After Arizona's embarrassing elimination, coach's life is about to get worse
If the allegations are to be believed, the University of Arizona tried to put together the best college basketball team money can buy.
But for all of their alleged rampant NCAA violations, Arizona — a No. 4 seed — was gored in the first round of March Madness 89-68 by the No. 13 Buffalo Bulls.
And now, the future of the program looks deader than an unwatered lawn in Tucson, as coach Sean Miller faces that future with one disaster after another on the horizon.
In the short term, it looks as though DeAndre Ayton, the team’s star freshman, is headed to the NBA, where it’s all but a mortal lock that he’ll be one of the top three picks in the 2018 draft.
On top of that, Shareef O’Neal, son of former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal, decommitted from Arizona, instead opting to play at UCLA.
Moreover, Book Richardson, Miller’s top assistant, might be watching next year’s NCAA tournament from the inside of a federal prison thanks to his alleged involvement in the ongoing corruption scandal that the FBI has been investigating.
Miller himself isn’t free of the blast radius from that FBI bombshell. He allegedly made a $100,000 payment to agent Andy Miller to secure Ayton’s services for his one-and-done year. Miller was caught on a wiretap talking to Christian Dawkins, an intermediary for Miller, discussing terms of that payment.
As if that weren’t enough, O’Neal isn’t the only member of that top-rated recruiting class who changed his mind.
Jahvon Quinerly will be playing point guard at Villanova, while fellow point guard Brandon Williams — though he has not yet announced what school he will attend — has also decommitted from the Wildcats.
The team’s roster only goes six deep for 2018-19, and they have zero committed recruits. In the worst-case scenario, they may have six walk-ons calling themselves bench depth.
Arizona is as radioactive as the Nevada Test Site. Not only do incoming freshmen not want to play for a team likely to be under sanctions, but junior college transfers aren’t going to want their one chance to impress pro scouts with a big-time Division I program scotched by either self-imposed or NCAA-imposed postseason bans.
Miller himself may be permanently out of a job if Arizona decides to fire him. Unlike someone like John Calipari, who has vacated wins at UMass and Memphis on his rap sheet but continues to get work because of the success he’s had turning Kentucky into a de facto NBA G-League team, Miller is the disgraced fallen hero who couldn’t even get a once-in-a-generation squad past a 13 seed.
Indeed, not only did Arizona get upset, they got blown out.
Miller, for his part, said in the postgame news conference, “In terms of my emotions, I’m not going to change.”
“Taking things one day at a time. Obviously this is a tough day. We have to move forward,” he added, according to CBS Sports.
On the bright side, Arizona now has no tournament wins in 2018 that can be vacated.
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