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NIT Bound?

Arizona's streak of 25 consecutive NCAA berths has come to an end. I think most astute observers coming into the season would have conceded the point. An NCAA tournament run from a group this young, with really only one bona fide NBA talent on the roster, would have been almost miraculous.

Still, I think this group should rate some consideration for one of the post-season tournaments, preferably the NIT.

More than anything this group just needs to continue to get minutes together, and the non-NCAA tournaments are good for young teams in that regard. Despite Arizona's youth this group has done some positive things, and a trip to the post-season would allow them to continue building on them heading into the off-season.

One thing this team does reasonably well is shoot--when it gets shots. Arizona's True Shooting Percentage* (TS%) is 55%. *True shooting is an adjusted field goal percentage that accounts for the impact of 3pt shooting and getting to the free throw line. That's pretty decent, and the potential is there for growth. Arizona shoots better than NCAA tournament teams West Virginia and Tennessee as well as probable at-large teams Washington and Texas. All are generally considered good offensive teams. Derrick Williams (64%) is obviously a big part of that, but Arizona has few high volume/low efficiency chuckers, and that's typically a sign that guys are working hard to get good shots. That's a credit to the coaching staff and to those players. Having said that, going forward I have pretty major concerns about Kevin Parrom (42%) and Mo Mo Jones (49%). Shooting that poorly is a troubling sign from two players so highly regarded coming out of high school.

Arizona's Points Per Play (0.91) was the real problem with the offense from a team wide perspective. (BYU leads the country at 1.02). If you click the link and scroll down you'll see some tournament teams at .91 points per play, but very few below that mark. So Arizona was at the bottom end of decent. Points per play tells us how well a team is converting its possessions into points. We know this team converts its shots at a good percentage, but it just doesn't get enough shots. "And another turnover by the Wildcats," may have been the most commonly repeated phrase during any Arizona broadcast. Arizona's assist-to-turnover is .89, which is dreadful. For a team that has to grind out wins, it's a wonder that they managed to finish above .500 throwing away so many possessions. We can expect the turnovers to improve just in the course of some natural maturation and by playing together more.

The biggest improvement needs to come on defense. I can't put my hands on opponent shooting percentages, but foul-based metrics show a mediocre defensive team. Arizona committed 19.2 fouls per game--not very good. It also didn't make up for fouling with turnover-producing defensive plays. Arizona's blocks+steals/foul was only .44. So, many of Arizona's fouls were of the clutching and grabbing type. Although I often saw lots of effort on defense it often only resulted in fouls.

Let's hope Arizona gets an invite to a post-season tournament so we can send Nic off the right way and the kids can get some additional development.