The Arizona Wildcats’ Spain exhibition tour was cut short for unfortunate reasons, but they still played two games on the trip and came away with two lopsided victories.
It’s hard to gauge a whole lot away from two games against lesser competition, but here are some takeaways nonetheless.
Dylan Smith should be useful
Sean Miller all but ruled out the possibility of the 6-foot-5 Smith playing point guard for Arizona this season, even though that’s what he played at UNC-Asheville, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a valuable player.
Smith was proficient as a spot-up shooter in Spain, shooting 4-8 from 3 in the two exhibitions.
He also showed an ability to shoot off the dribble and create his own shot. In total, Smith scored 22 points on 13 shots.
With so many creators on Arizona’s roster, plus big men like DeAndre Ayton and Dusan Ristic who will garner attention from opposing defenses, Smith should be getting plenty of open looks when on the court.
If he can knock those down at a relatively high rate and play adequate defense (his performance on that end was hard to gauge in Spain because of the difference in athleticism between the teams), he should be a valuable ‘3-and-D’ player for Arizona — something the program hasn’t really had for a while.
Smith only shot 34.9 percent from 3 at UNC-Asheville, but he also had the highest usage percentage on the team, meaning he was forced to create his own shot a lot. That won’t be his role at Arizona, and he should benefit from playing off the ball.
DeAndre Ayton won’t be Lauri Markkanen 2.0
Last year, Ayton said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Markkanen, and thought the Wildcats planned to use him as a stretch four.
But if Ayton’s role in Spain is any indication of things to come, he will be doing most of his damage in the paint, and not at the 3-point line.
Ayton did not take a single 3-pointer in Spain, and the only jumper he did make was of the mid-range variety. Instead, Ayton was a terror underneath the hoop and had several dunks, plus showed an array of moves on the low block.
Couple that with his length and athleticism in the paint, and it doesn’t appear Ayton is going to be all that similar to Markkanen, which is OK.
In fact, Ayton might make for a more natural pairing with Ristic than Markkanen was, especially on defense where Ayton’s physical tools can compensate for Ristic’s deficiencies.
Point guard position is intriguing
Parker Jackson-Cartwright will be Arizona’s starter at point guard, but who the team’s primary backup will be is up in the air.
Alex Barcello and Emmanuel Akot were the two backups in Spain, with the former outplaying the latter.
Barcello averaged 8 points and 3 assists per game on 7-13 shooting (2-5 from 3).
Akot had 6 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds on 3-4 shooting in the first exhibition and only played the first half in the second exhibition where he was 0-2 from the field with 2 assists and 1 turnover.
Barcello is a knockdown shooter and displayed good court vision in transition, but Akot, though seemingly less refined at the position, is an athletic mismatch on both ends because of his length (there aren’t many 6-foot-7 point guards out there).
And then there’s Allonzo Trier, who Miller said will fill in at point guard from time to time. Trier is better playing off the ball, but his passing ability has improved drastically since his freshman season.
In Spain, Trier had nine assists to four turnovers. And his assist percentage more than doubled from his freshman year to his sophomore year.
In all, it seems like Arizona won’t have the type of platoon it had last season when Kadeem Allen and Jackson-Cartwright handled all the point guard duties. Instead, Arizona will have a host of options that Miller can pick from depending on the matchup at hand.
Of course, the most important thing is not who plays point guard or how many players play the position, but how well they play.
This Arizona team doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses, but its point guard play is probably the team’s biggest question mark. And having someone step up behind Jackson-Cartwright (along with improvement from PJC himself) could be what’s needed for Arizona to finally reach its first Final Four since 2001.
Brandon Randolph is a do-it-all guard
Randolph reminded me of Alkins in that he affects the game in many ways. On defense, he’s quick and athletic, and uses his leaping ability to track down rebounds (and throw down vicious dunks). On offense, he can both shoot and distribute.
Randolph averaged 15 points per game in Spain on 12-25 shooting (5-11 from 3), but also averaged 4 assists and 3 rebounds per contest.
Ayton will be the freshman that gets the headlines this season (and deservedly so), but Randolph’s all-around game will make him an invaluable guard off the bench.
And if Trier does get minutes at point guard, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miller roll out a three-guard lineup with Randolph, Alkins, and Trier.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire