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Pac-12 Basketball: Will Arizona survive the attrition?

The Wildcats are banged up and a regular season game hasn’t been played. Does Arizona have enough firepower to compete in the early going?

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats pounded College of Idaho 86-35 in an exhibition Thursday night, but whether you were watching from inside McKale Center or following online, the game was viewed as a sign of uncertainty for Sean Miller and the ‘Cats.

Injuries to Talbot Denny and Ray Smith as well as eligibility issues with Chance Comanche and Allonzo Trier have left the Wildcats scrambling to assemble a rotation prior to next Friday's huge matchup against Michigan State.

A handful of key members from last season's team are also gone, including Ryan Anderson, Gabe York and Kaleb Tarcweski. This is what the current Arizona roster looks like:

Player (Class) Notes Status

Rawle Alkins (FR) Consensus 5* recruit Ready
Kadeem Allen (SR) Started 28 games last season Ready
Chance Comanche (SO) Played 6.0 minutes per game last season Suspended, reason unknown (missed exhibition)
Paulo Cruz (SO) Played 2.7 minutes per game last season, walk-on Ready
Talbot Denny (SR) Lipscomb transfer, 4.3 points per game in three season Torn ACL and meniscus, out for season
Jake DesJardins (FR) Walk-on Ready
Terrance Ferguson (FR) Consensus 5* recruit Choose to play professionally in Australia
Parker Jackson-Cartwright (JR) Recorded 21.2 minutes per game, 5.2 points per game last season, projected starting point guard Ready
Lauri Markkanen (FR) Consensus 5* recruit from Finland Ready
Trey Mason (JR) 1.8 minutes per game in two seasons Redshirted last season, status unknown
Keanu Pinder (JR) JUCO transfer from Hutchinson CC (Kansas) Ready
Dusan Ristic (JR) Started 9 games last season, projected starting center Ready
Kobi Simmons (FR) Consensus 5* recruit Ready
Ray Smith (FR) Top 20 recruit from Class of 2015 Torn ACL, out for season
Allonzo Trier (SO) Returning points leader, 28.0 minutes per game Status unknown (missed exhibition)

Fortunately for Arizona, Miller opted for not nearly as daunting a schedule as we would normally anticipate from the Wildcats. Besides a neutral opener against #12 Michigan State, a battle with Gonzaga in Los Angeles, and the Lone Star Shootout in Houston against Texas A&M, Arizona should be heavily favored in every other game.

On the flip side, it might take a handful of games before this young Arizona team meshes and builds a camarederie. Freshmen Rawle Alkins, Lauri Markkanen and Kobi Simmons will carry the load as long as Trier is out, with upperclassmen Kadeem Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright handling the backcourt. Junior center Dusan Ristic appears ready to take over the starting center duties.

Because we do not yet have statistical data on the newcomers, we can use data from last season's Pac-12 rosters to assess what the incoming freshmen and returning upperclassmen must to do keep Arizona above water.

Ken Pomeroy, the founder of college basketball analytical site KenPom.com, utilizes usage percentage (an estimate of possessions "used" by each individual player) to determine players' role on a given team. Here's a breakdown of the usage rates by role:

Role Usage Percentage 2016 Player Example
Go-to guy >28% of possessions used Jaylen Brown (31.2%)
Major contributor 24-28% Dillon Brooks (26.0%)
Significant contributor 20-24% Lorenzo Bonam (20.2%)
Role player 16-20% Thomas Welsh (17.6%)
Limited role 12-16% Malik Dime (13.0%)
Nearly invisible <12% Casey Benson (11.0%)
Benchwarmer <10% of minutes played Kenan Guzonjic (3.8%)

Now we will take a look at how many players fit these roles for their given teams. We have teams like California last season that relied heavily on Jaylen Brown, and other teams (Stanford) that are far more reliant on a handful of players sharing the possessions. Role distribution for the Pac-12 last season is shown in the graph below.

Now, using the player role distribution, let's try to assign roles to the active Arizona roster.

Rawle Alkins
Role: Significant contributor (20-24% usage)

The cloud hanging over Allonzo Trier's eligibility means that Alkins' role only expands. The five-star freshman scored 11 points in Tuesday's exhibition and figures to have a large role moving forward.

Kadeem Allen
Role: Major contributor (24-28% usage)

Allen is the returning usage percentage leader for the Wildcats at 20.0%. He started 28 of 34 Arizona games last season, and will be the ring leader of this year's team.

Paulo Cruz
Role: Benchwarmer (<10% of minutes played)

Cruz is a walk-on that played 16 minutes last year. He won't be seeing much action unless the 'Zona backcourt falls apart.

Jake Desjardins
Role: Benchwarmer (<10% of minutes played)

Like Cruz, Desjardins is also a walk-on that won't won't record many minutes in the foreseeable future.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright
Role: Significant contributor (20-24% usage)

PJC logged a modest 16.2% usage last season, but that number could climb into the 20-24% range as he enters his junior season. Jackson-Cartwright will be one of the key cogs in the perimeter threat for the Arizona offense.

Lauri Markkanen
Role: Role player (16-20% usage)

Markkanen is a bit of a wild-card, a stretch-4 that should pair nicely with Ristic at times down low for an extremely lengthy lineup. Markkanen will likely start at power forward from the get-go.

Keanu Pinder
Role: Limited role (12-16% usage)

Pinder is a shot-blocker and a high-energy guy that can bring impactful minutes to the Arizona frontcourt. He should fit his role nicely - coming off the bench to give the Wildcats a boost.

Dusan Ristic
Role: Significant contributor (20-24% usage)

With Tarczewski, Anderson and Tollefsen gone, Ristic expects to play a major role in the frontcourt. Ristic (22.4% usage last season) was a bright spot in Tuesday's game, showing an effective offensive attack underneath.

Kobi Simmons
Role: Role player (16-20% usage)

Simmons shined in the exhibition this week, leading Arizona with 17 points off the bench. With Allen and Jackson-Cartwright as the projected starting guards, Simmons figures to be the sixth man to start the season.