Christmas Wish Lists: Arizona needs its big men to mature

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Their young big men continue to mature

This one’s pretty obvious as far as Arizona is concerned, as the Wildcats have plenty of experience to go along with their skill on the perimeter. But inside? Sean Miller’s relying on three freshmen and a sophomore, and if Arizona is to make any noise come March Brandon Ashley, Angelo Chol, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski will need to mature as the season wears on. Chol’s averaging just 9.9 minutes per game currently, but all it would take is one injury for the sophomore to become a more important figure.

Each of the three freshmen have enjoyed moments of success thus far but they’ve also been inconsistent, which isn’t a shock when considering how much experience they have. Brandon Ashley scored 20 points and grabbed ten rebounds in a win over Long Beach State on November 19, only to follow that up with a two-point night in a win over Northern Arizona. The maturation of Ashley, Jerrett and Tarczewski would help keep senior Solomon Hill from having to do too much banging, as he’s far more comfortable on the wing.

Stocking stuffer: Mark Lyons takes better care of the basketball 

Let’s clear this up right now: Mark Lyons is a point guard, regardless of how some may attempt to use his assist and turnover numbers in order to state that he isn’t a “true” floor general. But there’s no doubt that the senior need to tighten things up when it comes to taking care of the basketball if the Wildcats are to reach their full potential. On the season Lyons has tallied a total of 18 assists…and 19 turnovers. Nearly breaking even in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.95 to be exact) may not be a problem right now, but when the pressure rises in March he’ll need to be better. And if the improvement can come without Lyons having to sacrifice some of his ability to make plays, that’s even better.

Planning on re-gifting: Solomon Hill’s field goal percentage

The move back to the three was expected to be a significant move for Hill after he spent the majority of last season at the four due to Arizona’s depth issues. But there is one area in which the move hasn’t been as fruitful as anticipated: field goal percentage. After shooting 2-of-16 in Saturday’s win at Clemson Hill is shooting just 39.1% from the field (33.3% on two-point shots), a number that’s nearly 11 percentage points lower than last season’s mark (50.0%). The three-point percentage (45.2%) has improved but expecting him to continue to score nearly 49% of his points from deep as the season wears on would be unrealistic, and it likely wouldn’t be in Arizona’s best interests either.

Stats courtesy of statsheet.com

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.