The Arizona Wildcats have won four straight since their three-game losing streak in the Bahamas, and now have Rawle Alkins back as they look to become the top-five team they were projected to be.
Arizona has been improving and jumped back into Top 25 this week, but here are five discouraging stats about the team (don’t worry, we will post some encouraging stats at another time).
Arizona is shooting 38.1 percent from 3 as a team this year which is a very solid mark, but it shoots just 24.4 percent from 3 away from McKale Center.
I think there are two plausible explanations for this. One, Arizona has a lot of newcomers and they are less confident or comfortable shooting on the road.
For instance, Alex Barcello is 1-11 from 3 away from McKale. Deandre Ayton is 3-12. Dylan Smith was 1-10 from 3 on the road until he hit all three attempts against Texas A&M in Phoenix (to be fair to Brandon Randolph, he has shot well on the road).
The other explanation is that Arizona has faced much stiffer competition away from McKale Center so naturally those teams did a better job limiting the number of open 3s the Wildcats had.
Allonzo Trier, for example, is 8-32 (25 percent) from 3 against the five “good” teams Arizona has faced this year, despite shooting 39.6 percent from 3 on the season.
Whatever the cause, Arizona has to improve its shooting proficiency on the road otherwise it’s going to lose some winnable games in Pac-12 play. The Wildcats don’t have the type of defense where they can consistently rely on winning ugly games.
Speaking of defense, Arizona is allowing 102.6 points per 100 possessions this season. That is almost the worst defensive rating among all Sean Miller-coached Arizona teams. The 2009-10 team — which finished 16-15 and missed the NCAA Tournament — allowed 102.8 points per 100 possessions.
As of Thursday, Arizona ranked 221st (of 351) in the country in defensive efficiency, per sports-reference.com. If you adjust those numbers based on its opponents — which KenPom does — Arizona ranks 55th in the country in defensive efficiency.
The worst defensive team to win a national championship since 2002 (the start of the KenPom era) was the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2005. They finished with the No. 18 defense, but they also had the No. 1 offense. Most championship teams finish with a top-10 mark on both offense and defense.
Arizona currently ranks ninth on offense, but it clearly has a lot of work to do defensively to be in the national title conversation.
So why is Arizona so bad defensively?
Here’s one reason: 35.0 percent of its opponents’ field goal attempts are at the rim this season, according to hoop-math.com.
That is the highest percentage an Arizona team has allowed since the stat has been tracked (2011).
Teams aren’t shooting an unusually high percentage at the rim against the Wildcats (60.9), but allowing that many shots from close range makes it very difficult to be successful defensively unless you have an elite rim-protector.
Spoiler: the Wildcats don’t. At least not yet — perhaps Ayton can become that as the season progresses, but his shot blocking numbers are poor for someone with his physical attributes.
Anyway, the reason teams get so many looks at the rim likely stems back to what Sean Miller has said UA’s main problems are: transition defense (it’s easier to get to the rim against a defense that isn’t set) and the inability to stop dribble penetration.
Allonzo Trier has 33 turnovers through 10 games this year. Last year, he had just 31 in 18 games.
His turnover percentage has worsened from 10.9 to a career-high 17.0 percent. The good news is his assist percentage has improved, but only marginally — from 16.6 percent to 17.0.
Simply, Trier is turning the ball over at a much higher rate this year which is problematic since he has the highest usage rate on the team.
Trier has been fantastic offensively otherwise, but like Miller said after the Alabama game, turnovers have been the one thing that have plagued him this season.
However, that might change now that Alkins, another player who can create offense, is back and can carry some of the load on that end of the floor.
Rankings mean nothing this time of year, right?!
I thought that, then I read this article and realized how accurate the week six polls are. Basically, if a team isn’t in the Top 12 this time of year, it almost certainly won’t win a national title.
“The eventual national champion has been ranked no lower than No. 12 in the week six poll every season but one since 1999,” the article states.
That’s an ominous fact for an Arizona team currently ranked 23rd.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire