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Arizona among ‘big losers’ of NBA draft early-entry deadline

NCAA Basketball: Long Beach State at Arizona Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats had three potential (likely?) first-round picks on their roster in 2019-20, so why weren’t they better?

Kyle Boone of CBS Sports is wondering just that, leading him to name Arizona as one of the big losers of Sunday’s NBA Draft early-entry deadline:

Arizona’s losing its entire starting lineup for the second time in three years. This isn’t a new trend for Sean Miller. But it’s surprising, if not alarming, that three of his five starters — Josh Green, Nico Mannion, Zeke Nnaji — may all go on to be first-rounders ... after going just 10-8 in a wide-open Pac-12 and finishing 21-11 overall on the season.

That’s tough to comprehend. Miller had a wealth of talent in Tucson, Arizona, last season and couldn’t quite fit the pieces together. It helps underscore just how tough it is to win with freshmen — and just how badly UA underachieved last season.

While we will never know how Arizona would have fared in the NCAA Tournament because of the coronavirus crisis, Boone’s assessment is fair.

That said, one could argue the Wildcats were better than their record indicates. Arizona, which finished the year unranked, finished No. 19 in KenPom’s ratings, posting the No. 35 offensive and No. 14 defensive efficiency in the country.

A big reason for their unimpressive record, both overall and in conference play, was their inability to win close games. The Wildcats were 3-7 in games decided by five points or less. That, as Boone pointed out, can partly be attributed to Arizona’s reliance on freshmen.

It also did not help that seven of their rotation players were in their first year with the program. So not only were the Wildcats hindered by youth and the inconsistency that comes along with it, but a lack of continuity as well. That became evident when the game was on the line, the pressure ramped up.