12/17: Gonzaga 71, Arizona 60
12/20: Arizona 85, Oakland 73
12/22: Arizona 100, Bryant 60
1. Solomon Hill:
Gonzaga: 26 minutes, 6 points, 1-7 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4-4 FT
Oakland: 34 minutes, 23 points, 8-10 shooting, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 6-7 FT
Bryant: 26 minutes, 13 points, 6-14 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 0-1 FT
As the team's leader in scoring, rebounding, assists and minutes, Hill is the clearly the team's best player heading into Pac-12 play. It's also evident based on his numbers that the outcome of the game is largely a result of how he plays, as he is averaging 9.3 points in the team's three losses and 13.6 points in the team's nine victories.
It's clear through 13 games that if Arizona wants to repeat as conference champions, it's going to have to go through Hill to do so. He struggled against Gonzaga with only six points on one of seven shooting, but he bounced back to go a combined 14 of 24 for 36 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the two games against Oakland and Bryant.
The more Hill fills out the stat sheet, the more likely it is that Arizona repeats as conference champions.
2. Kyle Fogg:
Gonzaga: 34 minutes, 14 points, 6-11 shooting, 2-4 3pt, 2 rebounds
Oakland: 28 minutes, 17 points, 5-9 shooting, 2-5 3pt, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Bryant: 23 minutes, 11 points, 3-7 shooting, 3-5 3pt, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2-2 FT
With Hill and Jesse Perry producing on the inside, Fogg remains the team's most consistent player on the perimeter. He's shooting well over 40 percent from both three-point range and the field and he has emerged as one of the best on-ball defenders in the entire Pac-12. The conference is loaded with talented guards, and in Fogg, Arizona has a chance to prevent the opposing team's best backcourt player from having a huge game.
Fogg's leadership and work ethic are both essential to the team this year, and if his history of production in his career foreshadows what's to come, his best basketball is likely in front of him this season.
3. Jesse Perry:
Gonzaga: 24 minutes, 9 points, 4-9 shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 block
Oakland: 29 minutes, 13 points, 5-7 shooting, 4 rebounds, 3-4 FT
Bryant: 22 minutes, 16 points, 7-8 shooting, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2-2 FT
Perry continues to put together a solid season despite being undersized at the ‘five' position. He struggles against bigger, stronger players defensively, but his ability to take the ball off the dribble as well as the continued development of a jump shot out to the three-point line makes him tough to defend as well.
Night in and night out, despite his performance, Perry can be counted on for toughness, leadership intensity and has led by example this season. Against some of the undersized big men in the conference like Harper Kamp and Josh Owens, Arizona will rely heavily on Perry to make solid contributions and so far this season, Sean Miller has no reason to believe the senior won't continue to play well.
4. Nick Johnson:
Gonzaga: 31 minutes, 13 points, 5-10 shooting, 6 assists, 2-2 FT
Oakland: 30 minutes, 7 points, 2-7 shooting, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 2-4 FT
Bryant: 21 minutes, 6 points, 2-7 shooting, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 2-2 FT
Statistically speaking, Johnson is coming off the worst three game stretch of his young Arizona career, but it is encouraging to see him contribute as a distributor. Despite his mini-slump shooting the ball, Johnson is vital to what Arizona wants to do offensively and continues to develop as an on-ball defender.
Every freshman goes through a short slump at some point, and it may be best for Johnson to get it out of his system before Pac-12 play begins. He's still playing at a high level on both ends and his playing time is definitely not in jeopardy, but as he continues to develop as both a scorer and distributor, Arizona should improve as a team as well.
5. Josiah Turner:
Gonzaga: 23 minutes, 7 points, 2-7 shooting, 1-3 3pt, 1 rebound, 0 assists, 3 turnovers
Oakland: 23 minutes, 6 points, 3-6 shooting, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal
Bryant: 19 minutes, 9 points, 2-4 shooting, 1-1 3pt, 4-4 FT, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 0 turnovers
Arizona has won nine games this season despite any consistent play from the point guard and center positions, and while the latter remains a big question mark entering Pac-12 play, Turner has a real chance to be a solution to UA's point guard woes.
His assist to turnover ratio in the team's last three games has been an encouraging 1.4, and equally encouraging is that for just the fourth times in 12 career games, Turner managed to finish the game without a turnover. The only ‘true' point guard on the roster, Turner's play is essential towards Arizona's effort to repeat as conference champions.
If Turner can continue to improve his decision-making and keep his teammates involved, it's likely that he reclaims the starting spot at point guard and gives Arizona it's most complete and productive starting lineup.
6. Brendon Lavender:
Gonzaga: 4 minutes, 0 points, 0-1 3pt
Oakland: 9 minutes, 6 points, 2-2 3pt, 1 rebound
Bryant: 11 minutes, 18 points, 6-8 3pt, 1 rebound
Lavender's lights out shooting performance against Bryant puts him at the six spot, and it will be interesting to see what happens with his playing time moving forward. While his playing time likely won't jump from 10 to 20 minutes due to his performance, he's likely earned himself some extra court action and it is entirely up to him to make the most of it.
For a senior who has worked hard and stuck with it for four years, combined with his performances off the bench against Oakland and Bryant, it wouldn't be surprising to see Lavender carve out a slightly larger role in the beginning of Pac-12 play.
7. Kevin Parrom:
Gonzaga: 8 minutes, 0 points, 0-2 shooting, 1 rebound
Oakland: 13 minutes, 3 points, 1-1 3pt, 3 rebounds, 1 block
Bryant: 17 minutes, 11 points, 3-6 shooting, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 5-5 FT
Parrom continues to try to work back from his leg injury, as the start of Pac-12 play has often been thought of as the time when the junior would be back to full strength in his recovery. He did a little bit of everything against Bryant on both ends of the floor and remains an essential ingredient to Arizona's recipe for success for the remainder of the 2011-12 season.
His recovery is especially important due to the effect he seems to have on Solomon Hill's play when the two share the floor. If UA can get Parrom back into the mix and continue to develop Turner and Chol, it will be a dangerous team come March.
8. Jordin Mayes:
Gonzaga: 17 minutes, 9 points, 4-6 shooting, 1-3 3pt, 1 assist, 1 turnover
Oakland: 18 minutes, 8 points, 3-8 shooting, 1-3 3pt, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers
Bryant: 19 minutes, 6 points, 2-4 shooting, 2-3 3 pt, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover
With the continued improvement of Turner, Mayes will likely continue to see his playing time slip unless he can cut down on the turnovers. In 13 games, Mayes has just nine assists as opposed to 13 turnovers, and he has struggled distributing the basketball as a point guard.
While his three-point shooting ability and defending will likely keep him in the lineup in some capacity, Mayes has to improve his decision-making and cut down on the mistakes to avoid being supplanted in the starting lineup by Turner.
9. Angelo Chol:
Gonzaga: 13 minutes, 0 points, 0-0 shooting, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks
Oakland: 10 minutes, 2 points, 1-2 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 block
Bryant: 17 minutes, 5 points, 1-2 shooting, 3-4 FT, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
It comes in flashes, but it's obvious that the skill is there for Chol to be a productive player in the paint for Arizona. He still needs work on his positioning and could definitely be more aggressive, but those things should come as he continues to develop as a ‘five' in Sean Miller's system.
The key for Chol is to continue to put the pieces together in practice so as to put himself in the best position to contribute. If he's able to turn up the intensity and hold his own down low on a consistent basis, he'll give UA exactly what it's been missing all season long.
10. Kyryl Natyazhko:
Gonzaga: 20 minutes, 2 points, 1-3 shooting, 6 rebounds
Oakland: 6 minutes, 0 points, 0-1 shooting, 1 block
Bryant: 8 minutes, 2 points, 1-3 shooting, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block
Simply put, Kyryl is just not competing at a high enough level right now to be ranked any higher. He appears to have lost the bulk of his minutes to Chol, and unless he starts to make the most of the minutes he does receive, we may not be hearing much for Natyazhko this season.
He'll still be needed to play minutes against bigger bodied players like Josh Smith of UCLA, but with the Pac-12 as a whole a little bit down in terms of size this season, Natyazhko could lose his playing time entirely if he doesn't improve when called upon.