Arizona Basketball: A Breakdown of 'Death By Inches'

Mar 24, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonalds High School All American forward Brandon Ashley (10) poses during a photo shoot for the 35th McDonalds High School All American Game to be held at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

The 2011-12 Arizona Wildcats were one of speed more than muscle. It was more a formula based upon the roster makeup rather than anything that coach Sean Miller had planned. Defense and rebounding will get teams a ways, but never in the Miller era has UA necessarily been well armed in those regards.

There was always the potential. Kyryl Natyazhko and even Alex Jacobson proved to be effective in spot minutes, and there's no doubt that at any level of basketball, plain size goes a long way.

But last season, nobody 6-foot-8 or taller other than Angelo Chol could see time on the court; the lack of plain skill for Arizona's bigs was even more troublesome considering the lack of skill elsewhere. In other words, the five best players happened to be on the small side as an entire lineup.

In 2012-13, that all should change.

Miller addressed the problem of what he dubbed "death by inches" in the team's summer prospectus put out by the media relations department:

"When I mentioned `death by inches' a year ago, it's not just that your center is taller, it's that your four-man is taller, your small forward is taller. People talk about playing three guards, and that's really death by inches a lot of times because that third guard isn't as good of an offensive rebounder. He's not as big physically in and around the basketball on defense. Now, we're bigger at the three spot with Solomon and Kevin being able to play the position. Hopefully, our size is something we can use to our advantage."

While wingspan, leaping abilities and the obvious basketball smarts all make this more subjective and less simple, next season's Wildcat team no doubt will impose itself on other teams purely based on the size available. Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett will give the Wildcats similar length to a Kentucky Wildcats squad that won the national title in 2012. While none are on the level of Anthony Davis and crew, the fact remains that the formula for Miller appears similar to that of John Calipari

And even when you consider putting the five best players on the court, Arizona should be much better off on the defensive end.

How can we break down some lineups in this coming season and compare them to last year's small-ball squad?

To make it easy and calculable in a pure numbers sense, I took away five multiplied by 6-feet (so 360 inches of height) from the total number of inches in each five-man lineups' total height. This gave us a small number to compare the difference in inches of various lineups we could see this year and one from last year.

Common starting lineup in 2011-12

Josiah Turner: 6-foot-3

Nick Johnson: 6-foot-2

Kyle Fogg: 6-foot-3

Solomon Hill: 6-foot-6

Jesse Perry: 6-foot-7

Inches above 6-feet: 21 inches (1 foot, 9 inches)

While the starting backcourt had solid size and athleticism even considering Johnson's small stature, the play of three guards and essentially two small forwards hurt Arizona. Though Fogg, Hill, and Perry all rebounded at rates better than expected for players their size, defensively the Wildcats were at a loss. This group indeed could have met death through inches.

Projected starting lineup in 2012-13

Mark Lyons: 6-foot-1

Nick Johnson: 6-foot-2

Solomon Hill: 6-foot-6

Brandon Ashley: 6-foot-8

Kaleb Tarczewski: 7-foot

Inches above 6-feet: 29 inches (2 feet, 5 inches)

While there's obviously going to be some fighting for these spots, any small tweaks to this starting lineup or even major ones will turn up around the same size or larger. Grant Jerrett is taller than Ashley, as is Mayes to Lyons. The only downsizing would be if Hill and Parrom are at 3 and 4, or if Tarczewski isn't ready to start off the bat. When we consider "death by inches," this team has eight more inches in the starting lineup than last year's team.

Projected second unit in 2012-13

Jordin Mayes: 6-foot-3 (plus a 6-foot-10 wingspan)

Gabe York: 6-foot-1

Kevin Parrom: 6-foot-6

Grant Jerrett: 6-foot-10

Angelo Chol: 6-foot-9

Inches above 6-feet: 29 inches (2 feet, 5 inches)

As the math adds up, this assumed unit has the same overall size as the starting lineup, something that lends evidence to Miller's newfound depth and versatility across the board.

Going big in 2012-13

Jordin Mayes: 6-foot-3

Kevin Parrom: 6-foot-6

Solomon Hill: 6-foot-6

Grant Jerrett: 6-foot-10

Kaleb Tarczewski: 7-foot

Inches above 6-feet: 37 inches, (3 feet, 1 inch)

Just to give an example of the versatility and size of this squad, a completely viable lineup for 2012-13 is this one. Even when you overlook Mayes ridiculous 6-foot-10 wingspan, this lineup is height-wise on line with an NBA lineup -- and a big one at that.

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