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Will Nick Johnson, Mark Lyons and Kaleb Tarczewski be difference makers for the Arizona Wildcats?
What weaknesses have conference play exposed for Arizona?
Scott Coleman, SB Nation Arizona: Defense, and more specifically, defending the three-point line. Entering Saturday night, Arizona was letting their opponents hit nearly 37 percent of their shots from behind the arc. Compare that to about a 30 percent clip from Sean Miller's first three years in Tucson and it's both a surprise and concern.
Kevin Zimmerman, Arizona Desert Swarm: It's easy to complain about the offense and Mark Lyons sometimes struggling to control the tempo. But Arizona's weakness in conference play was one that was around in the first few games of the year. After all, Sean Miller's team only beat Charleston Southern by nine points in the season opener. That weakness would be playing down to the competition. Watching each game, the Wildcats look like they're playing at the same speed as their opponents, whether it be Oregon State, Oregon, Florida or Charleston Southern.
Adam Butler, Pac Hoops & Pacific Takes: The inexperience of their big men. Through struggles against Utah, Colorado, and Oregon, the vaunted three have averaged a combined 14/13. Now don't get me wrong, that's lovely. But lovely doesn't cut it in the top-5. I mean, Bachynski and N'Diaye and Powell flirt with those numbers alone. These freshmen are better than they've played in conference thus far and showed they're capable of being better against Oregon State. Their next challenge will be to supplement the stellar efforts of Hill, Lyons, and Johnson.
If there's any player that's going to make or break Arizona's season, it's going to be _____ because ______.
Scott Coleman, SB Nation Arizona: I'd say Mark Lyons. Some would argue Nick Johnson, but without Lyons' heroics down the stretch the Wildcats are likely 13-3 or even 12-4. He is the most battle-tested player on the roster and leads the team in scoring and assists. If he hits any kind of skid or gets hurt, it's tough to see Arizona going very far come March.
Kevin Zimmerman, Arizona Desert Swarm: If there's any player that's going to make or break Arizona's season, it's going to be Nick Johnson. Yes, Arizona must get better and more consistent production from its freshmen big men and Mark Lyons' point guard duties, but I expect they'll be better off in those regards later in the year. But Johnson has shown flashes of being the best player on the team. Like LeBron James in the NBA, Johnson can make a difference in any way. Big shots, amazing defense, from a playmaking standpoint ... his shot-block against San Diego State was a perfect example of how he can change the outcome of a game.
Adam Butler, Pac Hoops & Pacific Takes: Kaleb Tarczewski. It's become clear that amongst the freshmen, Sean Miller is giving Tarc the longest leash. He's getting the lion's share of minutes and the most opportunity to fail. That's not to say - by any stretch - he's quit on the other two. Those two are tremendously important to the success of this team. But with the minutes Tarc gets and the fact that no matter how great Miller is he can never teach someone to be 7' 260lbs, this young man could take these Cats from great to special.