Higher expectations for Johnson

Nick Johnson had a solid, but inconsistent season. Read on to see how he is expected to build on this past season and more.

It makes complete sense to believe that Nick Johnson will be considered the leader of Arizona as a junior. He will have the most experience as a Wildcat and will once again be expected to make a jump, as he did from his freshman to sophomore year.

Johnson played well for the majority of the season, but he also battled inconsistency up until the last game. Starting on February 2, Johnson struggled tremendously on offense, scoring six against Washington State, two against Stanford, seven against California, nine against Colorado, and four against Utah. He shot 34 percent from the field and, not coincidentally, Arizona lost two games in that stretch.

It looked as if Johnson had bounced back with a 12-point effort against Washington, but he scored in single-digits the next two games. At that point, Sean Miller made it known that while he needed Johnson to score in double digits, he believed that his shooting guard was simply going through a slump.

What happened in the next group of games proved Miller right, as Arizona defeated Arizona State behind 17 from Johnson and also Colorado in the Pac-12 tournament with 18 points. Even though Johnson struggled offensively against UCLA, his defense is one of the main factors that gave the Wildcats a chance to win.

In the NCAA tournament, Johnson played fine. He scored 12 points on Belmont and was strong defensively as well. The blowout win over Harvard did not really allow Johnson to have a major impact on the game, but the Ohio State game was average. He did score nine points, but it was on 3-9 shooting, although Johnson added seven rebounds in the process.

The most consistent aspect of Johnson's game was on defense and it is possible that could actually be helped next season. Johnson was sometimes asked to guard players that he had no business guarding and the presence of Rondae Jefferson should allow Johnson to stick to more natural defensive assignments.

Offensively, it is hard to believe that last year's production is going to cut it. The scoring is a bit of a concern, but Aaron Gordon will help alleviate some of that. Johnson and T.J. McConnell are really the only two reliable scoring options in the back court, although it is possible that somebody else steps up, such as Jordin Mayes or even Gabe York and Elliott Pitts.

The one part of Johnson's game that is going to be undeniable is that he is going to have to emerge as a leader. McConnell will likely be the guy that is ready for it, but Johnson has been there longer. There does not have to be one leader of the team, but it makes sense for Johnson to naturally step into that role.

Expectations for Johnson are going to be high for numerous reasons. It will be difficult for Arizona to be an elite team next season if his inconsistencies remain. In addition, it will also be much easier for Arizona to make a run at the title if Johnson is playing well on both sides of the court.

You can make an argument for other players, but you can also make a very good one that there is not a player on Arizona that is as vital to its success next year as Johnson.


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