No. 8 Arizona


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By Jeff Goodman | College Basketball Insider

Last season's record: 23-12 (NIT)

Notable returnees from last season: Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, Angelo Chol, Jordin Mayes

Notable losses from last season: Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry, Josiah Turner, Brendon Lavender

Vital Info: No. 8 Arizona
Arizona Wildcats
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Notable newcomers: Mark Lyons (Xavier), Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Gabe York

Projected starters: G: Nick Johnson G: Mark Lyons F: Solomon Hill F: Brandon Ashley C: Grant Jarrett

Why this team will be good: First off, they have one of the best coaches in the country in Sean Miller. Then you add in a blend of talented young big men with veteran wings and a talented, yet enigmatic senior point guard. That could be a recipe to go deep into the NCAA tournament this season. Point guard Mark Lyons has the natural ability, but the question is whether he can provide leadership and consistently make his teammates better. However, Lyons will have no shortage of talent around him. Nick Johnson is explosive and has a year under his belt at the two-guard spot, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom are both veterans on the wing -- and Parrom is finally healthy. Then you add in three of the elite freshman frontcourt players in the country in Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett and Kaleb Tarczewski and you have a team without any glaring holes. Look for Jerrett to be an absolute stud -- and Ashley and Tarczewski won't be far behind. Miller is two-deep at every position as freshman Gabe York, a Top 50 player, will come off the bench -- and guys like Parrom and Tarczewski could also be key reserves who battle for starting spots.

Why this team might disappoint: Lyons has never played the point guard spot before. He's the key to this team -- and he's a guy who wasn't exactly welcomes back to Xavier with open arms after four seasons in the program (he sat out his first year due to academics). Again, he's ultra-talented and brings a toughness this team needs to the table, but can he harness his emotions and become a leader. That's the most important question with this group because the Wildcats have just about everything else. The only other major issue could be chemistry and Miller finding a way to keep everyone happy. He's got 10 guys who can play and about seven or eight who all believe they should start and play major minutes.

Bottom line: Arizona is back. I know the Wildcats went to the Elite Eight a couple years ago with Derrick Williams leading the way, but that was a completely different team -- one that frankly overachieved. This group has no shortage of weapons and won't be dependent on one player - as was the case with that team. There could be a handful of future NBA players on the current roster. It'll be important how the veterans blend with the talented freshmen -- and whether or not the young kids accept their roles. The pieces clearly fit together, though. Lyons was the key pickup late in the summer as Arizona didn't have a guy like him. The Josiah Turner Experiment failed miserably and now it'll be interesting to see whether Lyons and Miller can make it work together for a year. If they can, this is a team that could get all the way to Atlanta and the Final Four. If not, it could be a roller-coaster ride.

Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "The expectations are high -- and our league needs Arizona and UCLA to be good for credibility sake. Sean Miller is one of those guys, though, that can do it all -- coach and recruit. He's found a way to get Arizona back quicker than people thought -- and now they will have it rolling over there for as long as he stays."

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