I was looking at the Slipper Still Fits twitter feed and saw the question: "Can anyone explain the high expectations for Arizona next year?" Living in Arizona and hearing about the team nearly every time I turn on the radio, I may be able to offer some insight.
Now a large source of the high expectations for next year is the recruiting class. As of now it is number 1 according to ESPN. ( I do not know what other sources are saying, but it is one of the top classes in the nation). While a number 1 recruiting class is always great, I am not of the mind that this incoming class will immediately provide the means necessary to win it all. The incoming big man is a 7'0", has a decent frame, some skills, and is receptive to coaching. He is expected at least to come in and provide meaningful minutes and may be even start towards the middle of season as Arizona lacks a skilled or even consistent big man. Brandon Ashley is another highly touted recruit but has fallen off as of late. The reason being is he has hit his ceiling as far as athleticism will take him. There are also questions about his intensity, effort, and focus. Still the guy can flat out play. Gabe York and Grant Jarrett are two other highly rank recruits coming in adding size and athleticism which Arizona needs after losing both to graduation this year. The last recruit listed and that I know of is a JC player expected to redshirt a year to develop and add strength. According to talking head I heard last night, the team and the player were both seeking this option.
Besides recruiting Arizona has dealt with its fair share of off the court issues. Three instances immediately come to mind. First, Arizona lost its PG and expected leader when Momo Jones transferred for personal reasons. Second, Kevin Parrom was shot while in New York visiting family. He was expected to have a stellar season but could not consistently put it together as he was playing catch up from the get go. Lastly, Josiah Turner is apparently not getting with the program and was suspended for several games this year for failing to follow team rules.
During games, Arizona just ran up and down the court forgetting they were playing basketball. It was common for them to go 5-8 minutes at least once a game with out a field goal. The lack of a true PG may be the issue here, but no one stepped-up to make a play. Arizona was also notoriously undersized. Their bigs except for the undersized Perry hardly did anything this season (except foul). You have to travel a long ways down the stats sheet before they appear even in the rebounding category.
Next year, Arizona returns several key players notably Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom. It is true they lose some offensive power and leadership due to graduation but Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom should be able to fill the role. The biggest question this off season is what happens with Josiah Turner. He was supposed to be a gamer this season at the PG spot but it never came together. People are hoping he gets his act together and starts taking over as this would allow Nick Johnson to play his natural position at the SG spot. Nick Johnson, a freshman, is supposed to make strides this off-season to help share the scoring load. He is capable of scoring in bunches from different areas on the floor., but ultimately fails to get himself into the games at certain times. He would be a ghost for long stretches or simply not make shots. (FG% of 37.2%) In his defense, he was asked to do a lot this season and much of it out of his natural position.
Right now people are generally excited about next year, or at least more so than they were last year. There are still a couple big question marks about this team namely in the PG spot and Center position. Even with these unresolved issues, Arizona is looking good in a down PAC12.