Panic time for the Wildcats. On Friday, ESPN reported that coach Sean Miller was caught offering star player DeAndre Ayton $100,000 to ensure he would play at Arizona in his lone season before becoming a pro. The FBI intercepted the phone calls that saw Miller make these promises. As of mid-Saturday, no word has come out on potential punishments for Ayton or Miller, though it is extremely unlikely that either will be in the building for Saturday’s game against Oregon.
In a week where the college basketball world saw Rick Pitino and Louisville vacated of their 2013 NCAA title, Arizona should be very scared of the punishment that will certainly be handed out. The Yahoo report that named more than 20 schools and past and present NCAA players was very broad and no suspensions are likely to be handed out for that just yet but it doesn’t help that Arizona was on the list of schools involved. If the ESPN report never came out, Arizona likely would have been able to survive the Yahoo report like players like Miles Bridges and schools as big as Duke are doing.
With that being said, Arizona’s season has taken a sudden plummet. If Ayton is deemed ineligible by the NCAA, Arizona’s chances of making a deep run in the NCAA tournament are pretty much over. At this time, there isn’t a way I can see Miller continuing as the coach of the Wildcats going forward. He most definitely is not the first person to pay a player against NCAA rules but that doesn’t help his case now. With the FBI involved already and the conclusive evidence they already have, Miller could be out of a job very soon.
Arizona’s season started with championship aspirations. They didn’t start out strong but after an early season losing streak they started to look like themselves again. After last weekends big win over in-state rival Arizona State, the Wildcats moved up to number fourteen in the AP top 25 rankings.
Shareef O’Neal, son of Shaq, has recently announced he is un-committing from Arizona as a result of the investigations. This move just adds insult to injury for the Wildcats moving forward.
There is a chance the Wildcats can survive without Miller if they absolutely had to. It isn’t likely but it is possible. Without Ayton though? It would be a safe bet to say that Arizona will not make any noise in this year’s tournament.