What could have been for Arizona Basketball

BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: (L-R) Allonzo Trier
BOISE, ID - MARCH 15: (L-R) Allonzo Trier /

A roller coaster season ends with a thud in Boise, leaving Arizona Basketball fans wondering if the end of an era has come.

Embarrassed.  Speechless.  Stunned.  These were a few of the emotions surrounding Arizona Basketball fans after watching their beloved team get blasted in the opening round of the NCAA tournament by Buffalo.  Especially when this was supposed to be Our Year.  Sean Miller was supposed to cut down the nets in his first final Four.  He had a consensus top 3 recruiting class with stud Deandre Ayton.  He also had a strong core of returning starters.

That ship has just sailed, and it might not be coming back for a while.  Six players were honored at the team’s Senior Day, including Ayton, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Keanu Pinder, and Dusan Ristic, by Coach Miller.

The former three are all expected to be drafted in the NBA, while the latter are seniors.  Not only is the ENTIRE starting lineup leaving, Arizona also has no recruits lined up for next year so far.  And that doesn’t even include the off-court turmoil that clouds the program.

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Rubbing salt to the wound, Arizona Basketball has to replace its top assistant Lorenzo Romar, who is taking the vacancy at Pepperdine.  So lets count it up: Top six players leaving, only sixscholarship players return, no incoming recruits, allegations, and losing an assistant coach.  Hard for any University of Arizona alumni, student, or fan to look at things as they are positively.  We have become spoiled with sustained success under Miller hearkening back to the Lute Olson days.

With so much roster movement and uncertainty following a disappointing loss, the end of another dominant era of Arizona Basketball has officially come to an end.  But it leaves fans wondering what could have been.  With a great mold of veteran scorers combined with an incoming group of newcomers, this was supposed to be Sean Miller’s year.

The same can be said for the Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson team’s from the 2014 and 2015 seasons.  While they obviously had the star power of this years team, they also had that gritty toughness.  Both teams were anchored by TJ McConnell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, guys who sought out defensive challenges.  Those teams had the perfect mix of role players, leaders, defensive stoppers, and stars.  They came a shot away twice in a row from being in the Final Four and potentially even champions.

It does bear some thought wondering if alternative events played out.  What if none of the distractions occurred this year? What if Brandon Ashley doesn’t get hurt?  What if Wisconsin doesn’t shoot lights out?  What if Book Richardson was on the bench lifting the players during each game?

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Even though it isn’t productive to look back at the past or delving into hypothetical, we have to appreciate our sustained successes. It is painful to reflect on what-ifs, but it could always be worse (ie, UMBC blasting Virginia by 20). The immediate future holds many unanswered questions, but we should be proud at how great we have been, and how close we’ve come.