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Sean Miller: Saturday ‘wasn’t a goodbye speech

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When Sean Miller addressed the McKale Center crowd after Arizona’s loss to Arizona State on Saturday, more than a few eyebrows raised.

“There’s no place that’s more magical than McKale Center, there’s no fans in the world that are more loyal,” Miller, choking up while speaking, said during a senior day celebration. “And it has been an amazing honor to coach in McKale Center the last 10 years. Thank you for everything.”

That speech – and all the turmoil Miller and his program have been embroiled in the last two seasons – led some to speculate that his time in Tucson was coming to a close.

Not the case, Miller said Monday.

“It certainly wasn’t a goodbye speech,” Miller told reporters at a press conference. “I meant what I said in terms of I can’t imagine a fan base treating a coach any better than this fan base has treated our staff and me.

“It’s overwhelming to see the support. I’m not naive enough to think that it would be like that at every place. It may not be like this at any other place.”

HIs words Monday were a clarification after he declined to put the speech into greater context after the game Saturday. Given how much his program has been tied to the federal investigation into college basketball – and an assistant’s dismissal for unrelated issues – and that the Wildcats have underachieved their historical benchmarks the last two years, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Miller not leading the program sometime soon.

Not that he’s ready to discuss that.

“It’s still not time to talk about the future,” Miller said Monday. “It’s not fair to this group, this team.

“For us, I want to make sure that we address things in the present. That (speech) was my best attempt.”

Did Arizona’s Sean Miller say goodbye after last game of the season at McKale Center?

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Has Arizona head coach Sean Miller coached his final home game at the McKale Center?

Following a loss to in-state rival Arizona State on Saturday, the embattled Arizona coach addressed the home crowd during a Senior Day speech. And from the emotion and tone of the speech, Miller sounds like he might have coached his final home game as Arizona’s head coach.

Speculation has been rampant as to what Miller’s future might entail — especially now that he’s been subpoenaed as part of the latest FBI case against college basketball corruption. And this isn’t a typical speech for a returning head coach to give.

“There’s no place that’s more magical than McKale Center, there’s no fans in the world that are more loyal… And it has been an amazing honor to coach in McKale Center the last 10 years. Thank you for everything,” Miller said to the crowd while choking up along the way.

When Miller was later asked about the context of his remarks to the McKale Center crowd in his postgame press conference, he declined to give a comment — raising further questions about his future.

Arizona still has to play in the upcoming Pac-12 tournament, but it’s been a trying season for the program and Miller. It’ll be fascinating to see if Miller makes any more comments about his future within the next week. For now, all of this is merely speculation.

Arizona’s Miller gets testy when asked about subpoena report

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Sean Miller is still in no mood to talk about his program’s ties to an FBI probe into shady recruiting practices.

Miller has repeatedly refused to comment on the investigation, and he got testy when asked on Tuesday about a recent report by Yahoo Sports that he would be subpoenaed in an upcoming federal trial.

Pressed about it by a Phoenix television reporter, Miller answered: “No comment, you can drive back to Phoenix.”

Miller’s program became ensnared in the federal investigation when assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was among 10 people arrested in 2017. Richardson recently pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal, but sports agent Christian Dawkins will stand trial this spring.

Yahoo Sports reported Miller and LSU coach Will Wade will be subpoenaed in the trial scheduled to start April 22.

Report: Sean Miller, Will Wade to be subpoenaed in corruption trial

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Representatives for both Arizona head coach Sean Miller and LSU head coach Will Wade have been notified that they will be subpoenaed for the upcoming federal corruption trial, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports.

The trial these subpoenas are associated with will take place on April 22nd. Both coaches were caught on wiretaps speaking with Christian Dawkins, a former runner for ex-NBA agent Andy Miller that was found guilty on multiple felony fraud charges in October, the first trial stemming from the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting.

The significance of these subpoenas — which, according to Yahoo, have not actually been delivered, as this was a courtesy to avoid a public spectacle when the subpoenas are ready — is that two high profile active head coaches will be testifying in court, under oath, about the black market world of college basketball recruiting.

Miller is already under pressure after one of his assistant coaches, Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson, was convicted on fraud charges in the first corruption trial. A second assistant, Mark Phelps, was relieved of his duties due to an unrelated academic scandal that reportedly involved the recruitment of Shaq’s son Shareef O’Neal, who is now at UCLA, and a third former assistant — Joe Pasternack — was linked to Miller’s agency as their in when recruiting players from Arizona.

Wade is involved thanks to a wiretap transcript that was read in court during the first trial that involved LSU’s recruitment of five-star big man Balsa Koprivica. Wade told Dawkins in that conversation that “there is other [expletive] involved” and then, after closing a door, said, “I can get you what you need, but it’s got to work.”

Former Arizona coach Lute Olson hospitalized after stroke

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Lute Olson, the Hall of Fame coach who won a national title with Arizona in 1997, has been hospitalized after suffering a minor stroke, it was announced Monday.

“Coach Olson is not only an icon of our men’s basketball program and all of college basketball,” Arizona said in a statement released Monday, “but he is also an embodiment of greatness to Arizona athletics, the University of Arizona and the Tucson community.

“Our thoughts are with coach Olson, his family and loved ones during this time.”

Olson, 84, was admitted to the hospital Saturday.

“He is expected to make a full recovery but will likely need some rehabilitation therapy after discharge from the hospital,” David Labiner, MD, chairman of the UA department of neurology, said in a press release, per the Arizona Daily Star.

Olson went 781-280 during a head coaching career that spanned 35 years with stops at Long Beach State, Iowa and with the Wildcats. He retired in 2008.

 

Bubble Banter: Biggest winners and losers

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January has come to a close, which means that it is officially time for Bubble Banter to make its glorious return. 

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • I’ll update them best that I can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something I missed, if you have an issue with a team I left out or if you want to congratulate me on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit me up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below.
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Buffalo, Baylor, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arizona State, Ohio State, St. John’s.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

TCU (NET: 40, SOS: 31): TCU is the biggest bubble winner of the day, as they went into Hilton Coliseum and landed their first Q1 win of the season, knocking off Iowa State (13), 92-83. With the win, TCU is now 17-6 on the season and 5-5 in Big 12 play, but until this win, there really wasn’t much of note on their resume. They were 0-5 against Q1 opponents. That’s why they were in one of the play-in games entering the day. That will change with this win.

CLEMSON (NET: 43, SOS: 33): If it’s not TCU, then the Tigers are probably the biggest bubble winners of the weekend, as they landed a home win over Virginia Tech (10), their first Q1 win of the season. Everything else on their resume looks good. They don’t have any bad losses and their computer numbers look good, but entering today they were 0-6 against Q1 opponents and 3-2 in Q2 games. They needed quality wins. They got one on Saturday.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 78, SOS: 85): Good luck trying to explain Arizona State. After losing by 20 points to Washington State on Thursday night, the Sun Devils turned around and handed Washington their first loss in conference play on Saturday. Arizona State now has a Q3 loss and two Q4 losses, but they also have four Q1 wins — Kansas (18), Washington (25), Mississippi State (27) and Utah State (33). They’re certainly a tournament team right now, but where they fit in the bracket is tough to figure out.

VCU (NET: 48, SOS: 24): The Rams are probably the only hope for the Atlantic 10 to get two bids to the NCAA tournament at this point, and they certainly didn’t hurt their chances on Saturday. St. Bonaventure is down this year but Olean is always a tough place to play … and VCU bulldozed the Bonnies. A win at Texas and the win over Temple on a neutral are the two wins that are really bolstering this resume.

N.C. STATE (NET: 34, SOS: 237): The Wolfpack picked up a win at Pittsburgh on Saturday, which is notable if only because it’s a game that they probably couldn’t afford to lose. Their profile is marginal based on wins — they are 1-6 in Q1 games with a Q3 loss at Wake Forest — and the fact that they played a non-conference schedule that ranks 352nd is going to be a deal-breaker.

SYRACUSE (NET: 49, SOS: 27): Syracuse got a win over Boston College at home on Saturday, which helps them because a loss would have really hurt. The Orange do have a bit of a weird profile, but the truth is this: Their bad losses don’t look as bad as they did at the time, and their win at Duke might end up being the best win in college basketball come Selection Sunday.

TEXAS (NET: 38, SOS: 3): Texas improved to 6-5 in the Big 12 with a win at West Virginia on Saturday. They are now 14-10 on the season, a solid record against one of the best schedules in the country. They do have a couple of bad Q3 home losses, but they’ve beaten North Carolina (8) on a neutral, Purdue (11) and Kansas (18) at home and Kansas State (30) on the road. They’re in a good spot, and with their next four games all winnable — Kansas State (30), Oklahoma State (76), at Oklahoma (36), at Baylor (32) — they can keep improving on that resume.

SETON HALL (NET: 66, SOS: 28): The Pirates found a way to beat Creighton (55) at home on Saturday, but they are not in a great spot. They are 2-5 against Q1 and 6-2 against Q2 with two Q3 losses. That’s about par for the course for bubble teams. The differentiator is their neutral court win over Kentucky (5).

UCF (NET: 46, SOS: 91): The Knights won at SMU on Sunday, adding another Q1 win to their profile. They are now 4-2 against Q2 opponents, but they still have not beaten a Q2 team in two tries. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — this is the profile of a mid-major program right now. With two games left against Cincinnati and a trip to Houston, UCF will have three shots are an elite Q1 in, and I think they probably want to get two to really feel good about their chances on the bubble.

BELMONT (NET: 62, SOS: 145): The Bruins won their seventh straight on Saturday, beating Morehead State on the road. With a sweep of Lipscomb, a win at UCLA and a win at Murray State, Belmont has an interesting profile, but with three Q3 road losses already this season, I don’t think they can take another loss that isn’t in the OVC tournament and have a real shot at an at-large.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 31, SOS: 206): Lipscomb took care of business at home against Jacksonville, setting up what should be their toughest test between now and an Atlantic Sun regular season title: a home date with Liberty (58). This will be their last chance in the regular season to add to their Q2 win total. As it stands, they are 4-4 against Q1 and Q2 opponents, with a win at TCU and a win at SMU.

WOFFORD (NET: 29, SOS: 126): Wofford smoked Western Carolina. If they win out during the regular season, they should be an at-large team.

BUTLER (NET: 57, SOS: 26): The Bulldogs kept themselves in the bubble conversation as they landed their second Q1 win of the season at Georgetown (72). This is hardly a difference-maker, as the Hoyas are one losing streak away from falling outside the top 75 and off the Q1 line, but this does had some depth to Butler’s profile. Their at-large bid will be determined by games at St. John’s, at Villanova and at Marquette in the last month of the season.

LOSERS

DAVIDSON (NET: 59, SOS: 108): The Wildcats can just about put their at-large hopes on ice after they went into Amherst and lost to a bad UMass team (224) that was playing without Luwane Pipkins, who is their best player and one of the most dangerous scorers in the Atlantic 10. Davidson does not have a Q1 win, they will not play another Q1 game the rest of the regular season and they now have two Q3 losses and a Q4 loss to their name.

INDIANA (NET: 47, SOS: 35): The Hoosiers have now lost back-to-back home games since they went into East Lansing and beat Michigan State, and I think we’ve finally reached the point where we have to stop overlooking Indiana’s good wins. On Sunday, they lost at home to Ohio State, dropping to 13-11 overall and 4-9 in the Big Ten. They do have four Q1 wins — including at Michigan State (8), Louisville (15) and Marquette (21) — but they are now 4-8 against Q1 with three more Q2 losses. This is precisely the kind of resume that should be overlooked in order to get a mid-major team like Wofford or Lipscomb in to the tournament.

ARIZONA (NET: 70, SOS: 57): The Wildcats seemed to be well on the wrong side of the bubble entering Saturday, and that was before they took on a 14-point home loss to Washington State (197). The Wildcats now are just 1-4 against Q2 and 2-5 against Q2 with a 14 point Q4 loss. They play four of their last seven games on the road, they have just one more potential Q1 win on their schedule — at Oregon (71). Arizona is auto-bid or bust.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 35, SOS: 12): The Sooners have seen their season go off the rails. After entering league play with an 11-1 record, the Sooners have now lost four in a row to drop to 3-8 in the Big 12. At this point, the Sooners are not a tournament team.

CREIGHTON (NET: 55, SOS: 8): For the seventh time in their last ten games, the Bluejays took a loss, this time coming at Seton Hall. They are now 12-11 on the season, 4-7 in the Big East and 2-9 against Q1 opponents. Those two Q1 wins are Clemson (43) on a neutral and at Georgetown (72).

UTAH STATE (NET: 33, SOS: 122): Utah State’s seven-game winning streak came to an end in San Diego on Saturday night, as the Aggies lost to San Diego State. This is their second Q3 loss on the season, and combined with just a 3-4 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents and no wins better Saint Mary’s (45) on a neutral floor, it’s going to be a big ask to get an at-large if they don’t beat Nevada on March 2nd. Even with a win in that game, they might not have enough.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 40, SOS: 47): I wasn’t going to write about the Johnnies here because they entered the day as a No. 9 seed, but getting whipped at home by a bad Providence team earns a mention. St. John’s has a weird profile. They have five Q1 wins — including a sweep of Marquette — but with home losses to Georgetown, DePaul and now Providence, nothing is given. And it is worth noting that the DePaul loss came without Shamorie Ponds while today’s loss came with Mustapha Heron out of the lineup.

NEBRASKA (NET: 36, SOS: 99): The Cornhuskers lost their seventh straight on Saturday night, falling at Purdue. Maybe I’m late on this, but it’s time to take them out of consideration until something changes.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 47): After the Gators knocked off Ole Miss ten days ago, we said that their NCAA tournament bid can be earned during a three-game stretch where they played Kentucky, at Auburn and at Tennessee. After getting blown out in Knoxville, the Gators went 0-3 in that stretch and 12-11 overall and 1-9 in Q1 games. That’s not ideal.

ARKANSAS (NET: 60, SOS: 36): The Razorbacks fell at South Carolina on Saturday, which certainly isn’t a killer for them, but when you are firmly on the bubble — as Arkansas is — any chance to land a Q2 win is going to help. The Razorbacks have just a single Q1 win, at LSU last Saturday.

TEMPLE (NET: 50, SOS: 42): The Owls lost at Tulsa on Saturday by 18 points, a result that sounds worse than it looks on a resume — the Golden Hurricane are a top 100 team, so this is a Q2 loss. Temple has just one Q1 win (Houston at home) but they are 6-6 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They’ve also lost to Penn (88) at home. The biggest issue for the Owls at this point is the lack of quality opponents left on their schedule.