Arizona basketball held media day on Wednesday to mark the beginning of the season, and it affirmed some major question marks heading into the Wildcats' 2013-14 campaign.
1. Will Arizona be able to shoot the ball?
For all of the Wildcats' strengths, people are forgetting that they are replacing Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, Mark Lyons and Grant Jerrett, easily the four best three-point shooters of last season. In this era, lacking spacing could mean trouble. Arizona has no question more concerning than how well it'll be able to space the floor for Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley, let alone its perimeter players on drives.
Coach Sean Miller admitted the issue to the Arizona Daily Star and others at media day:
"And shooting in particular, although I don't know if I'd say we're not going to be a good shooting team, we have a number of guys we're going to count on that haven't done it or are going to have to do it better so that remains to be seen as well."
Point guard T.J. McConnell shot above 40 percent from three-point range in his first two seasons at Duquesne and should have more opportunities to find himself open as a Wildcat. But after that, who will be able to space the floor? Nick Johnson can improve, and if Gordon is really going to play small forward, he'll have to extend his range with consistency.
Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are unlikely to provide much help. Perhaps Jordin Mayes finding his freshman mojo and Gabe York's development will be the biggest keys here.
2. Will Aaron Gordon meet the high expectations?
It's hard to see Gordon not keeping up with the hype. CBS Sports placed him on its preseason All-American second team, and his athleticism and motor alone should make him hard to keep off the court. Gordon will hold down a front line that in general should be quite a defensive burden on opponents. There's size, athleticism and mobility in there, but Gordon could take Arizona to another level if he's able to score and create off the dribble and without help from his teammates.
3. What will having a true point guard do for Sean Miller?
The Wildcats haven't had a true point since Miller inherited Nic Wise. That season, Wise didn't have the guns that T.J. McConnell will have this year. So for the first time, the Wildcats will have a true facilitator running with a scary group of pick-and-roll players.
The motion offense doesn't necessarily need a true point, but the Wildcats run a very free offense a good deal of the time -- increasingly in the postseason. McConnell will ideally be a floor general that keeps the tempo right and the team in the right frame of mind.
4. How good can Arizona be defensively?
A frontcourt that compares to an NBA squad -- and maybe even larger -- has the ability to clog the paint. If Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson can learn to chase smaller players off the three-point line, the Wildcats will be in great shape. McConnell averaged nearly three steals per game his sophomore season at Duquesne, and we know that Nick Johnson will face the best perimeter offensive player for the opponent.
On paper, there are hardly any flaws on the defensive end. Miller's challenge will be determining how deep he'd like to go on the bench. According to Bruce Pascoe, the Wildcats may go with a smaller rotation and less fullcourt pressing. That might be fine. Consider how hard it'll be for a defense to shoot over the length and athleticism from the three-point line or the interior, and there aren't many reasons why Arizona needs to try to force turnovers. It can maybe settle with forcing bad shots and running off misses as a very good rebounding squad.
5. Who will surprise?
Brandon Ashley reportedly didn't perform well this summer in the U-19 tryouts and could have a chip on his shoulder. Tarczewski is a true back-to-the-basket center who could have a breakout year. York and Mayes have room to fill in as important bench scorers. Hollis-Jefferson could already be the best defender. And Johnson has the skillset to become an impactful, big-play guard and leader.