The current head coach at Arizona, Sean Miller, is the head coach that recruited Lyons to Xavier. Miller’s star point guard recruit at Arizona — Josiah Turner — transferred after getting booted off of the team for repeated violations of team rules. The replacement for Turner — TJ McConnell — won’t be eligible until 2013-2014, meaning that Arizona needed a one-year stop-gap at the point guard spot. Lyons graduates from Xavier, meaning that he will be able to play immediately and fill the gaping hole Arizona has at the point.
It’s all quite simple, really.
What isn’t so simple is determining whether or not Lyons will end up being the answer for Arizona.
On paper, he is a perfect fit. He’s talented veteran with tournament experience, having gone to two Sweet 16’s in the last three years. The problem is that his experience comes playing off the ball. Lyons was recruited as a point guard, but when you are a point guard and share the back court with an all-american like Tu Holloway, the fact of the matter is that you don’t truly get to handle the ball that much. In other words, we don’t really know if Lyons can play the point and act as a facilitator.
That’s what Arizona, who brings in a vaunted recruiting class to go along side a solid core of returners, is going to need out of Lyons. As nice as it would be to see him duplicate the 15.7 points he averaged last season, I’m sure Sean Miller would be more excited with six assists-per-game and a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. And while it was the brawl with Cincinnati that received the majority of the blame for the tumultuous end of the 2012 regular season for the Musketeers, me-first play and selfish shot selection by the entire team — including Lyons — played just as big of a role in Xavier under-performing.
There are also some off-the-court issues with Lyons that could be a concern, as reported by CBSSports.com. This past season, Lyons was not only suspended for two games but was benched towards the end of the season. It’s also worth noting that the reason for his redshirt season was due to being a partial qualifier, not an attempt to spend a year developing his game.
“After our end of the season meeting with Mark it became apparent that a change for both parties was the right thing moving forward,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said when Lyons decided to transfer. “During our meeting expectations were outlined for his fifth and final season, areas in which I believe needed improvement. Mark did not recognize these expectations as being important and ultimately it was decided that a change of scenery would be in his best interest. I wish Mark well.”
Is Lyons a kid that can be trusted to take the reins of this Arizona program?
That’s unclear, and probably won’t be answered until December or January, when the season is already well underway.
What we do know is that bringing Lyons into the program was Miller’s best case scenario given the circumstances.