Arizona’s star-crossed season just got trampled by a Buffalo.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats were absolutely manhandled by the No. 13 Bulls, 89-68, in what amounted to a dominating performance for Buffalo and an embarrassment for Arizona.
Buffalo, not the team with the presumptive No. 1 NBA draft pick or the preseason No. 2 ranking, was clearly and completely the better squad from start to finish.
It was a fitting end for the Wildcats, whose season has been defined by its absurdity and failures. The year began with the arrest of an assistant coach as part of a federal investigation and then endured Rawle Alkins’ broken foot, another failed drug test and reinstatement from Allonzo Trier and the allegation that Sean Miller was on a federal wiretap discussing funnelling money to star Deandre Ayton before coming to an end in Idaho with a shellacking courtesy of the MAC champion.
At long last, this season out of its misery.
The Wildcats looked either uninterested or unable to hang with the motivated and focused Bulls, who have been in the NCAA tournament in three of the last four years. Buffalo head coach Nate Oats said he believed his team was the better one on the floor Thursday. Nothing that happened there disproved that theory.
Buffalo was blistering offensively, shooting 54.8 percent from the floor and 50 percent on 30 shots from 3-point range. Wes Clark scored 25 and Jeremy Harris had 23. CJ Massinburg hit five threes and scored 19 points to help the Bulls to the first NCAA tournament win in program history.
Buffalo’s story is a great one. The team on the other side of the scoreboard can’t say the same.
As brutal as Arizona’s performance was Thursday and as disjointed as their entire season has been, the Wildcats’ future looks bleak.
Things could get a whole lot worse really quickly.
At the most basic level, the roster turnover will be massive. Ayton, Alkins and Trier are going pro while Dusan Ristic and Parker Jackson-Cartwright are out of eligibility. For those keeping score at home, that’s the entire starting five.
There are no reinforcements coming, either. The stench of the federal investigation has made their recruiting toxic, and there are no commits for 2018. Arizona has been the premier recruiting on the west coast in recent years, and now they literally have no one in their recruiting class in the middle of March.
Of course, those are short-term concerns. The bigger issue is how bad are the long-term implications of their current situation?
Miller may have coached his last game in Tucson. The federal government might have more to say about the program. Then the NCAA will undoubtedly have questions.
Arizona can’t even really just wait out the allegations. The unknown here is actually probably worse than just getting to whatever the fallout will eventually be. At least then the Wildcats will know what they’re facing and how to deal with it. Right now, it’s a shrug and a hope the program isn’t decimated. Not exactly a winning message on the recruiting trail.
It’s going to get dark in the desert.
The question becomes how long does night last?
The worst part?
The NCAA won’t be able to vacate that loss.