Key storylines to watch for during challenging men's basketball offseason
Ira Lee confers with Sean Miller after coming dangerously close to fouling out against CSU Bakersfield. Lee had 5 points and 7 rebounds on the night, and did foul out before the end of the game.
With Arizona’s season officially in the rear view mirror, it’s time to look ahead to what is shaping up to be one of the most challenging offseasons for the program in recent memory. Here’s a rundown of some of the biggest questions and topics facing Arizona men’s basketball going into next season.
Does Miller return as coach?
All signs point towards head coach Sean Miller returning to Arizona next season. Despite the ongoing FBI investigation, the university has backed Miller at multiple junctures throughout the year. If UA President Dr. Robert Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke wanted to move on from Miller, it would have made sense to wipe the slate in the wake of the ESPN report back in February. Miller could choose to leave on his own for the Pitt job that is currently open, but it doesn’t seem likely after Miller said he is not a candidate for the job.
Recruits and transfers
Arizona currently has zero recruits committed for next season, putting the program in a precarious spot. Previously committed players Brandon Williams, Shareef O’Neal and Jahvon Quinerly all decommitted at different points throughout the year in wake of the FBI investigation. Miller now faces the difficult task of sorting through the rest of the uncommitted recruits, and finding out which ones can fit best at Arizona. He will also likely turn his attention to the transfer market and possibly look for the next TJ McConnell. Interestingly, after their coach got fired, eight players from Pitt have requested their release from the university, so that might be something to keep an eye on as well.
Development of returning players
Arizona is losing its entire starting lineup this offseason. Deandre Ayton, Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier are all headed to the NBA Draft, while Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic are graduating. That means the players who came off the bench will be thrust into the starting lineup. For now, this is what Arizona’s projected starting lineup looks like for next year:
G - Alex Barcello
G - Brandon Randolph or Dylan Smith
F - Emmanuel Akot
F - Ira Lee
C - Chase Jeter
How these players develop their game over the summer will show whether or not Arizona has a legitimate chance to compete in the Pac-12 next year.
New assistant coach
With former assistant coach Book Richardson facing charges from the FBI investigation and Lorenzo Romar leaving Arizona to be the head coach at Pepperdine this week, Miller will be trying to find a new assistant coach. As of now, no obvious candidates have emerged with current assistant coach Mark Phelps has handling recruiting duties with Miller.
Ayton will have a chance to make history this summer and become the first Arizona Wildcat ever to be selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. Several media outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated and NBADraft.net have Ayton projected to go No. 1 overall. Alkins and Trier remain a mystery, however. Underwhelming performances over the last month of the season have hurt their draft stock and both are projected to be mid-late second round picks. Strong performances in the NBA Draft Combine could re-elevate both of their stock, however.
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