The Arizona Wildcats are 4-0 in conference play and appear to be hitting their stride at the right time of the season.
So what’s the biggest positive we’ve seen from these first four league games? Let us know below!
Brandon Hill: I think the emergence of Dusan Ristic as a reliable (and efficient) scorer. Over the first four conference games he’s averaging 16.8 points on 64% shooting. We’ve seen flashes of his ability but he seemed to fizzle and fade at times. This year he’s become a steady performer and a great interior complement to Lauri Markkanen, particularly with a better back-to-the-basket game than the Finn right now. With Allonzo Trier’s absence, everyone has had to pick up scoring slack and I think Ristic has picked up more than I might’ve guessed, which bodes well for the rest of the year.
David Potts: I agree with Brandon - I think it’s Dusan Ristic. KenPom automatically assigns one player per game as the “MVP” based on their efficiency, minutes played, and so forth. By that metric, Ristic was MVP of the Cal game and the Utah game, largely due to his very efficient scoring inside. The Colorado game worries me just a little — that was the first game in conference play where Ristic shot <50% inside the arc — but if Dusan can maintain anywhere near the field goal percentage he shot in the Cal, Stanford, and Utah games, the Wildcats might be able to win the conference.
Ryan Kelapire: Parker Jackson-Cartwright is back and still effective. High ankle sprains can be devastating and lingering injuries, but Jackson-Cartwright returned sooner than originally anticipated and, while he’s not quite at 100 percent yet, he is getting closer and his stellar assist-to-turnover ratio is continuing.
Not to mention that his return gave the Wildcats an eighth scholarship player. Had this team gone into Pac-12 play with only seven, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t be 4-0 at the start.
Steve Apter: Keanu Pinder and Chance Comanche have emerged. They give the 2nd unit length and consistent rebounding ability. Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins may not be filling up the stat sheet, but their development has been steady over the past few weeks. They both are athletically gifted and it's beautiful, for lack of a better word, to see them turning on the lights and realizing more often, “hey, I can make a play here”; 50/50 balls, half a second early in defensive rotation to be in a passing lane, Alkins and Simmons have been big in big moments through the first four conference games.
Alec Sills-Trausch: Dusan Ristic 100%. While we knew his ability to score down low from his previous two seasons, he’s turned up his consistency and is definitely the player I feel most comfortable shooting the ball. His ability to use either hand, his footwork, and craftiness on the block makes him near impossible to guard 1-on-1 when considering his size.
Due to this, teams will need to start double teaming him, opening up easy looks from the perimeter as well as cuts to the hoop for high percentage shots. In essence, if Dusan keeps rolling, you-know-who ever returns, and Kadeem Allen (another positive surprise with his jumper) stays hot, we might see a little run to Phoenix.