The Arizona Wildcats and Arizona St. Sun Devils will begin Pac-12 play on Saturday afternoon and SB Nation Arizona is previewing both the game and conference play for both teams. In this update, we take a look at which players will need to step up the most if they hope to help their team in the coming months. The questions and answers are presented by Scott Coleman and Cody Ulm.
Q: "What players need to step up as conference play begins?"
Cody Ulm: First and foremost, I'd like to see Trent Lockett finally take that next step. He's the face of this program, and rightfully so but if he doesn't improve his so-so play as of late, this might be Keala King's team sooner rather than later. Obviously it would also be nice to see some improved center play from Jordan Bachynski or Ruslan Pateev but I'm not going to be as bold as to predict a breakout stretch from either of them.
If you put a gun to my head and forced me to make a choice, I'd choose Bachynski just because of the fact he's had his best statistical lines against conference foes. Two players I do think are key to Arizona State's success though are Jonathan Gilling and Chanse Creekmur. With no real presence inside offensively, the Devils need their two best three point shooters to step up to open the floor for others to slash to the basket. Gilling, coming off the best game of his young career against Fresno State (seven points, three rebounds, three assists) would be the more beneficial of the two since he offers some versatility and has shown signs of being a reliable defender but Creekmur can be as hot as anybody when he's on as evident by the NAU game (5 of 8 from three for 15 points).
Scott Coleman: Josiah Turner is the key for this Arizona team and he has the potential to take the club to a completely different level. One of the best senior point guard in high school last season, the highly regarded recruit has struggled both on and off the court thus far in 2011, although we have seen flashes of brilliance from Turner at times. When he has his head straight, he distributes the ball better than most in the country and makes the offense flow much smoother. When he's suspended or does not play much because of disciplinary issues, Arizona often becomes stagnate offensively and has to rely on other guards to handle his duty.
The other key member will be Kevin Parrom. While the junior wing has done everything possible to recover from a gun shot wound he sustained in September, it is imperative for Parrom to stay healthy and to continue to improve. He is one of the best defenders on the team and does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats. The team needs a productive Parrom if they hope to win big in conference play.
Some production out of big man Kyryl Natyazhko would be nice, but no one in Tucson is holding their breath.