Dillon had started just one game in his career at Arizona before this season. His career high in points had been just 9 in a game last season versus Oregon State, along with playing a career high 23 minutes in that same game. Going into this season, expectations for Dillon weren't anything more than a role player off the bench who would provide quality defense, and senior leadership. However, after just four games this season, those expectations have risen; by quite a bit.
Even with a 3-1 record, this season has been a bit of struggle for the Wildcats. Instead of handling their early season competition with ease as they've done so in the past, the Cats have made things more interesting than they should be. However, it's tough to fault a team who's currently playing without their leader in coach Lute Olson, and who is now playing under the direction of Kevin O'Neill who was originally brought in as an assistant coach.
Despite those struggles, there have been a few positives to this young season. Freshman Jerryd Bayless is playing like a guy who is determined to win every time he steps on the court along with putting up tremendous numbers; sophomore Jordan Hill is slowly beginning to show the promise that many thought he would as he continued to mature; and sophomore sensation Chase Budinger has continued to prove that he's one of the best players in the Pac-10.
While all those are positive things to see, Dillon's production early on this season trumps them all. Budinger's play, along with the other things listed were to be expected. However, the production that Arizona has gotten out of Daniel Dillon so far this season is perhaps the most pleasant part of this early season.
The amount of playing time that Dillon has been receiving over the course of the last three games is surprising when you consider that he couldn't get up off the bench during an exhibition game earlier this season. Since then, Dillon has seen his playing time increase at a significant rate, resulting in plenty of production.
In Wednesday's win over Adams State, Dillon played the entire 40 minutes, scoring 10 points, dishing out 3 assists, and nabbing 3 steals while playing terrific defense and not turning the ball over a single time. Versus UMKC on Monday, Dillon played just 17 minutes because of foul trouble, but scored a career high 14 points on a perfect night shooting from the floor.
On a team that has already shown obvious weaknesses, Dillon's play has been an added bonus on a team that sorely needs production from guys other than Bayless, Budinger, Hill, and McClellan. With their lack of front court depth, the Wildcats will most likely be sticking with the small lineups they've utilized over the early part of this season, and Dillon figures to be a large part of that plan.
Whether Dillon continues to provide the type of play he's given the Wildcats so far this season in the future remains to be seen; but, with the daunting schedule facing Arizona and it's young Wildcats, they'll accept any kind of pleasant surprise they can get.