The Arizona Wildcats have seemed to hit their lowest point of the season, losing two of their last three, including a 58-49 home defeat to the Baylor Bears in which they were outrebounded by an unfathomable 51-19 margin.
The Wildcats are now 7-4 heading into their last two non-conference games, likely facing an uphill battle to make the NCAA Tournament.
Here are some numbers that explain why the Wildcats are where they are.
Arizona’s defense is allowing an offensive rebounding percentage of 28.1. Only two UA teams have posted worse marks under Sean Miller — the 2011-12 squad and the 2009-10 squad. Neither made the NCAA Tournament.
Here is how UA’s five quality opponents have offensive rebounded against Arizona. (Keep in mind that in order to be a top-25 defensive rebounding team this season, you’d have to hold your opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage under 23.5 percent):
- Iowa State — 28.9%
- Gonzaga — 25.7%
- Auburn — 33.3%
- Alabama — 30.6%
- Baylor — 57.6%
Arizona’s rebounding performance against Baylor was easily the worst in the KenPom era, which dates back to 2001-02.
The Wildcats defense has actually been pretty solid this season, almost cracking the top 40 nationally, but that all goes for naught if you can’t close out possessions with rebounds.
Safe to say that if Arizona doesn’t improve substantially in that area, it will not be dancing come March.
The Wildcats are making exactly one-third of their 3-pointers this season, their worst percentage in the Miller era. Justin Coleman (.415) is the only Wildcat shooting above 35 percent.
While it’s still possible to be a good team while shooting so poorly — heck, Duke is only shooting 33.2 percent from 3 — the Wildcats rely on the 3-ball.
Arizona’s 3-point rate — the number of 3s per field goal attempt — is .394, easily the highest it has even been under Miller, meaning it is shooting more 3s than ever.
The only other Miller-coached teams that have been close were the 2012-13 and 2011-12 squads. The difference is those teams shot a solid 37 and 38 percent from 3, respectively, making those triples worth the investment.
So if your shots aren’t falling, you should probably find other ways to score, like getting to the free throw line, right?
Yes, but this Arizona team does not do that. The Wildcats’ free throw rate — the number of free throws per field goal attempt — is .336. That ranks 186th in the country and is four percent lower than it has ever been under Miller.
That is a shame because the Wildcats are a terrific foul shooting team at 75.2 percent, which is tied for 39th nationally.
Combine their inability to get to the line with their poor 3-point shooting, and Arizona ranks 88th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom, making it the worst offensive unit Miller has ever had at the UA.
The lack of interior scorers is really hurting the Wildcats.
Brandon Randolph’s non-scoring stats
Randolph has taken the freshman to sophomore leap as a scorer, upping his average from 3.7 PPG to 16.7 PPG. His efficiency has jumped considerably at all three levels as well, posting a solid if not spectacular .455/.345/.923 shooting line.
His shot selection can be iffy sometimes, but all things considered he is a microwave scorer, capable of changing a game at any moment (hello, Utah Valley).
The other parts of Randolph’s game are not showing up, though. The springy sophomore has more turnovers (16) than assists (10), and he has gone without an assist in six of 11 games this season, sometimes prone to “hunting” shots.
Randolph is also averaging just 2.8 rebounds per game or 3.9 per 40 minutes. He had a whopping zero rebounds when Arizona got manhandled on the glass by Baylor.
Essentially, Randolph is one-dimensional and, thus, not much of a difference-maker when his shots aren’t falling. That is an issue since he plays nearly 30 minutes per game and is often regarded as Arizona’s best player.
And while Randolph has improved defensively, he is still not the kind of wing like Nick Johnson or Kadeem Allen that can lock up the opponent’s best perimeter player.
Brandon Williams’ efficiency
Brandon Williams had a roaring start to his Arizona career, dishing out 19 assists before committing his first turnover. His turnover rate has risen since — duh — but he is still UA’s leading assist man at 4.0 per game.
What that has maybe overshadowed is that the freshman is really struggling as a scorer, shooting just 35 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3.
The latter is particularly concerning because Williams is hoisting 5.2 3s per game, driving UA’s already poor 3-point shooting percentage into the ground.
Williams was considered more of a scoring point guard than a pass-first point guard coming out of high school, so the way his freshman year has unfolded has been interesting to say the least.
But he still has plenty of time to develop and it wouldn’t be surprising if his scoring numbers surge in the second half of the season as he continues to get acclimated to the college game.
As we’ve outlined above, Arizona could certainly use the help.
Arizona’s offensive rating against Baylor was 80.1, its worst since a February 2011 loss to UCLA.
Old problems surfaced, specifically Arizona’s inability to move the ball with purpose against a zone. Miller called it a “deer-in-the-headlights” look.
The Wildcats had not seen much zone prior to that game, but now you can expect every team they play to throw it at them until they prove they can beat it.
There are 353 teams in Division I college basketball, and 338 of them get more scoring production from the power forward position than Arizona. Yikes.
That position hasn’t just been troubling from a scoring perspective, either.
Like Randolph, Emmanuel Akot also went without a rebound against Baylor. Ryan Luther, his backup, only grabbed one. That is unacceptable.
If there is any good news here it’s that Akot has looked better offensively since joining the starting lineup. He is averaging 6.3 points per game the last four games, including a 4-of-8 mark from 3.
And while he had zero rebounds against Baylor, that was an anomaly because he had been averaging 4.3 in the previous three games.