Arizona Basketball: Wildcats' 5 Most Impressive Stats in 2013-14
To the casual fan or observer, there are only two numbers that matter for Arizona basketball—the record (12-0) and the ranking (No. 1).
However, look deeper into the box scores and stat sheets, and you'll have a better understanding of how the Wildcats have gotten to this point.
Or you could just let us do it for you, and check out the most impressive figures Arizona has put together so far in the 2013-14 season.
What a difference having a true point guard makes.
More than anything else, the greatest improvement from last season to this (and, therefore, Arizona's most impressive statistic) is in the assist-to-turnover ratio category.
In 2012-13, with Mark Lyons playing the point only by default, the Wildcats had 476 assists in 35 games. They also committed 458 turnovers, translating to a pedestrian 1.04-1 ratio. The team's leading assist man, shooting guard Nick Johnson, was also its most effective in not throwing the ball away—finishing with a 1.7-1 ratio.
With T.J. McConnell running the point this year, Arizona's ratio is up to 1.32-to-1.
McConnell, who is as pass-first as guards come, has 78 assists to just 24 turnovers.
Arizona's media guide doesn't list a school record-holder for assist-to-turnover ratio, but there's a good chance McConnell's 3.25-to-1 would be at the top of that list.
Arizona had a scant plus-six rebounding average in 2012-13, despite often having three players at 6'8" or taller in the game.
The same goes for this year, with 7'0" Kaleb Tarczewski, 6'9" Aaron Gordon and 6'8" Brandon Ashley routinely playing together in the frontcourt. That trio (along with assistance from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson off the bench) has paced the Wildcats to a plus-14 advantage through 12 games.
A great example of where this paid off was in the Wildcats' comeback win at Michigan on Dec. 14. Despite being down nearly the entire game, Arizona was routinely crashing the boards for second-chance opportunities. Many possessions resulted in two or three shots, ultimately leading to putback scores that paced the comeback.
Arizona had a 17-6 edge on the offensive glass in that game, and for the year is collecting five more offensive rebounds per game than its opponents.
Average Minutes Played (Per Regular)
Arizona coach Sean Miller indicated before the season that, by design, he wasn't going to go very deep into his bench. Save for garbage time in blowouts, he's pretty much stuck to a seven-man rotation.
What's been most impressive about Miller's personnel usage has been the way he's played so few bodies, yet still managed not to overwork any of them.
Through 12 games, T.J. McConnell has seen the most court action, averaging 30.6 minutes per game. Nick Johnson is right behind that, at 30.5, while Aaron Gordon is logging 30.3.
Miller has accomplished this by shuttling one or two players off the bench every few minutes, resulting in reserves Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Gabe York averaging 23 and 18.3 minutes per game, respectively.
Being able to have starters only play 75 percent of the game will go a long way toward avoiding late-season fatigue.
Arizona's .666 free-throw shooting percentage is nothing to get excited about, unless you're into numerology. However, what has been impressive is the team's ability to get to the foul line.
The Wildcats have taken 296 free throws in 12 games. That 24.5 shots-per-game average doesn't rank the Wildcats among the top 50 teams in the nation, but it's far better than the 17.7 average their opponents are logging.
Last season, Arizona averaged less than 21 foul shots per game—but did make nearly 75 percent of them—compared to about 18 per game for its opponents.
Though the accuracy hasn't been there, the aggressiveness to get to the line continues to exist, even with teams looking to try to foul weak free-throw shooters like Aaron Gordon (43.9 percent). The percentage will improve over time, and that continued advantage in attempts will pay off in the long run.
Arizona is holding its opponents to just 57.8 points per game so far, which would be the lowest yield by a Wildcat team since the 1950s. It also ranks among the top 10 in the NCAA this season.
It's early, but Arizona has managed to hold many of its opponents far below their season average, including:
- Duke scored 66 against Arizona; the Blue Devils' season average is 85.5 points per game.
- Michigan scored 70, and is averaging 79.3 for the season.
- New Mexico State managed just 48 points, despite a season average of 74.9.
- San Diego State scored 60, compared to 74.0 for the season.
The ability to hold teams far under their normal scoring output is a strong indicator of a team that controls the tempo and dictates how the game will go. With six Pac-12 Conference schools among the top 50 scoring teams in the country, that trait will come in handy come league play.