LAS VEGAS — When Sean Miller was hired to take over the Arizona men’s basketball program in 2009, the move was supposed to bring stability — and a return to prominence — for one of the most successful programs in the sport.
For a time, it did just that. After the final years of Hall of Famer Lute Olson’s tenure in Tucson, Arizona, were defined by his health problems and the multiple interim coaches who took turns replacing him, Miller quickly turned things around, taking the Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2011 and reaching the second weekend of the NCAA tournament in five of his first eight seasons.
But chaos returned to the program over the past year. Miller briefly left the team after ESPN reported there was an FBI wiretap of him discussing a $100,000 payment to ensure Deandre Ayton — the team’s star freshman center and the potential No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft — would come to Arizona. Also, star guard Allonzo Trier was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after a trace amount of a banned substance was found in his system.
Even after all of that, Arizona enters the NCAA tournament with the kind of talent that gives it a chance to cut down the nets in San Antonio next month.
And that’s why there will be no team in this year’s field of 68 with more scrutiny and attention heaped upon it than the fourth-seeded Wildcats (27-7), who open Thursday night against No. 13 seed Buffalo in Boise, Idaho.
“We have great kids on our team,” Miller said last week. “We have a lot of winners. We have talented players that have always, from Day One, played for the win. And everybody on our team and in our locker room realizes what March Madness is.”
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Source:: The Denver Post