A season of adversity: Everything that tested the Wildcats this season
3:32 PM, Mar 14, 2018
TUCSON, Ariz. - “I think everyone's just drained. Mentally, physically,” said senior point-guard Parker Jackson Cartwright after Arizona’s final regular season home game.
Arizona's path to another conference title was unlike any year in Wildcat history.
A sweeping federal corruption case involving the U of A Assistant Basketball Coach, Emmanuel “Book” Richardson led to his arrest on federal bribery charges in late September.
The program and college basketball were rocked last fall when news of the FBI’s investigation into corruption broke.
“You know we're just going to work hard to have the best team we can, and to do things the right way, like I mentioned in my statement,” said Head Coach Sean Miller at his first appearance after the news broke.
The bombshell saw Arizona lose its assistant coach, and quite possibly, a voice to the players.
The Wildcats lost three games in a row in the Bahamas, which saw them go from the #2 team in the country, to unranked. That is only the second time in history that has happened.
Before the season, Arizona was in Barcelona for pre-season games during a terrorist attack. Thankfully, all teams participating were safe.
The Wildcats also lost the heart and hustle of their team, Rawle Alkins, to a broken foot. He then missed the first nine games of the season and returned to play against Alabama.
But the drama didn't end there.
Senior Keanu Pinder, and Assistant Coach Mark Phelps were suspended for a violation of NCAA rules, unrelated to the FBI investigation.
Dylan Smith also was suspended a game for a violation of team rules.
Another bombshell report dropped, this time from ESPN. The worldwide leader in sports reported Coach Sean Miller may have discussed paying $100,000 to ensure star Freshman Deandre Ayton would sign with the Wildcats.
Not long after, star guard Allonzo Trier was ruled ineligible for a second positive performance-enhancing drug test. Both Trier and Miller were absent in Arizona’s game at Oregon.
“While I have done nothing wrong, I am responsible for our Men's Basketball team. And I am sickened we are in the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons,” said Miller at a press conference before the team played Stanford at home, less than a week after ESPN’s report.
Trier was cleared the same day that University of Arizona President, Dr. Robert Robbins, threw his support behind Coach Miller.
Arizona clinched the Pac-12 regular season title two days later.
The 2017-18 Wildcats could be known as the team that finally breaks through to Sean Miller's first Final Four. But the question remains, years from now, will it still count?