In the fall of 2017, a corruption scandal rocked the college basketball landscape when Arizona was named as one of four schools involved in a bribery scheme to entice potential recruits.
In February 2018, a now-debunked report came out of ESPN that alleged Arizona head coach Sean Miller was heard on wiretap offering $100,000 for Arizona’s star at the time, Deandre Ayton.
Arizona is still paying the price for all of this with the NCAA not expected to rule on Arizona until the summer. If you are a senior now, you’ve experienced the worst media coverage and fallout of Arizona basketball in its history, which makes the 2022 NCAA Tournament all the more rewarding.
Arizona is a No. 1 seed and pundits and analysts around the country are seeing a championship in the team’s immediate future.
Arizona has a long and rich history of being a basketball powerhouse, and it started when Lute Olson left Iowa and came to Arizona in 1983. Olson established a winning basketball culture and while Miller did his fair share to uphold that, the off-the-court issues were just too much to ignore, even if it’s hard to sift through what was true and not true.
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This year's team has been amazing to watch and is a culmination of sorts for that senior class especially to prove that Arizona is back as a basketball power.
The class of 2022 has had to deal with not only the off-the-court issues and the volatile media coverage that has come with it, but also the on-court product being mired in mediocrity. Arizona missed the NCAA Tournament in 2018, disappointed in 2019 with a ton of star freshmen while also having the tournament be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and then last year, while the team was decent, they self-imposed a postseason ban in anticipation of the NCAA sanctions, so we don’t know what they could’ve done last year in the postseason.
This year’s men’s team — most of them returning from Miller’s final team — is what Arizona should be and has been in the past, but it’s also what Arizona seniors are finally seeing for the first time.
“A big reason why I came to Arizona was how much success they’ve had in sports, especially basketball,” Josh McCrae, a senior from Phoenix, said earlier this week after Arizona found out it was a one-seed in the tournament. “We could never have seen the last few years coming, but to have a team this good in our senior year is pretty amazing.”
This sentiment seems to be shared by many of the senior class, and they are just happy to see it come to fruition before they leave school.
“I never thought Arizona could get back to being as good as they have been, but I’m so happy I was wrong,” said senior Jason Freed from Phoenix. “This team is just so fun to watch, and I hope they can go all the way in the tournament.”
Head coach Tommy Lloyd has implemented a free-flowing system that is as exciting to watch as it is effective against other teams.
When asked what winning the championship would mean to the seniors across the University of Arizona, McCrae and Freed concurred: “Everything.”
“We’ve experienced the worst of Arizona basketball, so that would be a great way to finish it out,” McCrae added.
“I don’t want to jinx anything, but winning it all would be an amazing way to finish out this year,” Freed said.
Arizona men’s basketball is finally back on the national stage and is joined by the women’s basketball team’s ascension, as well, to establish Arizona as a premier basketball school.
The men play in March Madness as the seniors of the 2022 class have experienced it all on the basketball side but this team has come at just the right time for them. The tournament is always very unpredictable, but it is indisputable that the Arizona Wildcats are back and will stay back for a long time.
*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.
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