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July 4, 2014

Looking ahead: Arizona's 2014-15 bench depth

Arizona's 2013-2014 season was a stellar one, the Wildcats went through a tough Pac-12 Conference and came out the regular season champions. Their momentum carried into the NCAA Tournament where they eventually fell to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.

The 30-win season can be largely credited to Sean Miller's basketball mind, the team's depth and talent. The 'Cats had a starting five that could contend with any team in the nation. Leading Arizona was Nick Johnson, the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Complementing him was Aaron Gordon, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Together, these two standout players took the Wildcats to new heights not yet seen under Miller.

In April, Johnson and Gordon declared for the NBA Draft. Both were selected in June with Gordon going in the first round (No. 4) and Johnson in the second round (No. 42).

Despite Miller losing two of his most important pieces, he was able to recruit a top-notch class while retaining most of his Elite Eight roster.

Five-star, perimeter powerhouse Stanley Johnson leads Miller's class. Four-star forward Craig Victor joins Serbian center Dusan Ristic and the point guard, Parker Jackson-Cartwright.

With this incoming class, and the return of Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Arizona is gearing up to make another deep run this season.

This year Miller has the pleasure of putting multiple bodies on the floor. He has versatile talent coming off the bench to fill voids left when any man in his original five needs a breather or gets into foul trouble.

Here is a look at Arizona's most important bench pieces this year:

Craig Victor: Hailing from Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., Victor brings more versatility to the regular season Pac-12 champions. Described as a hard working, blue collar power forward, Victor is expected to come in and provide multiple efforts from a variety of spots on the floor. The Wildcats are famous for being tough on the glass and Victor will provide that on both ends.

His post game needs some refinement, but he can space the floor with his mid-range game. Defensively, he fits Miller's philosophy and is ready to contribute immediately from that standpoint.

Kadeem Allen: Volume scoring was Allen's bread and butter at the junior college level. The jury is still out on whether he can produce that same type of high-octane offense on the Division 1 level for a national powerhouse. Miller will practice patience with the junior guard to see how he fits into his system.

The good news: if Allen does pan out on the collegiate level, he will make the Wildcats much more offensively potent. If he does not workout, Miller can slowly slide him out of major minutes and still have enough to put on the floor.

Gabe York: The California native is a fan favorite, he is a highlight waiting to happen on the fast break and he can light it up from distance. Some thought he might slide into a starting role this season, but with Hollis-Jefferson's rise to a near-lottery pick, it is safe to assume that the Chester, Pa., native will start for the Wildcats next season.

York should see significant minutes coming off the bench. His defense is not the greatest, but his stroke from behind the arc makes him a valuable asset.

The goal for next season is simple; make a Final Four appearance and ultimately win a national title. The roster that made an Elite Eight appearance was dubbed as one of the most talent teams in Arizona's history. Granted, it is still quite early, but this year's team appears more formidable.

They have more depth and versatility, and most importantly the 'Cats are returning a front-court comprised of Hollis-Jefferson, Ashley and Tarczewski, and a their floor general McConnell is back at the helm. Add Johnson and a high-end bench to the equation and most signs point to Arizona making that run that the fans have been waiting to see since 2001.

Joseph DuruakuJoseph Duruaku
GOAZCATS.com Staff Writer

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