Kentucky, which has been named the top team in many preseason polls, isn’t the only team entering the 2014-15 season amidst high expectations. Arizona, which won 33 games and reached the Elite Eight last season, is another team mentioned quite often in discussions regarding favorites to win the national title next spring. Three starters from that team return, point guard T.J. McConnell, a now-healthy Brandon Ashley and center Kaleb Tarczewski, as do Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Gabe York.
Add in one of the nation’s best recruiting classes led by Stanley Johnson, and the Wildcats have a host of players capable of earning minutes. However the Wildcats do have some personnel issues to address, the greatest of which being accounting for the departures of Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson and lottery pick Aaron Gordon.
And in his comments to the media ahead of the team’s lone exhibition on Sunday, head coach Sean Miller didn’t sound too thrilled with his team’s progress according to Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star.
“We have kind of an identity crisis right now on defense,” Miller said. “With Nick Johnson’s ability on defense and his leadership — it’s like we’re missing three players losing him. You feel it every day.
“And Aaron Gordon, he’s just such an excellent rebounder and defensive player and energy guy that those two guys no matter what team they left, you’re going to feel their void, and boy, we really feel it right now.”
For some, the head coach’s words may be summed up as his move to keep the team humble in advance of the start of the season. But as Pascoe also noted in the story Miller, who stated during the press conference that “our depth isn’t there right now,” is a straight shooter when it comes to assessing his team. Another issue pointed out by Miller Thursday was the team’s lack of communication, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
“You don’t have to be a rah-rah type guy or slap the floor. You have to be who you really are. Some of our guys have different types of personalities. But there are some guys who come behind a microphone and, man, they can’t wait to talk, but you watch them practice and you hardly know they’re there.”
All teams are a work in progress in the month of November, which in all honesty should be the case as no one gets a trophy for being a finished product in November. But that doesn’t mean coaches will let things slide with the idea that they’ll get it all worked out in March. For Arizona that means becoming more consistent as defenders and having leaders step forward, and based upon his quotes Miller’s still waiting for his team to meet his expectations.