Preeminent Guard School Fine With or Without Bigs

Having a well-rounded and complete team is undoubtedly the best way to win a championship in college basketball. Ideally, being equally effective both inside and out gives teams the best shot at winning games. But at the guard-dominant collegiate level, might big men be overrated?

In the NBA, the answer is unequivocally "NO!" Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan have made that clear.

However, in the college ranks, I theorize that having good big men is far less important than having good guards/perimeter players. Mostly because of the zone defense that allows teams to sag down onto opposing centers or power forwards. The zone doesn't work in the NBA because guys are still focusing on clear-outs and one-on-one situations offensively...which is why Shaq is so dominant. The Lakers actually have a plan to get him the ball consistently.

Anyway, I'll take a Bibby-Simon-Dickerson-Terry lineup every single day over something like Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning in the same frontcourt. Georgetown never reached the Final Four with those two on their roster.

The reason I bring this up is that it is a STRONG possibility that Arizona will not be able to land either David Padgett OR Brian Butch this recruiting class and even though Ndudi Ebi would make a great "big" man as an athletic PF, the likelihood of getting this future pro is getting smaller by the day. To top it off, Channing Frye isn't exactly getting any worse with time. He could (but likely won't) leave after this his sophomore year.

If no Padgett, no Butch, no Ebi and no Frye to start the year off in 2003-04, that leaves Isaiah Fox at center and Dennis Latimore at power forward. Not to say that either or both aren't more than capable of doing the job, but most fans would be pretty skeptical of the Cats challenging for a National Championship as expected in 2004.

But why? That's a better question.

Arizona would still have a perimeter attack of Chris Rodgers, Salim Stoudamire, Hassan Adams, Andre Iguodala, Will Bynum and either Mustafa Shakur or Gary Ervin. Throw in the versatile 6-7, 180 F Chris Dunn and all of the sudden the thin frontcourt, while very powerful physically, is almost a complementary aspect anyway.

I think that if this were to happen in 2004, this team would be exponentially more talented than the 1997 (similarly frontcourt-deficient...on paper) National Championship squad. Mike Bibby and Jason Terry excepted.

Hassan Adams is more talented than Miles Simon and might be just as competitive (which is by far the best thing about Hassan and should get fans pretty excited). Rodgers, Adams, Stoudamire AND Iggy are all better defenders than Bibby and Simon and are on the same level with JT and Dickerson. The difference is that all four of the current Cats are bigger than JT (Salim's the same) and CR, Hassan and Iggy are similar in size or bigger than Dickerson.

Some will point to the question of "who will rebound?" That's simple, too. If there is anything that both Fox and Latimore are considerably above average at, it's rebounding, especially Latimore. Consider also that Adams, Iguodala and Dunn have all been called exceptional rebounders for players their size and position and suddenly rebounding actually becomes a strength.

I'm not ignorant enough (this is arguable, of course) to think that Arizona would be better off without Channing (or Butch, Padgett and Ebi either, for that matter) but it's time to start thinking about the reality of the situation. Having any of those four around next year would be like getting a huge Christmas present because it's not guaranteed in the least.

Contingency plans might be imminent in this recruiting haul.

I've spoken with each of the "targets" (makes the kids sound like they aren't even human doesn't it?) and I would honestly say that none is full-on "favoring" Arizona. Ebi is probably the closest, then Butch, but Ebi might be TOO GOOD to ever step foot on a college campus. He might commit and then pull an Amare Stoudemire and get drafted anyway out of high school.

And Frye is better than both Butch and Padgett and could wind up joining Ebi as a Lottery Pick next June. I personally don't think Channing will leave until after his junior year, but it certainly won't be for a lack of talent or production. The guy can play and he's getting BIGGER! If he keeps lifting like he has been he might wind up looking like Emeka Okafor of UConn (think, David Robinson).

The opinion here is that whether or not Arizona lands any or none of the three (four with Ekene Ibekwe) class of 2003 big men prospects, the Cats will still be extremely well off.

It's like Lute Olson said prior to last season, "If you're expecting gloom and doom around here you're in the wrong place".

The place is Arizona and the philosophy is that guards win championships. And the Wildcats will not be lacking in the backcourt anytime soon.

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