Saturday's loss to UCLA was the perfect example of why every little mistake matters. The Wildcats, despite how poorly they played at times, nearly completed an unlikely comeback late in the contest, but the constant turnovers and poor offensive stretches caught up with Arizona in the end.
Now the team looks more lost than anything and with just one regular season game remaining, the Wildcats need to snap out of their funk quickly, or risk a quick exit in both the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournament.
There needs to be numerous changes and improvements for Arizona to make an impact in the postseason. The once-strong outside shooting must return for the Wildcats to overcome the zone and senior leaders like Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill must do a better job of playing at a much more efficient level consistently. Those are just a few examples of what must alter, but there is much more than just those few examples.
Each freshman has progressed, but each has also struggled with consistency. It seems that, lately, both Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett have been finding their comfort levels at the collegiate level.
Tarczewski was a big factor on the boards Saturday and has been developing his post-game on the offensive end of the floor. He has shot much better from the field, as well as the charity stripe, of late and the rest of the offense seems to play better when the big man is effective. In his last seven games, Tarczewski has shot 20-of-34 (58.8 percent) from the floor.
Jerrett struggled with his shot early in the season, but he has become pretty deadly from the outside in recent weeks. Over his last seven, Jerrett has gone 12-for-19 (63.2 percent) from three-point range and is the one Wildcat who has knocked down the long-range shot with consistency, whereas the rest of the team has struggled mightily from deep.
Whether these two players actually receive more playing time due to their play is to be seen, but there hasn't been much doubt that UA has been a better squad with each player on the floor.
Someone needs to snap Mark Lyons out of his funk. It was easy to tolerate his turnovers and lack of assists when his shot was falling, but now it's taking too many shot attempts for him to reach the 15-20 point range.
Lyons has been the whipping boy of certain fans this season, but there is no question that this team cannot move deep into the postseason without him contributing in the same fashion he did early in the campaign.
Solomon Hill has had his fair share of struggles lately, but to be fair to the senior swing man, he has been the team's top all-around player once again this year. The problem with Hill has been consistency. At times, he is the one to lead the offensive charge, whether it's with his much-improved three-point shooting or playing the role of distributor. At others, Hill disappears, turns the ball over, or takes erratic shots.
When Hill and Lyons are both at the peak of their games, Arizona is one of the best teams in the nation. When they struggle – especially simultaneously – the Wildcats go stagnant and either lose the game, or struggle to come away with the victory.
Both Lyons and Hill, along with senior swing man Kevin Parrom, have to avoid long stretches mediocre-to-bad play for UA to even have a chance against good teams and Saturday night was a perfect example of that.
We've already gone through Lyons' issues and it's quite obvious how his recent shortcomings as a shooter have affected the rest of the squad. Nick Johnson, however, must climb out of his slump soon or it's going to be near-impossible for Arizona to win ballgames without him or Lyons contributing the way the team expects them to.
Arizona has watched its three-point shooting deteriorate at a slow rate as the season has progressed. It has seemed that, lately, UA can't even hit open looks within the flow of the offense, which is going to make it much easier for opponents to beat the Wildcats with the zone.
Someone other than Jerrett – whether it's Lyons, Hill, Parrom, Johnson, Jordin Mayes, Gabe York or anyone else – needs to provide some sort of consistency from long range or teams are going to be able to shut down Arizona in the postseason rather quickly.
Assists and turnovers
The lack of a true point guard certainly hurts this area, but it doesn't have to be detrimental to a team's overall success like it has been for Arizona lately. While there may be no real floor general, there are several players who are capable of distributing the ball without coughing up possession as long as they play within their limits and exercise control.
Outside of Lyons and Johnson, Hill can run the offense in a limited fashion while players like Mayes can come off the bench to spell the starters.
Where does this efficiency come from, though? Lyons seems to be too impatient, Johnson lacks the confidence, Hill is a forward who shouldn't be used as a floor general much, Mayes is less of a point guard than Lyons and York simply lacks experience. One of these players needs to take over the role of floor-leader, and soon, or the end of the campaign is just around the corner for the Wildcats.
UA's coaches and players alike have struggled adjusting to the opponent on a seemingly game-to-game basis. The approach stays the same, players stand around, and there is entirely too much one-on-one basketball happening for the Wildcats on the offensive end of the floor.
Whether it's a lack of adjustments or the lack of execution from the players, changes must be made when teams successfully adjust to Arizona's attack. Without proper mid-game alterations, UA will continue to chase its own tail throughout games and struggle to beat good basketball teams.