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Reviewing Alex Barcello’s freshman season at Arizona

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A hot start, then a lackluster finish

NCAA Basketball: Cal. State - Bakersfield at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats’ season has ended, so we’re going to reflect on how each player fared during the year and what’s next for them. Today’s subject is freshman Alex Barcello.

Alex Barcello

2017-18 stats

  • 2.4 PPG, 0.9 APG, 0.4 TO, 9.6 MPG
  • 39.1 FG%, 30.8 3PT%, 75.0 FT%

Best games

  • vs. NAU — 9 points, 3 assists, 2-2 FG, 28 minutes
  • vs. UMBC — 8 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 2-4 3PT
  • vs. CSU Bakersfield — 6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2-3 3PT
  • vs. Long Beach State — 11 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 3-4 3PT

2017-18 review

Expectations were fairly tame for Barcello entering his freshman year — at least compared to the rest of Arizona’s star-studded 2017 class. The Tempe native was the No. 83 prospect in the country out of Corona Del Sol High School, the lowest-ranking among UA’s five recruits.

Yet, Barcello was arguably the most productive of the bunch at the start of the season (aside from Deandre Ayton of course). In his first three games, Barcello shot 7-12 from the field and 4-7 from 3, all while tallying 11 assists to zero turnovers.

Sean Miller called him a pleasant surprise.

“Not that I didn’t believe in him, I knew that he was going to be a terrific player,” Miller said at the time. “But he’s really impacted our games that he’s played in and I just don’t see that changing.”

Well, it did change. A lot. Arizona went to the Bahamas where Barcello seemed to lose his confidence, going scoreless in all three losses of Battle 4 Atlantis.

Aside from an 11-point outing in a blowout win vs. Long Beach State, Barcello was a non-factor the rest of the season. To be fair, he battled an ankle injury in early-to-mid December which certainly compounded the issue.

The most disappointing development was that Barcello’s shot abandoned him. After his hot start, he made just one of his last 10 3-point attempts, eventually finishing the season 8-for-26 from distance.

Barcello didn’t appear comfortable running Arizona’s offense and wasn’t much of a difference-maker defensively, either, so once he stopped hitting shots, he fell out of the rotation.

Miller gave all the backup point guard minutes to Allonzo Trier and that was that for Barcello.

He appeared in just nine of 18 conference games, averaging 4.4 minutes per stint. He played just one minute in the postseason (which came in garbage time against Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament).

What’s next?

Barcello might have the most to prove among UA’s six returners. Some remain optimistic that he can develop into an above-average starter, but some have already written him off as someone who is simply not “Arizona-good.”

Either way, Barcello will have a chance to shatter that narrative, or affirm it, next season.

With Parker Jackson-Cartwright graduating and Arizona having zero 2018 recruits, Barcello is in line for a major role as a sophomore.

Right now, he pencils in as Arizona’s starting point guard. However, there is the possibility Arizona adds a recruit like Brandon Williams or James Akinjo and/or a graduate transfer like Maine’s Aaron Calixte to compete at that position.

Even still, there are a great deal of minutes to be had next season and Barcello should get his fair share.

The real question is: what will he do with them?

If Barcello plays like he did as a freshman, the Wildcats will have a rough season. But if he makes the patented freshman-to-sophomore leap, Arizona might not experience the major drop-off that many expect it to.

Quotable

“He’s healthy, he’s working hard, I think Alex has a bright future. It’s just right now he hasn’t played well and it’s no longer December,” — Sean Miller said in mid-January

“His time will come, but it might not be as plentiful right now.” — Sean Miller