player Derrick Williams to the draft. Lamont Jones also transferred to Iona, leaving a hole at the point guard position for the Cats.
The difference between the Cats and most teams that fall apart is that Sean Miller has recruited a solid cast of freshman that includes Angelo Chol, a 6’9″ big man from the Sudan, Nick Johnson, a 6’2″ point guard, Sidiki Johnson a 6’8″ forward, and Josiah Turner, a 6’3″ point guard.
Turner is expected to start at point guard eventually, if not from day one and has Arizona fans equally as excited as when they got Jarryd Bayless, who now plays for the Toronto Raptors. He is a pass first point guard and should be able to get teammates involved well, making them better.
Nick Johnson has the athleticism and jumper to be a very effective player, while Chol and Johnson are still likely to see significant minutes. Chol, like many project big men, is mostly a defensive player at this point, while Johnson offers a bit of talent offensively.
Arizona could win 30 games again this season, as their roster goes 11 deep and is pretty solid in terms of filling out each position with quality players. They need help from their freshman right out of the gate to be good, though, and that isn’t always the best of propositions, even in the Pac-12. They won’t have anyone on Williams’ level, though that isn’t to say Turner might not eventually be a lottery pick type. It’s just a bit early for this team, and I would be surprised if they made it past the sweet 16.