ESPN analyst Jay Bilas says ‘Cats, Devils much improved in 2012-13

In a way, both the Arizona and Arizona State men’s basketball teams are starting over in 2012-13.

For the Wildcats (3-0), last season marked the second time in the past three years Sean Miller’s team has failed to reach the NCAA tournament after making an eye-popping 25-consecutive appears. There were inconsistencies at both ends of the floor and youth in the backcourt.

Miller’s squad appears poised to not only it back to the Big Dance, but possibly make a deep run like they did two years ago when they reached the Elite Eight behind the phenomenal play of forward Derrick Williams who bolted for the NBA following his sophomore season.

The key to the ‘Cats success this season could be a bolstered front court.

“I think Arizona’s got a chance to be really, really good,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas told Brad Cesmat Wednesday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “They’re still very, very young but they have size. [Freshman] Brandon Ashley is really good. They’ve got talent.”

They also have a nice mix of veteran leadership and consistent guard play, something they sorely lacked a season ago.

“I’m a big fan of [senior] Solomon Hill,” Bilas explained to Cesmat. “Having [transfer] Mark Lyons run the teamโ€ฆwho’s had experience at Xavier is really a good thing.”

Meanwhile in Tempe head coach Herb Sendek and the Sun Devils (4-1) have scrapped the prodding, half-court offense and opened the floor for freshman phenom Jahii Carson. The former Mesa High point guard redshirted last year after he’s wasn’t cleared by the NCAA. The Devils are coming off two forgettable seasons following the James Harden Era, but the pieces are in place for a solid season.

“You’ll see a much better product at Arizona State,” Bilas said. “Jahii Carson is the real deal. He’s really good.”

Wednesday night ASU hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff, while the ‘Cats entertain NAU led by former UofA assistant coach Jack Murphy.