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With Sweet 16 berth, UA senior class relishes finally having a winning men's team

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Ryan Wohl | The Daily Wildcat The Arizona men's basketball team is competing in the 2022 March Madness tournament.

In the fall of 2017, a corruption scandal rocked the college basketball landscape with the University of Arizona being 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 previous Arizona men's basketball 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 the alleged violations until the summer. 

If you are a senior now, you’ve experienced the worst media coverage and fallout of Arizona basketball in its history, and that is finally changing.

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On Sunday, the men’s team beat TCU in overtime to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017. They will take on Houston on Thursday, March 24, in San Antonio.

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. This year and this team (33-3) has been a culmination of sorts for the 2022 senior class as Arizona proves it is back to being a basketball power.

In addition to sorting through all the NCAA violations and volatile media coverage. The class of 2022 has also watched the impact on the program that has been entangled in mediocrity. Arizona missed the NCAA Tournament in 2018, disappointed in 2019 with a ton of star freshmen while also having the tournament be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, while the team was decent, they self-imposed a postseason ban to preempt potential NCAA sanctions, so we don’t know what they could’ve done in that postseason. 

This year’s men’s team is what Arizona has been in the past, but it’s also what the UA's current 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,” marketing student, Josh McCrae from Phoenix said. “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.

“I never thought Arizona could get back to being as good as they have been, but I’m so happy I was wrong,” said Jason Freed, who is from Phoenix. “This team is just so fun to watch, and I hope they can go all the way in the tournament.” 

Current 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, Freed and McCrae said everything. 

“We’ve experienced the worst of Arizona basketball, so that would be a great way to finish it out,” McCrae said.

 “I don’t want to jinx anything, but winning it all would be an amazing way to finish out this year,” added Freed.

Arizona men’s basketball is finally back on the national stage and is joined by the women’s basketball team’s ascension over the past three seasons, making Arizona a premier basketball school. 


*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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