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Arizona not offensive rebounding ‘at the level we’re capable of’

The Wildcats have plenty of size and athleticism, but that hasn’t led to offensive rebounds

North Dakota State v Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats are one of the rare college basketball teams that starts two 7-footers, one of whom — Deandre Ayton — is an athletic freak who may very be the top pick in June’s NBA Draft.

However, all that size has not translated into dominant rebounding numbers. Arizona is actually quite pedestrian in that area of the game.

The Wildcats rank 84th (of 351) in college basketball in defensive rebounding percentage, hauling in 73.5 of their opponents’ misses. That is the worst Arizona has ranked since the 2009-10 season (head coach Sean Miller’s first at the UA).

But the Wildcats are even worse as an offensive rebounding team. They only track down 31.8 percent of their own misses, which ranks 108th in college basketball. That 31.8 percent mark, by the way, is the third-worst in the Miller era.

Only the 2011-12 and 2009-10 teams, which were woefully undersized, were worse in that regard.

“We don’t offensive rebound nearly at the level we’re capable of,” Miller said following a win vs. UConn in which Arizona tallied just five offensive rebounds, “and that’s something we have to get better at and we will.”

So what’s the problem? It’s likely a mix of the personnel along with a product of Arizona’s style of play.

Dusan Ristic, Ayton’s frontcourt partner, is a 7-footer, but not one who has ever been privy to crashing the offensive glass. He is actually offensive rebounding at a career-high rate — 11.5 percent — but that number still ranks just 138th among qualified players in college basketball. Pushing guys around in the paint is not his thing.

Surprisingly, Ayton, the No. 5 defensive rebounder in the country, is offensive rebounding at an ever lower rate — 11.3 percent.

That is likely because he is so often double teamed (and subsequently boxed out). Plus, he leads the team in shot attempts, and naturally it is difficult to track down your own misses.

Ira Lee (12.2 percent) is actually Arizona’s best offensive rebounder, but he only averages 14.5 minutes per game and it’s hard to imagine he will see an uptick.

Aside from those three, the only other players who make a marked impact on the offensive glass are Keanu Pinder, who rarely plays, and Rawle Alkins.

Allonzo Trier (1.9), Parker Jackson-Cartwright (1.4), Brandon Randolph (0.7), Dylan Smith (1.4), and Alex Barcello (2.5) all have extremely low offensive rebounding percentages, and that has always been the case for Trier and PJC.

Emmanuel Akot (4.3) is a little bit better than those mentioned above, but not by much, plus he rarely plays.

Thus, Alkins is probably why Miller is confident Arizona will improve as an offensive rebounding team. He is tracking down 7.5 percent of Arizona’s misses in four games since returning from a broken foot, which is a very solid number for a wing. And that number is similar to what he put up last season (7.1) so it is sustainable.

Simply, the more he plays, the better Arizona’s offensive rebounding rate should get.

Alkins has had at least one offensive rebound in all four games he’s played in, and had two in two of those games.

That said, one disadvantage Arizona has is it doesn’t shoot a lot of 3s. Only 32.5 percent of UA’s shot attempts come from behind the arc, which ranks 288th in college basketball.

Fewer 3s equals fewer long rebounds, which are prime for the offensive team to grab. Plus, Arizona shoots about 40 percent from 3, so it isn’t missing a ton from distance to begin with.

Arizona generally favors getting back in transition rather than crashing the glass, too. It is unlikely either of those two aspects will change, so really the only way Arizona will improve on the offensive glass is if it gets better individual efforts.

Ristic and Ayton can improve, Alkins needs to continue what he’s doing, and the other wings and guards need to find a way to chip in more than they have.

Arizona already has the No. 5 offense in the country, per KenPom, and if it starts rebounding on that end of the floor as Miller thinks it can, this could wind up being the best offensive team Tucson has seen since the 2001-02 squad which finished second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire