Two months after decommitting from Arizona, four-star point guard Brandon Williams is officially back in the fold.
He made the announcement at a ceremony on Saturday afternoon.
Two months ago, in the wake of an ESPN report that Sean Miller was caught on an FBI wiretap talking about a $100,000 payment and Deandre Ayton, Williams — a top 35 point guard from Encino, Ca. — became the third member of Arizona’s recruiting class to reopen his recruitment. Shareef O’Neal, Shaq’s son and a top 40 forward, decommitted days before Williams and opted to attend UCLA. Five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, who was actually caught up in the initial FBI findings last September, has since signed with Villanova.
Since decommitting, Williams visited Oregon and Gonzaga before eventually deciding to continue with his dream to play for Arizona.
The 6-foot-2 Williams is now the third member of Miller’s 2018 recruting class, joining four-star wing Devonaire Doutrive and Belgian forward Omar Thielemans.
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.
2018 NCAA Tournament: Big men that will break your bracket
There’s a line of thinking that the NCAA tournament is a guard’s game, and there’s ample evidence of its veracity when we look back at runs by Kemba Walker’s UConn, Kris Jenkins and and Josh Hart’s Villanova and Russ Smith’s Louisville in recent years. Don’t, though, forget the big guys. Here’s a list of post presences that could help determine a national champion – and your bracket pool winner.
Marvin Bagley III, Duke: The Blue Devils freshman was the toast of the sport early in the season before being overshadowed by Trae Young, but he’s been consistently great. He’s great around the bucket, good enough from distance to keep defenses honest and rebounds at a high level. He may not be June’s No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, but he ain’t slipping past five, either.
Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic, Arizona: This is about as close to a throwback frontcourt as you’ll see – despite the fact that Ayton fits well enough in the modern game to be a potential No. 1 pick in June. It’s rare that a team can put two seven-footers on the floor and make it work, but Arizona’s pair can make it work. Still, it’s Ayton that fuels this pairing as he’s established himself as a dominant force inside and capable of keeping the Wildcats moving through the bracket.
Michael Porter, Jr., Missouri: Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon held down the fort inside all season long for the Tigers, but they’re now adding Michael Porter, Jr. to the mix – which could either make them fearsome up front or create a rocky fit. It’s one of the big bets of the NCAA tournament that coach Cuonzo Martin is making here. The upside is massive given Porter, Jr.’s talent.
Isaac Haas, Purdue: It’s pretty astounding that the Boilermakers lost Caleb Swanigan, one of the best big men the sport has seen in recent years, and somehow had a better season. Isaac Haas is a big reason why. The 7-foot-2 senior is on the floor more this year without Swanigan now that coach Matt Painer doesn’t have to juggle the two big men, and Haas has upped his production as a result. His size and skill bends the defense like few other players in the country.
Jaren Jackson and Nick Ward, Michigan State: Jackson is the darling of NBA scouts with his modern game while Ward is a more traditional big man – together they make up an incredibly dynamic and productive frontcourt for the Spartans. Ward is the country’s most prolific offensive rebounder and Jackson is one of the top shotblockers in the nation. And both shoot better than 60 percent from the floor.
Luke Maye, North Carolina: Maye went from a nice story on last year’s national champion Tar Heels to one of the most productive players in the country this year. He’s averaging a double-double of 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds as his role has exploded from bit player to star for coach Roy Williams.
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga: With all the turnover off last year’s national runners-up, Tillie has seen his role and his production trend way up. He’s one of the most efficient scorers in the country with a true-shooting percentage of 68.2, which is top-10 nationally. He’s not as proficient as a shotblocker and rebounder, but he’s a major problem for defenses.
Udoka Azubuike, Kansas: The Jayhawks’ roster is incredibly dependent on Azubuike given the dearth of other options inside, making his health status one of the more important subplots of the NCAA tournament. The sophomore missed the Big 12 tournament due to a knee injury, but is expected to return to the court this week. His presence inside really facilitates Kansas’ guard-oriented and 3-point heavy approach.
Mike Daum, South Dakota State: The 6-foot-9 Jackrabbit may be the best mid-major player in the tournament. He’s a high-usage player with a 59.5 true shooting percentage and rebounds on the defensive end at a high rate. His athleticism isn’t going to wow anyone, but his ability to score at every level and in unique ways makes him an incredibly tough cover. If South Dakota State turns into this year’s Cinderella, it’ll be Daum who fit them with the glass slipper.
Angel Delgado, Seton Hall: The 6-foot-10 senior is a double-double machine, averaging 13.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. His prowess on the glass is what separates him from the rest of the big man pack as he’s elite on both the offensive and defensive ends on the floor in that area. He’s not a prolific scorer, but he creates extra shots for the Pirates and limits those extra opportunities for their opponents.
Tyler Davis and Robert Williams, Texas A&M: Another super-sized frontcourt that harkens back to a different era of basketball. Both of these guys are great around the rim, but not threats from the 3-point arc. Williams is a fantastic shotblocker while Davis is a great offensive rebounder.
Mohamed Bamba, Texas: Bamba appears to have healed up from a sprained toe and will try to help the Longhorns escape the first weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012. The 6-foot-11 freshman with an expansive wingspan is one of the most impactful defenders in the country as an elite shotblocker. His offensive game lags behind his defense, but he is capable of causing headaches for opponents on that end as well.
Friday’s College Basketball Recap: North Carolina outlasts Duke, Ayton stars and the drama continues at Memphis
The 7-foot-1 freshman put up 32 points and 14 rebounds as Arizona defeated UCLA, 78-67 in overtime. He made 13 of 16 shots and 5 of 6 from the line while also posting three assists and a pair of blocks and steals each.
There will be debates in draft rooms across the NBA about who to take No. 1, but Ayton continues to make his case that it should be a short conversation. Luka Doncic could very well be awesome, Marvin Bagley III is great and Michael Porter, Jr. is intriguing, but Ayton has put up huge numbers night in and night out for a team embroiled in chaos more often than not.
He was great again. And he’s the player of the day.
THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS
JORDAN DAVIS, Northern Colorado: Who cares what his numbers were. He did this. If you don’t click that link, you’re depriving yourself of one of life’s greatest gifts.
Remember when Alabama lost five-straight to finish the year and entered the SEC tournament on the bubble? After Collin Sexton’s heroics Thursday and domination Friday, that seems like an awfully long time ago.
The Crimson Tide got 31 points and seven boards from Sexton and defeated rival Auburn, 81-63, to not only strengthen their NCAA tournament team, but to suddenly have a look of a team that should have top seeds running scared.
It’s amazing what a difference a couple of days in March can make.
GAME OF THE DAY
There are plenty of candidates for this one given what a wildly entertaining day Friday was, but let’s give it to a game that was decidedly uncompetitive.
San Diego State 90, No. 22 Nevada 73. Final.
The Aztecs led by as many as 30 and just ran roughshod over a really good Wolf Pack team. All five SDSU starters scored in double figures and they shot 51.9 percent as a team. Now they’ve got a shot to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015.
Tubby Smith’s lawyer accused Penny Hardaway of sabotage.
Yeah, you read that right. the Memphis coach’s long-time attorney threw a pretty big allegation in Hardaway’s direction, positing that the potential Smith replacement and the leader of grassroots powerhouse Team Penny has been steering high-level Memphis kids away from their hometown team.
It’s quite the accusation, but it’s also kind of a self-own. Smith’s lawyer is essentially admitting that Memphis would maybe, probably, potentially be getting Memphis kids – highly-ranked Memphis kids – if Hardaway took over the program. Even if there is something underhanded going on – and there doesn’t appear to be any evidence right now there is – telling the world your guy is essentially getting out-recruited by the favored replacement isn’t exactly a winning strategy. Especially on a day that Memphis was, ya know, actually winning.
The federal investigation into college basketball has been awfully quiet – aside from leaks detailing ASM Sports’ business plan – but the feds apparently aren’t done digging. The Raleigh News & Observer reported Friday that NC State has been served with a subpoena seeking documents.
Mississippi State’s Nick Weatherspoon suffered what looked to be a very scary injury when a Tennessee player inadvertently stepped on his head. The school later announced that the freshman, whose brother is a junior on the team, was awake and had feeling throughout his body.
When you list out what Arizona has gone through this season, it’s pretty remarkable.
An assistant coach arrested. A preseason broken foot for one of its best players. The fall from No. 2 to out of the rankings after a three-game losing streak. A(nother) failed drug test for a star. The head coach alleged to be on a wiretap talking about a six-figure payment to secure a player. A federal probe ever-present.
It’s a striking list, isn’t it?
Chaos has been the constant for the Wildcats. Well, chaos and Deandre Ayton being awesome.
The Arizona big man put up another monster performance, posting 32 points and 14 rebounds, on Friday as the Wildcats outlasted UCLA in overtime, 78-67, to advance to Saturday’s Pac-12 tournament title game.
Jalen Brunson or Trae Young might be your pick to be national player of the year, but Ayton is a singular force in the game. He’s clearly the best NBA draft prospect in college – given we really haven’t seen Michael Porter, Jr. but for one game.
It’s hard to call Ayton underrated or undervalued given he’s at the top of most draft boards, a consensus All-American and the best player on a top-20 team, but it just seems like the level of excitement about him and for him by the sport at large is muted when compared to his outsized frame and game.
He’s averaging 19.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 62.7 percent on 2-pointers and a respectable 34.4 percent on 32 3-point attempts. And he’s doing it all as 19-year-old with David Robinson’s physique. He moves as well as any player of his size that I can remember.
Whether it’s that he’s playing on the west coast, a conference that is “power” in name only or often on a network that seems more myth than reality, Ayton seems to have flown under the radar a bit, or at least as much as a 7-foot-1 beast can.
Maybe it’s just because there’s been so dang much other stuff to talk about when it comes to Arizona. Talking about a dominant big man is fun, but it’s not as interesting as a coach getting arrested, a failed PED test or a freaking federal wiretap.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Arizona. I mean, look at that list. Just don’t forget to make sure Ayton is on it, too. At the top.
Allonzo Trier ruled ineligible by NCAA; Arizona appealing
Arizona junior guard Allonzo Trier has been declared ineligible by the NCAA due to a second positive test for a banned substance, it was announced Thursday. The school is appealing the decision, claiming the positive test was leftover from of a substance that was found in Trier’s system in 2016.
Trier was tested in late January and the test “revealed the reappearance of a trace amount of a banned substance,” Arizona said in a statement. “The amount detected was miniscule by scientific standards and appears to be a remnant of a substance, which the NCAA agreed, Allonzo had unknowingly taken in 2016.
“The University is appealing the decision and is hopefully that Allonzo will regain his eligibility soon.”
This is a potential massive blow for a Wildcats team that began the season as one of the top national championship contenders, but has spent much of this season dealing with disappointment and distraction, from their part in the FBI corruption investigation to inconsistency on the floor and now this regarding one of its top players.
Trier is averaging 19.6 points and shooting 54.1 percent from the floor, including 43 percent from the 3-point range.
The Wildcats play at Oregon State tonight and at Oregon Saturday before finishing the regular season at home against Stanford and Cal.
Attention will now turn to the NCAA appeals process – how quickly can it move and what determination will it make? Trier’s status will impact one of the most talented teams in the country, which by extension means it will impact the national championship race next month.
For a team that’s been in the center of controversy all season, and somehow has added another layer to a wild season.