Arizona Wildcats basketball: Sean Miller's clay is there to mold

Ethan Miller

The Arizona Wildcats have a problem of complexity, but it's not so much of a problem at this point in time. Sean Miller's roster represents enough clay for him to mold. How he goes about it will be the story of the season.

Sean Miller's team goes through this every year.

Rotations look random and continuity pales in importance as is finding out who his trusted players are. The season is long, and development is also something to consider.

Miller is an artist, and last season he had little clay to mold.

Take the implementation of center Kyryl Natyazhko and forward Sidiki Johnson into the exhibition games as examples. Miller game them chances -- they were quickly ruined when the same boneheaded play continued to surface. Look at his first game coaching Arizona, when the team played Wisconsin in Maui and started Natyahko rather than Derrick Williams.

Miller eventually figured out who the better player was. Most anyone could have.

Josiah Turner is another player to consider. Flashes of talent kept him in Miller's good graces, no matter the problems that were apparent early on, but he too became a non-factor.

The same decisions will be happening with the Arizona Wildcats this season, only it's this season where Miller has complexity of many available parts. If he's sculpting the Wildcats into a dangerous postseason team, it appears he has all the materials he needs to do it.

Whereas last year it became utterly obvious the team had but six or seven rotation players depending on injury and suspension, this year's squad has a conundrum to solve.

Go big or go small? Go experience or go youth? Against Charleston Southern, Miller had the opportunity to go with both. He started Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett in the post, but he finished with a small-ball lineup of Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson, Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill taking up four of the spots on the floor. Now look at those four names. It's easy to see they're the four most important Wildcats on this year's team.

Or are they? This is where Miller's coaching chops will kick into high gear.

That's a solid four-some of talent, and it's the four players he trusts the most on the Arizona roster. But how far that foursome will take the Wildcats is another thing. After all, young talent has proven capable of defeating experience, and John Calipari's work at Kentucky is a blueprint of that fact in NCAA hoops.

If Miller is following just that blueprint, then avoiding alienation of his players is what could turn the Wildcats from good to great. And Miller doing that has thus far been one of his best attributes.

It was Brendon Lavender and Jordin Mayes putting up huge games in an Elite Eight run. It was benching his senior, Jamelle Horne, during the third-round game against Texas and then having the courage to throw him back out there for a game-defining play that earned a five-second count on the Longhorns.

That's where games like Charleston Southern become important. Miller has set out to earn the trust of his rotation players and fringe rotation players alike.

But making the right moves will be key. Throwing in a Gabe York or, again, Mayes at key points in the postseason despite their limited roles could take it over the top.

To take it from an easy recent sports metaphor, it'll be like throwing Raul Ibanez in to bat for Alex Rodriguez. That worked out well for the Yankees in the postseason -- at least for a little bit.

Those sound decisions can happen at many points in the regular season and in the postseason assuming Arizona makes it there. Miller can show his stuff this year. We've been waiting to see it for two years now.

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