Dec 15, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Mark Lyons (2) elevates for the last shot during the second half against the Florida Gators at McKale Center. The Wildcats beat the Gators 65-64. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Wildcats Basketball: A case for the player who has gone from hero to villain in one season

The dude has ice in his veins. He’s so clutch. He’s the veteran and the leader we needed. And he plays with such intensity. Finally, we have someone who isn’t afraid of taking matters into his own hands when the game is on the line. One of the best closers in college basketball for sure. We wouldn’t be the same team without him. What a stud.

Can this guy be any more selfish? Does he realize he’s supposed to be a point guard and not a ball hog? Can the dude learn to dish the ball to someone else every so often or is that just too much to ask? He could use an attitude adjustment, what arrogance. Another turnover and I think I’m going to throw up. Did you see that—another guard blowing right by him for an easy lay-up. We could do without him. What a disappointment.

Trivia Question: Which Arizona Wildcat basketball player am I talking about in the first paragraph and which player am I referring to in the second?

Answer: One and the same—Mark Lyons

Trivia Question: Before playing at Arizona and at Xavier, how many seasons was Mark Lyons asked to fill a major void due to the pathetic disappointment that was Josiah Turner and take on the role of point guard so that players like Nick Johnson could focus on his defense and shooting guard play?

Answer: None.
Trivia Question: Name the Arizona Wildcat basketball player last season who not only wanted the ball when the game was on the line, but who got mad if it was not given to him.

Answer: No one (See Exhibit 1: Last year’s loss to Colorado on the road and last year’s loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship. With little time left on the clock, Arizona players passed the ball around like it was a hot potato—“hell no, don’t give this thing to me, I don’t want to be responsible for this”–until there was just enough time for Kevin Parrom and Kyle Fogg to jack up hopeless three pointers).

Trivia Question: Name the amount of games we would have lost in this non-conference season without Mark Lyons.

Answer: At least two. You can kiss Florida and San Diego State goodbye—two top 50 RPI teams—without Lyons’ dauntless decision to take over in the final stretch.

Trivia Question: With losses to Oregon, Cal, Colorado, USC and UCLA (twice), name the amount of games we wouldn’t have lost without Mark Lyons?

Answer: Maybe one game to UCLA, but possibly none. Without Lyons, Arizona would have lost to Oregon and Cal by more; Losses to UCLA at home, Colorado and USC were not the fault of one man, but of a collective team and coach with some gaps in their entire system. The only exception might be Arizona’s loss to UCLA last week, but 1. You can blame Solomon Hill as much for the loss as you can blame Lyons and 2. The Bruins on the road was not a game people expected Arizona to win from the beginning of the season.

Trivia Question: How many Pac-12 games that Arizona won this season would not have been won without Mark Lyons?

Answer: At least one, potentially four. Arizona’s overtime “win” against Colorado at home (aka the shot that was but never was) is without controversy a loss without Lyons’ 24 points. Lyons 25 points against Stanford at home would be hard to distribute amongst the rest of the team in their close 73-66 win. Likewise, Lyons’ 18 points is hard to do without in Arizona’s close call against Utah on the road (68-64). Finally, though Arizona did give Arizona State quite the beating, the absence of Lyons’ stellar 24 point performance against Jahi Carson makes that game a much, much closer one.

Trivia Question: Without Lyons, where does that leave the Arizona Wildcats?

Answer: Under the very best circumstances, 21-8 with three top 50 RPI wins and a #7-12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Under the worst, 16-13 and a consecutive year without an NCAA Tournament appearance. Most likely circumstances, somewhere in the middle with a remote possibility of popping the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Trivia Question: Are people scapegoating Lyons in place of a number of other problems?

Answer: Stubborn coaching, underdeveloped freshmen, slumping veterans, predictable game plans, one dimensional man-to-man defense, having a target on your back, the absence of a plan B, teams knowing what to do when they see us a second time, lack of improvement or evolution, playing teams that have improved and evolved, lack of heart, playing like a boy scout and lacking toughness, coming out of the gate slow, believing that coming from behind is ok, taking early success for granted.

Trivia Question: Was it ok for Sean Miller to say he didn’t give a (expletive) about what people thought about Mark Lyons?

Answer: Yes, but he should be concerned about what people think about his team.

Trivia Question: Other than Mark Lyons, who would you give the ball in the final seconds if you were the coach?

Answer: I dare you to give it to somebody else, because no one else in a Wildcat uniform has proven they can do it.

Tags: Arizona Wildcats Mark Lyons Sean Miller

  • CinemaNoir

    Yea, Mark Lyons can do it all ~ include forgetting that there are four other
    Wildcats on the floor with him….. No doubt the “ice water” that flows thru
    his veins also splashes on whatever other four mates are unfortunate enough
    to share his floor time ~~ “ice water” that chills their enthusiasm and turns
    them into mere spectators with better seats than even the coach…..

    • Matt Schmidt

      When Lyons is playing bad, he is a reason the Wildcats are not doing very well, but he is not the only reason. When Lyons is playing well, sometimes he is not a reason we won, but the reason. Let me ask–was this your attitude when Lyons made the game winning layup against Florida? When he sank the two winning free throws against San Diego State? Doubt it.

      • CinemaNoir

        Actually, it was my attitude….. It’s always a thrill to win ~ but a game-winning shot by a ball-hog doesn’t gloss-over the impact season-long ball-hogging has on the rest of the team….. What’s your attitude when a ball-hogging point-guard plays a game WITHOUT an assist???

        • Matt Schmidt

          It’s frustrating at times for sure, and Lyons is not without flaws, but the bottom line is: Do you want to watch the Cats play late in March or not, because without him they would most likely not be.

          • Machina

            Ironically, because of him we also might not be playing late into March.

          • Matt Schmidt

            By late March I mean the NCAA Tournament (it doesn’t even start until late March). Without him we are either not in the tournament at all or get a pretty low seed, and would not go far. With him, we are in with a fairly comfortable seed and have the opportunity to go far.

          • Machina

            I mean the NCAA tourney as well. If Lyons decides to be a one man show again, there is no reason to think we will not be upset in the first round. This team can beat anyone as well as lose to anyone.

          • Matt Schmidt

            I think that is absolutely true. I think that with Lyons we can fall early or go deep. Without him though, I think we can only fall early.

          • CinemaNoir

            For my money, I’d rather see the team play without the ball-hogging, transfer senior ~ he’s too much of a wild-card! I’d rather watch Nick at point-guard and then see what the senior/freshmen can do together, without wondering if all they’ll have to do is stand aside while Lyons goes on his egotistical, coast-to-coast “maybe’s!”
            The ‘Cats have already shown they’ll be better next year than this year…..

  • Machina

    I love that you are trying to predict the unpredictable. You have no idea if we would have won or lost any game this season without the ballhog.

    • Matt Schmidt

      I’m sorry, but I have to disagree–it is not unpredictable at all. Without Lyons, Mayes would have to replace him (who has done little this year) or Nick Johnson (which would lower his point production). Without Lyons, we simply would not have the personnel to make up the 18-25 point performances that Lyons has given the Wildcats during his good games.

      • Machina

        It is still a guess, you have no idea if 12 games of actually getting the bigs involved would make a difference. 18-25 points could be made up on offense as well as defense.

        • Matt Schmidt

          Well, of course it’s a guess–I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t guessing a lot, that is what sports analysis is–but it’s not an uneducated one. Sure, maybe three freshmen bigs improve so much that they cover those points without him, but from what I’ve seen I find it unlikely. I’m not saying Lyons is without his flaws, but the team has many flaws and I find it unfair to simply point the finger at him. After weighing the costs and benefits, I feel we are better with him than without him. I do appreciate your feedback though, isn’t this what sports is all about?

          • Machina

            I think most, including me, are just upset at what we perceive as boring, unintelligent ball being played. With this talent and athleticism, we should getting out and running, but instead we sit on the three point line and watch Lyons throw up 12 3-pointers a game.

          • Matt Schmidt

            Understandable (I share your frustration for sure), but the unintelligent ball being played by the Wildcats right now is not the product of only one player–he is just the easiest target. There is a lot of stuff going on much deeper than Lyons shot selection, including Miller.

  • Nick Mueller

    I think it is very easy to say that Lyons is a ball hog and that without him the bigs would be more involved. The issue with that is, we have no other true point guard on the team. If you want Jordin Mayes to do it, he proved countless times, in smaller portions,not only this year but last year that he has a hard time even getting the ball past half court without turning it over. If you want Nick Johnson to run the point, then I’m sorry we would have no depth, and his scoring would take a hit. It would probably end up as a wash or a minimal upgrade in scoring. We would lose Lyons production either way and that is not replaceable. Those 15 points per game are not debatable, and the depth you lose without him is not debatable. It is so easy for people to point fingers now, but remember we are still 23-6. A lot of teams would kill to be where we are and that would NOT in any way, shape or form have happened without Lyons on the team. With that being said it will be nice to see what a true point guard will do with the “bigs” next year.