Arizona’s loss to Washington was not about overall talent, but was about the two things that Washington has that Arizona doesn’t, depth and wings.
“You could tell they were the deeper, bigger faster team,” said Sean Miller in his postgame radio interview.
Arizona wore down in the second half having to rely on their seven-man rotation against a Washington team that really only played seven players for extended minutes, but was able to spread them around more evenly. Arizona had three players log 32+ minutes and six players over 27 minutes. Washington had similar numbers but had three other players who came in and got spot minutes, enough to give the Huskies a rest.
For the first time all season Arizona seemed to wear down at the end of the game. The Wildcats’ outside shooting really took a hit over the final 8:00. The Wildcats were 4-11 from behind the arc the first 32 minutes, but were just 2-10 from behind the arc down the stretch. Overall the Wildcats were just 4-15 from the field over the final 8:00 (18-41 the prior 32 minutes).
As much as the lack of depth hurt, so does the lack of size, especially on the wing. Washington has just two players under 6-4, while Arizona plays just two players over 6-5. With the loss of Kevin Parrom to injury, the Wildcats have just one small forward and he has to play power forward. Conversely, it seems like the entire UW roster is made up of wing players.
Without Kevin Parrom, Arizona is essentially forced to guard 6-5 and 6-6 players with players who are 6-2 or 6-3. Kyle Fogg is an excellent defender, but gives up 3-4 inches to most of his opponents. Nick Johnson is a good defender for a freshman, but is still learning his craft as a defender and also gives up a lot of size. Add to that Josiah Turner and Brendon Lavender, who just aren’t great defenders.
The problem is that all of Arizona’s hit to the roster has in one way or another, affected their depth at wing. With Sidki Johnson leaving and Kyryl Natyazkho relegated to the bench, Arizona’s already tenuous front court depth was depleted and that forced Solomon Hill to leave the wing and move to power forward. It was worse because Kevin Parrom was not right after his offseason gunshot wound and things got worse when he was lost for the season.
You can even go back to the NCAA sanctions stemming from the Cactus Classic. Arizona was down a scholarship and had to all but ask Daniel Bejarano to leave. While Bejarano never showed that he was going to be an impact player at this level, having an extra 6-5 wing on the bench who could give you 5-8 minutes at the small forward spot.
The good news is that no other team in the Pac-12 is built like UW. Teams that are big, are not as athletic and other athletic teams are not nearly as big. UW is better than Arizona, but not by that much. The key is that UW is not a good match-up for the Wildcats. Conversely, the Wildcats and Cal are not that much different, but Arizona matches up with them well.
The Wildcats are still playing for this year, but realistically, it will be next year before these issue can be addressed and that is no guarantee. If two of the freshmen front court players are not ready to play, then Hill may need to stay at the four. Kevin Parrom is not guaranteed to return 100% from his injuries. As of now the Cats have no other pure wings on next year’s roster unless they slide Brandon Ashley to the three or add a player like Shabazz Muhammad or Amadeo Della-Valle to the recruiting class.