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


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 SportsThe 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.