Arizona Wildcats Productivity Report: McConnell emerging as one of Pac-12’s best

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T.J. McConnell's all-around game from his perimeter shooting to penetration ability has ignited Arizona as of late (Pac-12 Networks video screen shot)

T.J. McConnell’s all-around game from his perimeter shooting to penetration ability has ignited Arizona as of late (Pac-12 Networks video screen shot)


WHAT IS PRODUCTIVITY RATING?:
PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

ARIZONA 69, UTAH 51
PRODUCTIVITY RATING

* — STARTERS

Player Pos PP MIN PR
*Stanley Johnson SF 30 28 1.071
*T.J. McConnell PG 27 32 .844
Dusan Ristic C 10 12 .833
*Brandon Ashley PF 25 31 .806
*Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 11 31 .355
*Kaleb Tarczewski C 6 26 .231
Elliott Pitts SG 0 23 .000
LESS THAN 10 MIN
Matt Korcheck PF 0 1 .000
Trey Mason SG 0 1 .000
Jacob Hazzard PG 0 1 .000
Gabe York SG -1 6 -.167
Parker Jackson-Cartwright PG -2 7 -.286
Drew Mellon SF -1 1 -1.000
TOTAL TEAM 105 200 .525

PAC-12 RPI RATING
Present RPI ranking of the Pac-12.

Rank Team Ovr Pac12 SOS Top50
No.6 Arizona 16-2 4-1 39 3-0
No.12 Utah 13-3 4-1 25 1-3
No.30 Stanford 13-4 4-1 74 1-1
No.56 Washington 12-4 1-3 107 2-1
No.64 UCLA 11-7 3-2 49 1-6
No.80 Colorado 9-8 2-3 24 0-5
No.82 Oregon St. 11-5 3-2 159 1-1
No.98 Oregon 11-5 2-2 101 1-3
No.112 California 11-7 1-4 81 1-3
No.113 Washington St. 9-8 3-2 94 0-2
No.129 USC 9-8 1-4 77 0-2
No.137 Arizona St. 9-9 1-4 69 0-5

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ARIZONA 69, UTAH 51

Former Arizona interim head coach and assistant coach Kevin O’Neill, with his appealing dry wit as a Pac-12 Networks and Fox Sports 1 analyst, had this to say about Arizona senior point guard T.J. McConnell in the last couple of weeks:

“I’m not sure T.J. McConnell is anything other than an average defender at the point.”

“Next thing you know you’ll be telling me T.J. McConnell will be playing in the NBA.”

O’Neill’s frank commentary is what landed him a job as an analyst. Does he dislike McConnell? No. He is reeling in the praise of McConnell, who until the last two weeks was not of the ilk of an all-conference player.

Although the captain and always important to the outcome for Arizona, McConnell’s productivity was indeed that of an average player in the grand scheme before the Oregon trip last week.

McConnell has emerged as one of the Pac-12’s best after producing only seven points and three assists with an uncharacteristic three turnovers in 28 minutes against ASU on Jan. 4. His productivity rating after that game was .540, a respectable number, but not one of an elite college player.

In the last four games against Oregon, Oregon State, Colorado and Utah, McConnell has produced a productivity rating of .731, his best stretch since becoming eligible last year after his transfer from Duquesne. His season productivity rating is now at .588.

After the win over Gonzaga on Dec. 6, McConnell was at only .506, barely at the level of winning basketball.

If he continues to progress at this rate, Arizona will be more dangerous come March with a seasoned, effective point guard, an important element in the NCAA tournament.

Bill Walton compared him to Steve Nash yesterday. For once, a Walton comment did not raise an eyebrow.

McConnell showed resourcefulness against Utah in the first half when freshman standout Stanley Johnson had no points or rebounds in 10 minutes of play due to two fouls. McConnell picked up that slack by scoring 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field. His surge — scoring 10 of Arizona’s 22 points in one first-half stretch — changed the complexion of the game to Arizona’s favor.



HOW ARE THEY DOING?
Present RPI ranking of Arizona’s non-conference opponents.

Rank Opponent Rec Result Date
No.7 Gonzaga 17-1 UA/66-63 (OT) 12/6/14
No.27 SDSU 13-4 UA/61-59 11/26/14
No.77 Michigan 10-7 UA/83-50 12/13/14
No.81 K-State 11-7 UA/72-68 11/25/14
No.84 UTEP 12-5 UA/60-55 12/19/14
No.110 UNLV 9-8 UNLV/71-67 12/23/14
No.111 Gardner-Webb 8-7 UA/91-65 12/2/14
No.134 Missouri 6-10 UA/72-53 11/24/14
No.154 Mt.St.Mary's 8-9 UA/78-55 11/14/14
No.160 UC-Irvine 7-8 UA/71-54 11/19/14
No.176 Oakland 5-12 UA/101-63 12/16/14
No.248 CS Northridge 5-13 UA/86-68 11/16/14
No.263 Utah Valley 5-10 UA/87-56 12/9/14

“Coach uses the analogy that he sometimes drives the car of the team, he’s the heart and soul and when his face gets red and he’s pumping his veins, that’s every day for him,” Johnson said in the postgame press conference. “He wants to win every competition. He wants to win every game and he hates making mistakes and he does it because he loves all of us.”

One of the snapshots of the game was McConnell playfully pushing hard on Johnson and and then tugging on the youngster after Johnson made baskets on two consecutive possessions to start the second half.

It was McConnell’s way of saying: “That’s how you do it, so get it done.”

Johnson will likely be named the Pac-12 Player of the Week tomorrow because of his highly-productive games against Colorado and Utah. He led the Wildcats in productivity in both games — 1.250 against the Buffaloes and 1.071 against the Utes. All of that production was in the second half yesterday because Johnson was at minus-.100 at intermission.

Whereas Johnson is a five-star talent, McConnell was not highly recruited out of Pittsburgh before attending Duquesne.

“T.J. came here with very little fanfare, but I can make the argument that no player that we’ve brought here, during my time, has been more instrumental toward winning than him,” Miller said. “I don’t care where he’s ranked, where he’s from, he’s been here for three years and the year that he didn’t play, he made our team so much better by his practice habits and then obviously the last two years speak for themselves.”

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak called McConnell “the head of the snake” for Arizona. McConnell’s production was enough to help Arizona win against Colorado and Utah despite Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s struggles. Hollis-Jefferson, second on the team now behind Johnson with a .744 productivity rating, posted only a .268 in the games against the Buffaloes and Utes.

With the way Brandon Ashley and McConnell have emerged as of late, expect Hollis-Jefferson to not be down for long.

As long as McConnell is around, Hollis-Jefferson will be pushed in the right direction.

McConnell’s leadership skills rival those of the best “captain” point guards in the Lute Olson era — Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Reggie Geary, Jason Terry and Jason Gardner.

Even Kevin O’Neill would have to agree with that.

SEASON PRODUCTIVITY RATING

Player Pos G S PP MIN PR
Stanley Johnson SG 18 17 396 513 .772
R.Hollis-Jefferson SF 18 5 354 476 .744
T.J. McConnell PG 18 18 315 536 .588
Brandon Ashley PF 18 18 297 530 .560
Gabe York SG 17 13 176 367 .480
Kaleb Tarczewski C 18 18 230 489 .470
P.Jackson-Cartwright PG 18 0 81 185 .438
Elliott Pitts SG 18 1 76 275 .276
AVG 5-9.9 MIN
Craig Victor PF 8 0 38 57 .667
Dusan Ristic C 18 0 72 157 .459
AVG 1-4.9 MIN
Matt Korcheck PF 8 0 18 21 .857
Drew Mellon SF 4 0 0 7 .000
Trey Mason SG 6 0 -3 8 -.375
Jacob Hazzard PG 8 0 -6 9 -.667
TOTAL TEAM 18 2044 3625 .564


ARIZONA PAC-10/12
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR:

Name (Year) G S PP MIN PR
Derrick Williams (2011) 38 38 1190 1141 1.043
Sean Elliott (1989) 33 33 1128 1125 1.003
Chris Mills (1993) 28 28 838 870 .963
Sean Elliott (1988) 38 38 1167 1249 .934
D. Stoudamire (1995) 30 30 964 1092 .883
Mike Bibby (1998) 35 35 905 1124 .805
Jason Terry (1999) 29 29 877 1107 .792
Nick Johnson (2014) 38 38 848 1254 .676

ARIZONA SCHEDULE/PRODUCTIVITY RESULTS

Date Opponent Results TeamPR Productivity Leader Pos PP MIN PR
Jan. 17 Utah 69-51 (W) .525 Stanley Johnson SG 30 28 1.071
Jan. 15 Colorado 68-54 (W) .545 Stanley Johnson SG 40 32 1.250
Jan. 11 Oregon St. 58-56 (L) .365 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 26 34 .765
Jan. 8 Oregon 80-62 (W) .590 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 26 25 1.040
Jan. 4 ASU 73-49 (W) .530 Dusan Ristic C 14 11 1.273
Dec. 23 UNLV 71-67 (L) .446 T.J. McConnell PG 28 39 .718
Dec. 19 UTEP 60-55 (W) .395 T.J. McConnell PG 23 35 .657
Dec. 16 Oakland 101-64 (W) .835 Craig Victor PF 13 10 1.300
Dec. 13 Michigan 84-50 (W) .640 Stanley Johnson SF 31 27 1.148
Dec. 9 Utah Valley 87-56 (W) .710 Dusan Ristic C 23 18 1.278
Dec. 6 Gonzaga 66-63 OT (W) .435 Brandon Ashley PF 19 38 .500
Dec. 2 Gardner-Webb 91-65 (W) .745 Parker Jackson-Cartwright PG 17 13 1.308
Nov. 26 San Diego State 61-59 (W) .525 Stanley Johnson SG 29 37 .784
Nov. 25 Kansas State 72-68 (W) .540 Stanley Johnson SG 21 25 .840
Nov. 24 Missouri 72-53 (W) .525 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 25 23 1.087
Nov. 19 Cal-Irvine 71-54 (W) .610 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 31 29 1.069
Nov. 16 Cal State-Northridge 86-68 (W) .605 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 26 22 1.182
Nov. 14 Mt. St. Mary's 78-55 (W) .660 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SF 28 21 1.333

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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