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Last chance for teams to move off NCAA tourney bubble

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Welcome to Bubble Banter.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com. If you would like great access to regular RPI information, Jerry Palm provides great information for all NCAA Tournament fans. A subscription is very reasonable.

UPDATED: Monday, March 7

Automatic Bids (4): UNC-Ashville (Big South), Morehead State (OVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Indiana State (MVC)

Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (29): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (4): These teams are teams in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (26): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates.
  • Spots available (11): Number of projected available openings for the bracket.
  • Leaving the Bubble: Cleveland State (out), Southern Mississippi (out)
  • Joining the Bubble: New Mexico, USC
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated 11:00 p.m. ET on March 6.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Xavier, Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Richmond
  • Richmond (24-7 | 13-3) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 138 | – The Spiders closed with 10 wins in 12 games – their only losses to Xavier and Temple. The win over Purdue continues to be a major helping point, and a victory over VCU is looking better again. Because the Spiders suffered lopsided losses against Xavier and Temple in their regular-season meetings, do they need to beat one of them in the A-10 tournament? We’ll see. Doing so would certainly make them feel more secure on Selection Sunday.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (19-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 25 | – After closing out Wake Forest Sunday, BC enters the ACC tourney on a three-game winning streak. Winning at Virginia Tech could prove really big as the Eagles swept the Hokies. That said, BC remains just 1-5 vs. Top 50 RPI teams (Texas AM), even though they are 7-10 vs. the Top 100. Although the Eagles are in just “in” right now, BC needs to win its opening ACC tournament game.
  • Clemson (20-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 74 | – The Tigers won their critical home game with Virginia Tech on Saturday in the only meeting between the two. Clemson’s resume remains pretty modest (2-5 vs. Top 50 teams – BC and Florida State), however, and is backed by a rather weak No. 204 non-conference schedule. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina to go along with hiccups against NC State and Virginia. Whether the Tigers end up in the NCAAs will depend on how they perform at the ACC Tournament.
  • Florida State (21-9 | 11-5) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 78 | – While it’s hard to see FSU missing the NCAAs with an 11-5 ACC record, most of their wins are against teams below them in the standings. The Seminoles’ win over Duke is helping, but FSU was swept by Carolina. Outside the league, Florida State’s best win is Baylor (Hawaii). They also lost to Butler. The Seminoles are 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 6-8 vs the Top 100 – other bubble teams have more such wins. Beating NC State on Sunday was important. Avoiding a one-and-done at the ACC tourney should be enough.
  • Virginia Tech (19-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 87 | – Losing back-to-back games against bubble teams in your own conference has certainly created a lot of doubt after the win over Duke. The Hokies enter the ACC Tournament squarely on the cutline. An opening-round loss could very well mean another year of heartbreak. Besides Duke, the Hokies beat Florida State in the ACC, and Penn State. They were swept by Boston College and lost their only game with Clemson. They were also swept by Virginia, lost at Georgia Tech, and are 4-6 in road games. VT is 2-6 vs. the Top 50 and 7-7 vs. the Top 100.
BIG EAST
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, St. John’s West Virginia, Cincinnati | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Marquette
  • Marquette (18-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 67 | SOS: 31 | – By losing at Seton Hall, Marquette has left some doubt about their once-promising NCAA hopes. The Golden Eagles are 4-11 vs. Top 50 RPI teams – an amazing number of high-level games. But they are also just 11-13 vs. the Top 200 – a stat that has often meant the NIT. We’ll see if the strength of the Big East and a strong SOS overall helps the Golden Eagles. Winning at Connecticut was huge because it proved that Marquette could win away from home. Still, Marquette is just 4-7 on the road. Out of conference, Marquette’s best win is Bucknell. A first-round loss to Providence at the Big East tourney would create some uncertainty.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State
  • Illinois (19-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 17 | – The Illini took out some frustration on Indiana Saturday in Champaign and avoided a costly loss. While the general feeling is the Illini will make it, their outlook would be clearer if they can beat Michigan (again) in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Good wins include N. Carolina, at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and perhaps Michigan State. Down the stretch, however, Illinois has gone 5-7 in its last 12 games. Strong SOS numbers and 10 Top 100 wins are a plus. The loss at UIC is a major sore point – along with the dropped game at Indiana in January.
  • Michigan State (16-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 9 | The Spartans won 3 of 5 down the stretch, but struggled on the road against Michigan on Saturday – giving the Wolverines a season sweep. MSU is hoping its strong SOS will be rewarded; we’ve seen it in the past. The Spartans are just 3-9 vs. Top 50 teams, but 9-12 vs. the Top 100. They are 12-12 vs. the Top 200. What’s it all mean? Michigan State plays Iowa in its Big Ten tourney opener. A second loss to the Hawkeyes could prove too much. A victory and a good showing against Purdue? Close call.
  • Michigan (18-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 18 | Michigan played well down the stretch, going 8-4 in its last 12 Big Ten games. Through a series of tiebreakers, the Wolverines earned the 4-seed in the Big Ten tourney and play Illinois Friday. The Illini won in Champaign – the only meeting between the two. A 3-8 mark vs. Top 50 teams is somewhat offset by a 9-11 mark against the Top 100. Outside the league, Michigan’s best win is at Clemson, although they did beat Harvard, too. In the Big 10, Michigan swept Michigan State and Penn State. Their only “bad” loss was at Indiana in early January. If good losses help, Michigan took Kansas to OT in Ann Arbor. If they lose to Illinois, it could go right down to the wire.
  • Penn State (16-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 6 | The Nittany Lions staved off bubble elimination by winning at Minnesota Sunday. Penn State has three solid victories at home (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State) but the Lions are a just 3-8 on the road – a major disparity. PSU was also swept by Michigan. Despite a solid SOS, PSU’s best non-conference victories are Fairfield and Duquesne. They also lost at Virginia Tech. Penn State has to beat Indiana in its B10 tourney opener, and probably upset Wisconsin to sneak in. They are 3-7 vs. the Top 50 and 9-12 vs. the Top 100.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas AM, Missouri, Kansas State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Baylor, Colorado
  • Baylor (17-12 | 7-9) | RPI: 84 | SOS: 39 | – Baylor has dropped 5 of 6 and is clinging to life support after losing to Texas at home. The Bears’ RPI is sliding fast and the only thing keeping them afloat is a world of talent and a sweep of Texas AM. It’ll take a deep run in the Big 12 tourney at this point. It starts with Oklahoma.
  • Colorado (18-12 | 8-8) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 72 | – Colorado’s win over Nebraska Saturday did two things – kept them near the cutline and kept Nebraska off the immediate bubble. While the Buffs have some high-level wins (5-6 vs. the top 50 and a sweep of Kansas State), a horrific non-conference SOS (No. 322) could still prove to be an at-large killer. That, and a 3-9 record in true road games. It’s also worth noting that Colorado is just 10-12 vs the Top 200 – often an NIT qualification. The Buffs best non-conference win is over fellow bubble-dweller Colorado State. Colorado gets a rematch with Iowa State in its Big 12 tourney opener. Another loss to the Cyclones (in 10 days) might very well end their hopes of an NCAA bid.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: BYU, San Diego State, UNLV | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State, New Mexico
  • Colorado State (18-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 33 | – The Rams lost 4 of 5 down the stretch after falling at San Diego State. CSU is just 1-6 vs. the Top 50 and 4-8 vs. the Top 100. CSU has to reach the MTW final to warrant re-evaluation. Next up is New Mexico in an elimination game.
  • New Mexico (19-11 | 8-8) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 90 | – While still a long-shot, we have to welcome back the Lobos who have won three straight and own a season sweep of BYU. They also split with Colorado State and beat Colorado. UNM’s non-conference SOS (No. 257) is still an eyesore, but if the Lobos could reach the MTW final, they would be in the picture. First, UNM has to beat Colorado State in an elimination game.
PAC 10
Locks: Arizona | Should Be In: UCLA | Bubble: Washington, Washington State, USC
  • Washington (20-10 | 11-7) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 52 | – The Huskies have left themselves on the bubble by playing some very inconsistent basketball. They beat UCLA at home (season sweep), then lost on their same home floor to USC two days later. Keep in mind that Washington accomplished nothing outside the Pac-10 – Long Beach State is the Huskies best non-league win. Thus, it’s hard to move Washington above the fray just yet. They open the Pac-10 tourney against Washington State. What if they lose and WSU or USC makes a run? Washington also has losses at Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State.
  • Washington State (19-10 | 9-8) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 86 | – With Klay Thompson suspended, the Cougars coughed up a late lead to UCLA and lost in OT. That could be a major blow if the Cougars lose to Washington in their Pac 10 tourney opener. WSU is 6-8 vs. Top 100 teams, but just 2-6 vs. the Top 50. The Cougars have beaten Gonzaga and Baylor, but lost to Butler. WSU also swept Washington, but was swept by Arizona.
  • USC (18-13 | 10-8) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 42 | – Having won 5 of 6, it might be prudent to add Southern Cal to the bubble, but the Trojans have a long way to go. Yes, they have 5 Top 50 wins (Texas early, and then at Tennessee included), but they also have 6 sub-100 RPI losses – including 3 sub-200 losses (TCU, Oregon State, Bradley). They were also swept by Oregon. That type of resume suggests the NIT. But if USC can reach the Pac-10 final? We’ll see how the landscape looks.
SEC
Locks: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Tennessee | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (20-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 36 | – Having won at Tennesse and beaten Kentucky, the Bulldogs remain decent position. They also have a win over UAB. A victory at Alabama would have helped, but the Bulldogs do have one edge on some other bubble teams – no “bad” losses. In fact, every loss except at Alabama has been to teams in the Top 40 of the RPI. Outside the league, Georgia beat Colorado but lost to Xavier and Temple. Overall, the Bulldogs are 3-9 vs. the Top 50 and 5-10 vs. the Top 100. Is Georgia safe? Not yet. They can’t afford a loss to Auburn in their SEC tourney opener.
  • Alabama (20-10 | 12-4) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 127 | – What will the Selection Commitee do with Alabama? That’s a big topic of debate. Winning the SEC West was hardly epic work, but a 12-4 SEC mark is hard to ignore. Outside the SEC, Alabama’s profile is very questionable. Their non-conference SOS ranks No. 280 and the Tide’s best non-league win is Lipscomb. They also have early losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, and Seton Hall. With just 4 Top 100 wins, it’s hard to move Alabama off the bubble. Yes, the Tide beat Kentucky at home, but UK has been an average team on the road. Their other notable win – other than Georgia at home Saturday – is at Tennessee. But the Vols are very unpredictable. Is that enough? Alabama had better win at least one game in Atlanta. They might need two.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: George Mason, Old Dominion | Bubble: Butler, Missouri State, Memphis, UAB, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Butler (21-9 | 14-5) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 71 | – Butler has done what it had to do by reaching the Horizon League final. They play at Milwaukee on Tuesday. Certainly, winning the automatic bid would be best, but the Bulldogs have won 8 straight to be squarely in the conversation. A win over Florida State in Hawaii helps as could a win over Washington State – although that is more questionable. It’s the five league losses – including a sweep by Milwaukee – causing the question mark. Butler played a strong non-conference schedule (No. 12), and might be rewarded. That said, losing three times to Milwaukee could be a stumbling block.
  • Missouri State (25-8 | 17-4) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 124 | – Long wait coming up for the Bears who lost to Indiana State in the finals of the MVC tournament. With no Top 50 wins and just a 3-6 mark vs. the Top 100, Missouri State has to hope the Selection Committee values an outright MVC regular season title. Odds aren’t promising, we’ll see how the week develops.
  • Memphis (22-9 | 10-6) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 55 | – Memphis lost 3 of 5 down the stretch and needs to do some hefty work in the C-USA tourney. The Tigers swept UAB and Southern Miss in league play but also managed to lose at East Carolina, Rice, and SMU. Further, Memphis was blown out in its prime-time matchups with Kansas, Georgetown and Tennessee. The win at Gonzaga is Memphis’ only non-conference victory of note. Have to think the Tigers need to at least reach the C-USA final.
  • UAB (22-7 | 12-4) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 68 | – UAB wrapped up the C-USA regular-season title – something to note. Whether that would warrant an at-large bid is questionable. The Blazers are just 3-4 vs. Top 50 teams (but two of those are Marshall at No. 50). However, they do have 8 top 100 wins overall. The Blazers’ best non-conference win is VCU – they lost at Georgia and Duke. Within the league, UAB was swept by Memphis, we’ll see if that matters. A 9-5 road mark helps, but there’s just not a lot to be excited about. UAB needs to reach the C-USA final.
  • VCU (23-10 | 14-6) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 91 | – After losing 4 of 5 down the stretch, VCU rallied to beat Drexel and then upset George Mason in the CAA tournament. Now, the Rams are in the title game against Old Dominion. Winning would erase all doubt, although VCU should be in the conversation either way. The Rams have a neutral-court win over UCLA and also won at Wichita State in the BracketBuster. VCU is 3-4 vs. the Top 50 and 8-7 vs. the Top 100. A loss at UAB could come into play.
  • Gonzaga (21-9 | 11-3) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 103 | – Gonzaga had won 9 of 10 heading into the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas and held off San Francisco Sunday to advance to the title game with St. Mary’s. That’s a good spot, and helps their at-large case. They have wins over Xavier, Marquette, and Baylor, as well as a home loss to Memphis. The ‘Zags split two games with St. Mary’s. A 2-6 mark vs. Top 50 RPI teams is somewhat concerning, but a 5-7 mark vs. the Top 100 helps a little.
  • St. Mary’s (22-7 | 12-3) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 114 | – The Gaels beat Santa Clara to advance to the WCC title game. An early win over St. John’s helps, and St. Mary’s split with Gonzaga. The rest of the resume is light, however, (1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 3-5 vs. the Top 100). In the at-large discussion, the Gaels would likely fall behind Gonzaga. A home loss to Utah State could also pose a problem. In an interesting note, SMC has a game with Weber State on March 11 – after the WCC tourney concludes.
  • Utah State (27-3 | 15-1) | RPI: 17 | SOS: 122 | – The Aggies thoroughly dominated the WAC and may very well have done enough. Still, with a very light 2-2 mark vs. Top 100 teams – and one of those being Long Beach State (No. 95) – we can’t assume USU is a lock. Avoiding an early WAC flameout would be advised. Reach the final and it could be difficult to leave the Aggies home on Selection Sunday.

VIDEO: Kentucky fan makes a hype video

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 11:  Isaiah Briscoe #13 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates in the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Memorial Day weekend is typically a slow time for sports news, so over the weekend, the CBT crew has been discussing fan videos and songs.

If you’re not familiar, a lot of programs have fans that are so passionate, that they create something as tribute for their programs. This stuff tends to happen in the offseason.

Take this 12-minute video a Kentucky fan made that was posted by Kentucky Sports Radio’s Drew Franklin yesterday as an example:

Twelve minutes is a staggering amount for a video like this, but it captures multiple seasons and even goes into the future.

Not bad.

But it definitely doesn’t beat this Villanova song released by MRG after the Wildcats’ NCAA tournament run.

So now that we’ve seen the baseline for videos and songs, do any other fanbases have anything better in them this summer? There’s still a lot of time until college hoops begins next season and there are plenty of fans who can jump in with a submission.

Throughout the summer, we’ll post the best fan submissions on CBT (as long as they’re clean and original) and see which group of fans has the best at the end of it all.

Canisius finds a new head coach following Jim Baron’s retirement

Canisius head coach Jim Baron talks with players during college basketball practice in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, March 5, 2013. One year after Baron was fired at Rhode Island, the coach and his point guard son, Billy, have teamed up at Canisius to breath new life into a struggling program. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
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Canisius has found a new head coach following the retirement of Jim Baron, as the Griffins have hired former Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon, according to a report from Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News.

The 55-year-old Witherspoon was formerly the head coach at Buffalo from December 1999 until after the 2012-13 season and was recently an assistant coach at Alabama and Chattanooga the past two seasons.

During his time at Buffalo, Witherspoon went 197-225 while making four postseason appearances. He takes over a Canisius program that went 14-19 and 8-12 in the MAAC last season.

As a Buffalo native who has coached in the area as a high school, junior college and Division I head coach, Witherspoon should be familiar with the landscape of being a basketball coach in that city. It’s hard to say if Witherspoon can lead Canisius to prominence at this stage in his career, but he’ll certainly know the area enough to hit the ground running.

UNC’s Roy Williams recovering from knee replacement surgery

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 19:  Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts on the bench against the Harvard Crimson during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on March 19, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Roy Williams is recovering from knee replacement surgery.

In an email Friday, athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner says Williams is “resting comfortably” after the procedure on his right knee performed by Dr. Walt Beaver in Charlotte. Kirschner says there’s no exact recovery timetable but Williams is expected to be on the road for July recruiting “as usual.”

The 65-year-old Williams had procedures on both knees last year but experienced discomfort during the season as the Tar Heels won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles before losing in the NCAA title game on a last-second shot to Villanova.

A week later, Williams said he was considering surgery options for a “bone-on-bone” condition and noted: “I’ve got to be able to move around.”

Utah to play rival BYU in basketball again in 2017

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 2: Nate Austin #33 of the Brigham Young Cougars and Jakob Poeltl #42 of the Utah Utes try for the ball in the second half of the Utes 83-75 win at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on December 2, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah will play rival BYU in basketball again in 2017 in a game that will end a “cooling off period” Utah demanded due to events at recent games.

Utah said in a news release Thursday that the two schools have agreed to play in 2017 at BYU. The school’s athletic directors are talking about scheduling future games.

The decision to cancel the rivalry upset BYU and ignited a controversy that lit up sports talk radio and triggered legislators to order a state audit of Utah athletics. The game had been played every year since 1909 except for during World War II.

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said in January that the rivalry had become a “venomous and toxic environment.” BYU guard Nick Emery was ejected from December’s game for punching Utah’s Brandon Taylor.

Looking Forward: Defense will help Arizona sort out loaded rotation

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind let’s take a look at Arizona, an elite program that reloads with designs on erasing the bad memories of last year’s first round NCAA tournament exit. 

After going on a two-year run in which they went 67-9, won two Pac-12 regular season titles and made two Elite Eight appearances, Arizona took a step back in 2015-16. Sean Miller’s Wildcats saw their grip on the Pac-12 loosen, with Oregon taking advantage, and their NCAA tournament stay was a short one thanks to a tough Wichita State team. Many programs would sign up for a season that included 25 wins despite injuries to freshmen Ray Smith (torn ACL) and Allonzo Trier (broken hand).

But Arizona isn’t your “run of the mill” program, which is a testament not only to what the retired Lute Olson accomplished during his time in Tucson but to what Sean Miller’s managed to do as well. Since his arrival Miller’s pumped new life into the program, with Arizona racking up highly regarded recruiting classes and the wins to match.

All that’s missing from his time at Arizona is a trip to the Final Four, an accomplishment Arizona hasn’t been able to boast since 2001. And after last year’s disappointing finish, Arizona’s work on the recruiting trail in the spring has them in a position where they can get that done. There’s talent, depth and versatility on the roster heading into the 2016-17 season, with some key returnees being joined by one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.

And with that will come an important question for the Wildcats: how will they sort everything out from a rotation standpoint?

Competition within the ranks is hardly a bad thing; “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The same can be said for versatility, which will be another positive trait for Arizona in 2016-17. At first glance the roster has just two players seemingly locked into one specific position: Parker Jackson-Cartwright at point guard and Dusan Ristic at center. Outside of that, Arizona boasts a host of players capable of filling multiple spots based upon the desires of their head coach and the flow of the game.

The front court includes a mobile 7-footer in sophomore Chance Comanche, who managed to earn more consistent appearances down the stretch thanks to his activity on the defensive end of the floor. Newcomers in Lauri Markkanen and Keanu Pinder who can fill multiple roles in the front court, with Markannen’s ability to step out and hit perimeter shots being especially key, and the same can be said of the talented Smith provided there are no lingering effects from his second ACL tear in as many years.

With the injury and the time away from live action Smith will likely have some rust to shake off, but this is something Arizona can work through given their depth. There’s role versatility and this sets up to be a more mobile group defensively as well, which can only help the Wildcats moving forward.

The bigger area for Arizona from an options standpoint is on the perimeter, as they’re loaded with established returnees and high-caliber newcomers. And with the players available, how everything shakes out with regards to roles and minutes that come with them will be very interesting to watch. Trier’s back after a successful freshman season in which he averaged 14.6 points per game and shot 46.6 percent from the field, and with his ability to attack defenses off the dribble he’ll figure prominently in the Arizona rotation again in 2016-17.

Also returning are Kadeem Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who shared the point guard duties with Allen getting the starting nod thanks in large part to his ability on the defensive end of the floor. Losing Gabe York, who was second on the team in scoring and Arizona’s best three-point shooter a season ago, can’t be overlooked. But with the additions to the program, Arizona can more than account for the production lost there.

Last year Trier was the Wildcat best capable of attacking defenses off the bounce, but even with the relative “lack” of such options Arizona still managed to average 80 points per game and shoot 48 percent from the field. Things will be a bit different in 2016-17, thanks to factors such as the loss of York and Ryan Anderson and the fact that they’ll have more players capable of breaking down opponents off the dribble. Freshmen Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins and Terrance Ferguson can all create shots via dribble penetration, with Ferguson also being one of the top shooters in the class of 2016.

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 30: Terrance Ferguson #6 of the East  team goes up for a dunk against the West team during the 2016 McDonalds's All American Game on March 30, 2016 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Terrance Ferguson (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

But could this turn out to be a case of having too much of a good thing? While considered a point guard, Simmons proved to be better at getting himself looks than doing so for others, and Alkins was also considered to be a “ball dominant” guard at the high school level. How will that change at the college level, and how will the pieces fit together within Arizona’s rotation?

These are important questions to address, and how Arizona can do that is on the defensive end of the floor.

After two straight seasons of producing defenses that ranked in the top three in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers (first in 2014, third in 2015), Arizona was ranked 41st in that category last season. After two consecutive seasons of limiting teams to less than 40 percent shooting from the field, Arizona allowed teams to shoot 41.3 percent in 2015-16. Also of concern was the turnover department, with teams committing an average of just 11.4 per game against the Wildcats last season.

By comparison, those two Elite Eight teams managed to force an average of 13.8 turnovers per game in 2013-14 and 12.4 per contest in 2014-15. The pack line defense isn’t one that people would necessarily categorize as a “pressure” system, but one of the strengths for Arizona during those two Elite Eight runs was having athletic options on the wings who can make life difficult for passers and the players looking to receive those passes. That wasn’t the case last season, but it may not be a problem in 2016-17 thanks to the roster additions.

Ferguson’s athleticism is noted above, and he’s also a long-armed player who more than holds his own defensively. Alkins also has the physical tools needed to cause trouble on the wing, which will give Arizona a good shot at playing defense at the level we grew accustomed to seeing them reach.

Physical tools aside, there’s always the “carrot” of playing time to dangle in front of the players. When discussing the adjustment process for freshmen many rush to the offensive end, and that’s understandable to a certain extent. But the biggest adjustment comes on the other end of the floor, and being able to prove that you can defend your position and carry out the team’s defensive game plan.

Arizona will certainly have offensive talent across the board next season. But the reason why they can rebound from last season and possibly reach the Final Four is the fact that some of that talent will make a difference defensively as well.