Kevin Parrom

Sean Miller

Sean Miller: ‘we may not be that good’

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Expectations are higher than they have ever been for Sean Miller at Arizona. Fresh off of a run to the Sweet 16 and with a dynamite 2013 recruiting class consisting of Aaron Gordon and Rondae Jefferson, the Wildcats will most likely open the season as a Top 5 team.

And, why shouldn’t they be ranked that high?

With the preceding two players entering the program and being immediate difference makers in conjunction with T.J. McConnell, who is one of the top point guards in the country, now eligible, Arizona has the pieces to make an even deeper run in the NCAA Tournament come March. Sure they’re young, but the talent is there, and Sean Miller is one of the best young basketball minds in the game.

Even still, Miller has his concerns.

He told AZ Central last week on his team’s high praise and preseason ranking: “It’s just the way it goes but I do believe with where we’re rated, how good we’re supposed to be, we may not be that good. I don’t know yet. We have a lot of interchangeable players but from a pure body perspective we may be one man down on the front line.”

At the time, the eligibility of forward Zach Peters, who transferred from Kansas due to be closer to his family after suffering multiple concussions last year, was in flux. It frustrated Miller, and only complicated matters of what his rotation would look like if Peters wasn’t ruled immediately eligible.

Fortunately for Miller, he can now breathe a little easier as Peters was finally ruled eligible by the NCAA.

Okay, so Miller now has that extra body he needed on the front line. But, what about his team’s ability to shoot the basketball, a department they were so strong in last season? Miller said in late August: “I don’t think there’s a college basketball program of the 347 that have shot more basketballs than we have this summer.”

A month later, his concerns about scoring from the perimeter are still there: “And shooting in particular, although I don’t know if I’d say we’re not going to be a good shooting team, we have a number of guys we’re going to count on that haven’t done it or are going to have to do it better so that remains to be seen as well.”

The three point shot was a big part of Arizona’s offense last season as they attempted 675 threes (56th in the country), and connected on 37.1% of their attempted (45th in the country). With graduation claiming Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, and Kevin Parrom, plus Grant Jerrett leaving for the NBA after his freshman year, Arizona is without four of their top perimeter threats.

One of the major storylines to follow in the season’s opening weeks is what role Aaron Gordon plays within the offense. If he demonstrates the ability to play the three and knock down a jump shot at a high clip, that will certainly go a long way in putting Miller at ease.

Arizona, like every other team, has problem areas entering the year. Yet, even with Miller’s concerns which aren’t unfounded by any stretch, Arizona is still one of the top teams in the country. I will posit that that the Wildcats will indeed be “good,” rather than “not that good” as Miller claimed — chalk that statement up by Miller as nothing more than preseason jitters.

Is Sean Miller concerned about Arizona’s perimeter game?

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Arizona is a sure bet to begin the season ranked in the Top 10, and may even crack the Top 5. They have one of the top recruits in the country in Aaron Gordon who will make his presence immediately felt. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be one of the top freshmen in the country next year, alongside Gordon. T.J. McConnell, a transfer from Duquesne who sat out last season, will be the starting point guard.

What is there for Sean Miller to be concerned about?

Coaches always find something that has them worried; it’s seemingly in their DNA for this to happen. For Sean Miller, Arizona’s perimeter game may be an area that has him a little uneasy heading into the 2013-14 season — a season in which much is expected of the Wildcats. The three point shot was a big part of Arizona’s offense last season as they attempted 675 threes (56th in the country), and connected on 37.1% of their attempted (45th in the country).

With graduation claiming Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, and Kevin Parrom, plus Grant Jerrett leaving for the NBA after his freshman year, Arizona is without four of their top perimeter threats. Only rising junior guard Nick Johnson is a proven perimeter threat from last year’s squad. However, McConnell is a solid three point shooter as he connected on 43.2% of his attempts at Duquesne in 2011-12.

Miller told the Daily Wildcat, “I don’t think there’s a college basketball program of the 347 that have shot more basketballs than we have this summer.”

Now, Miller’s comment can be interpreted one of two ways: 1) The three point shot will remain a big part of Arizona’s offense, and the fact they have put up so many shots over the summer reaffirms that. Or, 2) Having lost four perimeter threats from last year’s team, Miller has deemed it important that other players emerge to fill these roles.

According to Miller, rising sophomore forward Brandon Ashley’s shot has improved.

While Gordon and Hollis-Jefferson are poised to have a huge freshmen seasons, they are both streaky shooters that won’t be relied on to hit the outside shot.

That leaves rising senior guard Jordin Mayes as a player Miller may look to as a source for outside scoring. As a freshman, Mayes was one of Arizona’s best three point shooters (45.3%), but last year he shot just 30.8% from beyond the arc. Along with Mayes, Gabe York will most likely see additional minutes in the back court as a shooting guard. Ranked as one of the top shooters in the country for the class of 2012 recruiting class, York saw minutes sparingly last season.

Am I nitpicking by scrutinizing Arizona’s perimeter game? Probably. But, so too is Sean Miller.

Kevin Parrom to make second straight start Wednesday vs. Washington

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Arizona turned to senior Kevin Parrom in the face of a two-game losing streak, putting him in the starting lineup Sunday in a win over Utah. Coach Sean Miller and the Wildcats will keep with that plan Wednesday when they meet Washington and look to hold their ground in the Pac-12 race, the Tucson Citizen is reporting.

“Coach pretty much knows when I’m out there I’m going to play my hardest, whether I’m starting or the sixth man or whatever role I get,” Parrom told the paper. “He trusts me in whatever role he puts me in.”

Parrom started in place of freshman Brandon Ashely against Utah and responded with a near double-double of nine points and nine rebounds.

“Like a lot of seniors, when you come down the home stretch, sometimes you want to play so well it works against you,” Miller said, as reported by the paper. “Injecting him into the starting lineup I think is a good way for us to show how much we believe in him.”

Parrom and Mark Lyons have been the senior leaders for an Arizona team that started off hot in the non-conference, but has cooled off a bit in Pac-12 play. Starting Parrom takes some size out of the initial lineup on the floor, but he can still produce. Shifting Ashley toward coming off the bench had its benefits, too.

“Brandon was as big a reason why we beat Utah as any player,” Miller said. “To me, his role is as significant, if not more significant, moving forward because of how important his play is overall to our team’s success.”

Arizona tips off against Washington at 9 p.m. ET.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_