In the next two days, we will take a look at three issues holding Arizona back and three strengths that could lead to a national title.
Before the season started, Arizona was selected as one of the favorites to win the national championship. It lost two talented players in Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, but Sean Miller managed to bring in standouts like Stanley Johnson, Dusan Ristic, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Kadeem Allen.
On paper, there aren't many more talented teams in the country.
Point guard T.J. McConnell, a key component to last year’s Elite Eight team, returned. Johnson and sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson bring a lot of size on the perimeter and pair them with a multi-faceted power forward like Brandon Ashley and a polished post presence like Kaleb Tarczewski and the Wildcats appear to be in prime position to advance to their first Final Four since 2001.
Still, the Wildcats have had three bad losses and because of that, currently stands on the outside looking in when it comes to being able to grab a one seed.
Here are three reasons explaining why Arizona will have difficulty cutting down the nets in April.
Poor free-throwing shooting:
On average, the Wildcats have shot 61.3 percent from the line in their defeats – losing those games by an average of 3.3 points. Granted, you cannot judge the outcome of a game on the premise of “what-ifs,” but it is safe to assume that if Arizona does a better job from the free throw line, the narrative surrounding the Wildcats might be different.
Offensive rebounding has fallen off a bit
It's not necessarily a weak point, but it has fallen off due in large part to Aaron Gordon's departure. With Gordon on the floor the Wildcats averaged 12.2 offensive rebounds per game and that is down to 10.8 this season. You can make the case that Arizona is shooting better and the Wildcats remain one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country, but there have been some inconsistencies with its offensive rebounding.
Arizona’s lack of consistency
If Arizona does not grab a one seed, it will be because it is haunted by three baffling road losses to UNLV, Oregon State and Arizona State. Miller’s team is, without a doubt, better than the three programs it lost to, but it has become evident that this team has certain weaknesses that can be exposed at times.
It may only be three losses, but if Arizona is able to play even average basketball, it could be undefeated right now and a lock for a one seed. Come out like it did in its three losses, and the Wildcats are going home early.