Skip to content

No. 3 Arizona looks like a national title contender again

Mar 2, 2014, 11:31 PM EDT

Getty Images Getty Images

Aaron Gordon led five players in double-figures with 19 points and 15 boards as No. 3 Arizona won their fourth straight game, knocking off Stanford 79-66.

It was the third straight game that the Wildcats have pounded a tournament caliber Pac-12 team, which more or less asserts that whatever had been ailing this team has been figured out.

The difference?

Arizona is pushing the ball more. They are getting out in transition and opening up the floor, which is where freakish athletes like Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon can thrive. They’ve also gotten better defensively, as losing Brandon Ashley has forced Miller to play Gordon exclusively in the front court and give more minutes to Hollis-Jefferson, who is one of the best perimeter defenders that you’ll find.

As a result, the last three games have seen, for this first time this season, Arizona just straight beating the breaks off of opponents. They won at Colorado by 27. They beat Cal in Tucson by 28. They were up 25 on Stanford with eight minutes left.

Are the Wildcats, dare I say, better without Ashley?

Well, no.

Ashley gave them front court depth and allowed them to be capable of using a lineup that could simply overwhelm anyone in the country with their size. What made Arizona so difficult with Ashley is that they were matchup-proof. They could play bigger than the biggest team in the country and matchup with anyone that tried to play four or five perimeter players.

But what losing Ashley has done is forced Miller’s hand. The inability of his forwards to shoot from the perimeter and the corresponding struggles of Johnson turned Arizona into a horrific half court team. Miller had no choice but to open things up a bit more, which is the style that actually better suits his personnel.

Think back to the fall, when all the chatter was about Gordon’s insistence on playing the three this season? Remember when I told you that Arizona would be at their best when Gordon was at the four? It’s his more natural position at this level and this point in his development. He’s even spent time playing the five, with Hollis-Jefferson at the four and Gabe York or Elliot Pitts seeing time on the perimeter.

We’ll have more on this this week, but since the change, Gordon is averaging 18.3 points and 9.0 boards. Hollis-Jefferson has shown the nation why he was one of the most popular players in the Class of 2013. Johnson had snapped out of his slump until Sunday’s 3-for-13 performance.

The Wildcats are different than they were when they still had Ashley available. It’s difficult to call them better than they were before, but they certainly are back to being one of the nation’s most dangerous teams.

And they certainly belong back in the conversation as a National Title contender.

Latest Posts
  1. Air Force loses freshman forward Garrett Thibodeaux to UTSA

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT

    Dave Pilipovich Dave Pilipovich

    Thibodeaux’s decision came eight days after he began basic training.

  2. Alabama self-reported 13 minor violations last academic year, including one for men’s basketball

    Jul 5, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    University of Alabama University of Alabama

    All of the violations were deemed to be Level III or Level IV violations, which isn’t a big deal at all.

  3. How the non-US college players fared in the FIBA U19 World Championships

    Jul 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp Getty Images

    Plenty of college basketball players were in the FIBA U19 World Championships besides the Americans.

  4. USA U19 team wins in overtime of gold-medal game over Croatia at FIBA World Championships

    Jul 5, 2015, 3:37 PM EDT

    Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Getty Images

    The USA U19 team captured back-to-back FIBA World Championships for the first time since 1983.

  5. Mississippi State lands transfer wing

    Jul 5, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Mississippi State landed a commitment on Sunday from a transfer.

  6. Kansas/USA defeats Brazil at World University Games

    Jul 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kansas (USA) is 2-0 so far at the World University Games.

  7. Mixtape of Class of 2016 five-star guard Markelle Fultz (VIDEO)

    Jul 5, 2015, 9:20 AM EDT

    markelle fultz

    Markelle Fultz is one the best guard prospects in the country.

  8. Louisville’s Mangok Mathiang posts double-double in World University Games opener

    Jul 4, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Mangok Mathiang Mangok Mathiang

    Mathiang’s playing on an Australian team that includes the likes of Peter Hooley and Hugh Greenwood.

  9. Former South Carolina power forward Demetrius Henry transferring to La Salle

    Jul 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    The 6-foot-9 Henry averaged 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season.

  10. United States advances to FIBA U19 World Championships gold medal game

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:59 PM EDT

    Jalen Brunson AP

    Jalen Brunson led the way with 30 points for the United States, which plays Croatia Sunday.

  11. Mixtape of five-star wing Miles Bridges (VIDEO)

    Jul 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    bridges

    Miles Bridges is one of the better scorers in the 2016 class.

  12. POSTERIZED: Jayson Tatum throws one down on Greek defender

    Jul 4, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT

    Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Getty Images

    The US is taking on the hosts in the semifinals, with the winner getting Croatia on Sunday.

  13. Players from Kentucky, Oregon, Gonzaga and Dayton trying out for Canadian national team

    Jul 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Kyle Wiltjer (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Four players from 2015 NCAA tournament programs are trying out for the Canadian national team.

  14. Kansas opens World University Games with a win over Turkey

    Jul 4, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kansas won its debut overseas this summer as Wayne Selden had a big outing.

  15. Four-star Class of 2016 guard commits to UConn

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:05 AM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    UConn landed a quality guard in the Class of 2016.

  16. Report: Oregon point guard Ahmaad Rorie will transfer to Montana

    Jul 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Ahmaad Rorie, Brandon Chauca AP

    Given Oregon’s many perimeter options, minutes were likely to be at a premium for Rorie in 2015-16.

  17. Louisiana Tech reduces transfer restrictions for Xavian Stapleton

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The rising sophomore was originally being blocked from transferring to 55 schools.

  18. Ohio State lands center Kaleb Wesson, first commit in 2017

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:08 PM EDT

    Thad Matta AP

    Ohio State begins its 2017 class with a local product.