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Tracking Arizona’s roster turnover during the Sean Miller era

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Xavier v Arizona Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

For the second time in three years, the Arizona Wildcats will have an entirely new starting lineup when the 2020-21 season tips off.

In total, the Wildcats have lost 14 starters over the past three years to graduation, transfer, and the NBA Draft. Some see that stat and believe it is the underlying cause of Arizona’s recent downturn. The Wildcats have not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2016-17.

It got me wondering what Arizona’s roster turnover looked like before that, when the Wildcats were regularly making runs in the NCAA Tournament.

So here is a look at the players that have left Arizona after each season, along with some analysis at the end. Starters are in bold. (In this case, “starters” are players who started an an overwhelmingly majority of the time they were on the team. So someone like Kobi Simmons, who was benched when Allonzo Trier returned from suspension, does not count even though he started in 17 games in his lone season.)

2009-10 (16-15, 10-8 Pac-12)

  • Nic Wise (graduation)

2010-11 (30-8, 14-4 Pac-12)

  • Derrick Williams (NBA)
  • MoMo Jones (transfer)
  • Daniel Bejarano (transfer)
  • Jamelle Horne (graduation)

2011-12 (23-12, 12-6 Pac-12)

  • Kyle Fogg (graduation)
  • Jesse Perry (graduation)
  • Josiah Turner (pro)
  • Brendon Lavender (graduation)
  • Kyryl Natyazhko (went pro overseas)
  • Alex Jacobson (graduation)

2012-13 (27-8, 12-6 Pac-12)

  • Mark Lyons (graduation)
  • Solomon Hill (graduation)
  • Kevin Parrom (graduation)
  • Angelo Chol (transfer)
  • Grant Jerrett (NBA Draft)

2013-14 (33-5, 15-3 Pac-12)

  • Aaron Gordon (NBA Draft)
  • Nick Johnson (NBA Draft)
  • Jordin Mayes (graduation)

2014-15 (34-4, 16-2 Pac-12)

  • T.J. McConnell (graduation)
  • Stanley Johnson (NBA Draft)
  • Brandon Ashley (NBA Draft)
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (NBA Draft)
  • Matt Korcheck (graduation)
  • Craig Victor (transfer)

2015-16 (25-9, 12-6 Pac-12)

  • Kaleb Tarczewski (graduation)
  • Gabe York (graduation)
  • Ryan Anderson (graduation)
  • Mark Tollefsen (graduation)
  • Justin Simon (transfer)
  • Elliott Pitts (dismissed)

2016-17 (32-5, 16-2 Pac-12)

  • Lauri Markkanen (NBA Draft)
  • Kadeem Allen (graduation)
  • Chance Comanche (NBA Draft)
  • Kobi Simmons (NBA Draft)

2017-18 (27-8, 14-4 Pac-12)

  • Deandre Ayton (NBA Draft)
  • Allonzo Trier (NBA Draft)
  • Rawle Alkins (NBA Draft)
  • Parker Jackson-Cartwright (graduation)
  • Dusan Ristic (graduation)
  • Keanu Pinder (graduation)

2018-19 (17-15, 8-10 Pac-12)

  • Justin Coleman (graduation)
  • Ryan Luther (graduation)
  • Brandon Randolph (NBA Draft)
  • Emmanuel Akot (transfer)
  • Alex Barcello (transfer)

2019-20 (21-11, 10-8 Pac-12)

  • Nico Mannion (NBA Draft)
  • Zeke Nnaji (NBA Draft)
  • Josh Green (NBA Draft)
  • Dylan Smith (graduation)
  • Stone Gettings (graduation)
  • Devonaire Doutrive (dismissed)
  • Max Hazzard (graduation)
  • Chase Jeter (graduation)

As mentioned earlier, one striking takeaway is how many starters Arizona has lost over the last three years. In Miller’s first eight seasons, only once did Arizona lose more than three starters after a season, and that was after the 2014-15 campaign, the result of one of the best seasons in school history.

Since then, Arizona has lost four or more starters in three straight seasons. Two of those years they lost all five. And that was not the result of incredible team success. Two of those three seasons yielded zero NCAA Tournament wins. The other (2019-20) didn’t get a chance to play in March Madness, but turned in what was considered an underwhelming regular season.

The lesson here, then, is that constant major roster turnover makes for a difficult road to success, no matter how talented a team is.

“It’s difficult (to build a culture),” Miller said in December on the Adia Barnes Podcast. “John Calipari at Kentucky, he does not get enough credit for doing that. Imagine him because nobody experiences more turnover per year. And I think sometimes the outside world focuses on the great talent that he has, which he does, but they’re all very, very young and they clearly are there to win but also to become NBA players in one year most of the time. And just to kind of think about him replacing that crew of talent every year and recreating his culture, it’s something you have to work a lot on and some that we’re hard at right now, especially coming off of the last couple of years, but especially last year for us.”

One could argue that Arizona should stop recruiting players who are obvious one-and-dones, but it isn’t that simple. That notion does not account for the paradigm shift we’re seeing in which college basketball is losing non-star players to the professional ranks.

Brandon Randolph, Chance Comanche, and Kobi Simmons are good examples. Randolph and Comanche left after their sophomore seasons even though they were extremely unlikely to be drafted. Same with Simmons and his freshman season.

Moving forward, Arizona doesn’t appear to be a team that will experience a mass exodus after the 2020-21 season. So far, Ira Lee and Seattle U transfer Terrell Brown will be the only graduating seniors (it’s possible neither are starters) while none of the three incoming freshman are five-star recruits or projected to be surefire draft picks.

It, finally, is a chance for Arizona to build something that lasts.