When the Arizona Wildcats take on the USC Trojans on Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, who is going to be their driving force on offense?
No single name instantly comes to mind, right? So it’s been this season for Arizona, which for the first time in a long while is lacking a go-to scorer that can be counted on to get buckets.
Officially, Arizona’s leading scorer is sophomore guard Brandon Randolph, as it has been the entire season since he had 25 points in the opening game against Houston Baptist. Yet he heads to Las Vegas averaging just 12.77 points per game, which would be the lowest for an Arizona leading scorer since Jimmy Steele averaged 12.1 in 1944-45.
The previous low for a Wildcat leading scorer under Sean Miller was 13.5, by Kyle Fogg in 2011-12. That just happened to be the last time Arizona didn’t make the NCAA tournament.
“I think in our last five games, I don’t know if we have anyone who’s averaging 10 points a game,” Miller said Monday. “That says a lot.”
He’s right. Senior Ryan Luther, at 9.6, is Arizona’s top scorer over the past five games.
That 25-point game in the season opener was Randolph’s career high, but since then he’s topped the 20-point mark just three other times. And while his production has tailed off—he’s scored in double figures just six times in the past 14 games after doing so in each of the first 17—no one else has stepped up to fill that scoring void, particularly when it comes to volume.
Arizona hasn’t had a player score 20 or more in a game since freshman guard Brandon Williams set a career high with 20 against Oregon State on Jan. 19. That was just the 10th 20-point performance (in eight different games), three fewer than any other Pac-12 team.
As a result, the Wildcats failed to have one player earn Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week honors, the first time that’s happened since the award was created in the early 1980s. They also didn’t have anyone make the all-conference team for the first time since 1982-83.
Last year, Arizona had at least one 20-point scorer in 30 of 37 games, having two on a dozen occasions.
“We’ve always had a balance, but … I think you can always point to maybe one perimeter player, one post player that you can count on,” Miller said. “A year ago we really had three of those guys, almost four of those on the court at one time.”
Miller noted that while his previous teams have usually had at least one big-time scorer, they often also had scoring balance. “Five, sometimes maybe even a sixth player that’s close to being in double figures,” he said.
The current squad has three players—Randolph, Williams and junior center Chase Jeter—averaging at least 10 points per game. There have been six other times Arizona has had that few (or fewer) averaging double digits under Miller, but in all but two of those cases there was at least one guy who averaged 15 or more.
The 2011-12 team had three in double figures, but none more than Fogg’s 13.5, and the 2014-15 squad also had three with Stanley Johnson the top man at 13.8. The 2014-15 team was third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and the 2011-12 one was in the top 40, while this year’s team is only sixth-best defensively in the Pac-12.