Monday November 3rd, 2014

Wildcats coach Sean Miller is a daily visitor to the national defensive efficiency rankings on kenpom.com. “It keeps me sane,” he says. “Those are the numbers that I believe in.” Miller knows -- and this is backed up by a decade’s worth of data -- that you can’t contend for a national title without being near the top of those rankings. He frequently lets his team know how its help-oriented, man-to-man D stacks up; last season Arizona ascended to No. 1 on kenpom in January, then earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. These Wildcats are aiming to set themselves apart by having another top-ranked D that’s powered by senior T.J. McConnell, their pest of a point guard; sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a 6-foot-7 lockdown wing; and the length of juniors Brandon Ashley (6-9) and Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0).

The return of Ashley -- who tore a ligament in his right foot last February after establishing himself as a scoring threat in the post, in midrange isolation and on pick-and-pops -- should also ensure that the offense doesn’t stagnate. “No one,” says the pass-first McConnell, “is happier to have Brandon back than me.” The Wildcats were one possession away from the 2014 Final Four; with a few better bounces, a few more buckets and the same stout defense, the 2015 championship is within reach.

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Projected top seven scorers

name pos class ppg rpg apg o-rating
Stanley Johnson F Fr 13.4 5.6 1.6 114.5
Brandon Ashley F Jr 13.0 6.7 1.1 118.6
Kaleb Tarczewski F Jr 11.4 7.1 0.7 120.7
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson F So 11.0 6.1 1.5 117.0
T.J. McConnell G Sr 9.2 3.4 5.1 115.3
Gabe York G Jr 7.7 2.4 1.6 119.8
Parker Jackson-Cartwright G Fr 4.4 0.9 1.8 104.9

Projected Pac-12 standings

rank team projected conf. record 2013-14 conf. record
1 Arizona 16-2 15-3
2 Utah 12-6 9-9
3 Stanford 12-6 10-8
4 UCLA 11-7 12-6
5 Colorado 10-8 10-8
6 Oregon 9-9 10-8
7 California 9-9 10-8
8 Washington 8-10 9-9
9 Arizona State 7-11 10-8
10 USC 6-12 2-16
11 Washington State 6-12 3-15
12 Oregon State 2-16 8-10

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