Two months ago, I asked what some of the Questions about this year's team were. After a red-blue scrimmage, 2 exhibition games, and 3 regular season contests, we've started to get an idea of what this team looks like. Obviously there will continue to be some things that the team will struggle with. Some will be isolated events. Others will be things that we continually need to work on. Anyway, I think for the most part though, we sit in a great place. Here's some of the questions that we had coming into the season that are starting to get sorted out...
Defense - It still seems like this is the bar that will set the standard for where this team can ultimately go. Our interior defense has actually been even better than expected for this point in the season, and only looks to improve. Arizona currently blocks 10.7% of every FGA against us, which is good for 26th in the country. This may be a function of playing against lesser offensive teams or shooting teams, but I expect this to continue to be a strength. Our outside defense is very clearly our weakness. Allowing opponents to average 39% from deep isn't going to work. Worse is that they're averaging 25 attempts from 3 per game. Allowing 30ppg from the 3 is a dangerous game to play. I suspect losing Fogg hurts here, in addition to a larger, less quick line-up. Hopefully we can get quicker on our feet, more crisp on rotations, and this will slowly become a Miller-trade-mark strength again.
Youth - Maybe it'll appear from time to time throughout the year, but it clearly is not a major issue. These guys are ready to play and have looked great. Getting them to play hard for their full time on the court will be something to work on. They have already thrived in the pace of the game and have had a quick learning curve on both sides of the ball. Have to feel pretty good about where they're at and where they still have room to go.
Chemistry - Another questions that has been entirely answered. There is no chemistry issues on this team. We've got 5 new guys that are gelling well. Arizona is currently 9th in the nation in Assist % with 71% of our FGs being assisted. That doesn't sound like a team with chemistry problems. In addition, we see how the guys interact during the game and during pressers, and we hear about their practice habits and off-court behaviors. There are no Josiahs or Sidikis on this team. Gotta feel great about the focus and general cohesion. Is this a brotherhood that over performs because they can virtually read their teammates minds? Absolutely not. But Chemistry is clearly not an issue.
Turn Overs - With the Assist % that Arizona has, you'd expect some TOs. The TOs could also be attributed to lack of playing time together (yeah, I suppose some would even call that "chemistry"). Either way, Arizona is currently averaging 14TPG at a rate of 20% per possession. Yikes. That's 186th out of 344 DivI teams. Hopefully this can get figured out. To be fair though, the UTEP game is a bit of an outlier. I still see a lot of unforced TOs, and we've got some guys that struggle limiting the unforced TOs. I don't think ball security will ever be a strength, but hopefully it's something that can be controlled.
Shooting - It's funny looking back that this was such a concern before the season started. Shooting 42% from deep isn't going to make head lines, but considering there were some questions to start the season, this is quite impressive. It's currently good for 32nd in the nation and 8th among those teams in 3PG. For a true shooting %, which factors in 3pt%, FG%, and FT%, Arizona ranks 15th in the nation. In addition, having 7 of 10 guys in the rotation that are a threat from long is a great way to know that this will always be something to feel comfortable about.
Free Throws - Same with shooting, except there isn't a single weakness on this team. Arizona is 35th in FT%, and best in the PAC, which isn't a cause for celebration, but also is a very comfortable place to be at. When combined with the fact that we're also 32nd in FTs per possession, you have to like Arizona's odds of getting to the stripe and tacking on plenty of free points all year.
*Stats come from ESPN.com and statsheet.com