Ray Smith goes down in an exhibition. Allonzo Trier has mysteriously missed 17 games. Parker Jackson-Cartwright gets injured. Only seven scholarship players for a month, with four of those being either freshmen or transfers.
Despite all the hubbub about Arizona’s many difficulties throughout the first half of the season, the Wildcats are absolutely rolling.
Winners of nine in a row, Arizona finds themselves at 15-2 overall and 4-0 in Pac-12 play. This is only the second time the Wildcats have had such a start in-conference under Sean Miller.
What can people take away from these wins? Here are three takeaways from the Wildcats most recent sweep:
The offense is better with PJC
It’s been said plenty but it bears repeating — when Parker Jackson-Cartwright is on the floor, the Arizona Wildcats are a much better offensive team.
PJC has yet to hit his stride from a scoring standpoint. His shot, one of the best in the Pac-12 a year ago, hasn’t been on thus far. He’s 22% from beyond the arc and has only reached double-digits twice this season.
And yet, none of that seems to matter.
In the ten games that Jackson-Cartwright has played in injury-free, he’s racked up six assists per game, and since returning from injury, he’s been masterful. In the four games since his return, he’s racked up 25 assists to just five turnovers.
Outside of stats, you can see that when he’s on the floor, the ball rarely sticks and the offense moves with fluidity. One would have to assume that he’ll get his starting role back soon and we’ll continue to see an uptick in open shots and assists, plus less turnovers.
Too many open threes
Arizona’s defense has been superb throughout the season. You’d expect nothing less from a Sean Miller-led squad. Colorado hanging 73 on the Wildcats on Saturday night was the most they’ve surrendered and the first time they gave up more than 70 all year.
But, in the Utah and Colorado games, there was a common theme that kept the two teams from beating Arizona — they just missed shots.
Each team had plenty of opportunities to score, especially Utah. Arizona suffered from some slow rotations or just didn’t get back quick enough in transition and gave up some very good looks.
Luckily for the Wildcats, the Utes and Buffs just couldn’t get them to fall.
This could be a problem if it persists. Their next three games are a home game against the Arizona State Sun Devils and then their SoCal road trip to face the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans. All three of these teams are averaging over 80 points per game. The Sun Devils and Bruins, in particular, shoot and make a lot of threes.
If this ‘allow open shot’ trend continues, Arizona’s winning streak will not make it through the next three games.
Kadeem Allen’s shooting is no fluke
Shooting has been a concern all season long. Lauri Markkanen has shown consistency in his jumper while nearly everyone else has been streaky at best.
After the Colorado game, it’s now evident that Kadeem Allen’s shooting is far from streaky and he has a spot up shot that the Wildcats can count on.
Over his last three games, Allen is 6-of-6 from deep including his 3-for-3 performance against Colorado on Saturday night; a performance that resulted in a career-high 18 points.
Kadeem adding a consistent three-point shot to his game could do wonders for an Arizona offense that occasionally goes stale. And there’s nothing that suggests that can’t happen. Allen is now shooting over 50% from deep on the year and has gotten better as the season has gone on.