With Brandon Ashley already headed to the NBA, Matt Korcheck graduating, and 5-star recruits Stephen Zimmerman and Ivan Rabb likely heading elsewhere, the Wildcats needed to do something to shore up their front court depth.
They did it with a familiar face. A report by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com says that Kaleb Tarczewski has decided to pass on the NBA for now and will return for his senior year:
Kaleb Tarczewski is returning for his senior year at Arizona.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) April 9, 2015
Tarczewski was only projected to be selected with the 57th pick in the draft on DraftExpress.com, so it's not that surprising that Kaleb decided to come back for another year. However, Sean Miller mentioned during Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's press conference that losing the entire starting five was certainly a possibility, but fortunately that will not be the case.
It's hard to overstate how important Tarczewski's return is. Since neither of the two 5-star recruits were likely to come to Tucson, it would've meant that Dusan Ristic would've had to start at center.While I'm a huge fan of Ristic, I simply don't think he is ready for that type of role yet and Kaleb's return should help his development. Ristic is solid offensively already, but he still needs to improve on the defensive end and on the glass. Getting to practice for another year against Tarczewski and getting another year under his belt will make Dusan a better player and should make him ready to take over the center spot when he's a junior in 2016.
On the court, Kaleb will not only provide what will be a relatively young team with senior leadership, and he'll continue to be a strong defensive anchor and will greatly help the Wildcats continue their dominant rebounding ways. For a team that will lose two (three if Stanley Johnson leaves) of its best perimeter defenders, having Zeus protecting the paint will be extremely invaluable.
Offensively, it could be a breakout year for Tarczewski. Arizona's spacing next year should be much improved. The Wildcats will arguably upgrade their perimeter shooting at both guard spots with Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Gabe York or Allonzo Trier, and at the small forward position. This should open up the middle of the floor for Zeus to operate. Since T.J. McConnell will no longer be running the offense and creating for others, Sean Miller might need to lean on Kaleb's offensive ability more than he has in the past three years. I'd bet on the number of post touches he gets next season to increase quite a bit.
It's also worth mentioning that Tarczewski is already 23 and physically he'll be on a much different level than his opponents. He and Ryan Anderson will make up what will be one of the oldest and most experienced front lines in all of college basketball.
Now that Kaleb is back in the fold, we wait patiently for Stanley Johnson's decision.