Even Sean Miller may not have envisioned the success of Lauri Markkanen.
The 7-foot freshman Finnish forward with the sweet stroke and uncanny feel for the game is one of the main reasons many believe the second-seeded Arizona Wildcats will get Miller to his first Final Four in the coming weeks.
— The Naismith Trophy (@NaismithTrophy) February 21, 2017
Part of the Cats’ late-season success can be attributed to the developed on-court chemistry between Markkanen and Allozo Trier, who missed much of season due to a PED suspension. With the two top scorers now in-sync, Arizona is rolling with an eye towards Glendale if they can navigate potential upsets early and a potential showdown with top West Region seed Gonzaga.
One college basketball analyst believes Markkanen is a once-in-a-generation type talent whose game mirrors one of the all-time greats at the next level.
“We never saw Dirk [Nowitzki] play in college so we don’t know what he would have looked like,” Pac-12 Network Analyst and former UofA guard Matt Muehlebach said to Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a phone interview Tuesday morning. “But he certainly seems like that. I think I’ve been most impressed with the way he just goes about his business.”
Besides his cool demeanor and tireless work ethic, Muehlebach says Markkanen is unmatched in one area of his game.
“I said the other day on the [Pac-12 Network] set I think he’s the best college seven-foot shooter in history,” Muehlebach said without hesitation. “I don’t remember a college kid ever shooting it like he [does] at seven-feet.”
Muehlebach also believes a mid-season shooting slump helped Markkanen round out his game when focuses more on getting looks in the paint and attacking the basket instead of setting for shots on the perimeter.
“He had to counter [defenses], which he did,” he told Cesmat. “His game is more balanced today than it was back in January.”
— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) February 20, 2017
Markkanen is averaging 15 points and seven rebounds while shooting 49% from the field and a team-high 82% from the free-throw line.
Arizona opens the tournament against 15-seed North Dakota Thursday night in Salt Lake City.