Amid questions from FBI investigation, Arizona falls in AP Poll
A split at the Oregon schools might not normally impact the Arizona Wildcats much when it comes to the Associated Press rankings.
But this is not a normal situation.
How the AP Poll voters would respond with an FBI scandal threatening the future of the Arizona basketball program — and the eligibility of the Wildcats’ best player this year — was a thing to watch.
Following a 75-65 win over Oregon State on Thursday and a 98-93 overtime loss to Oregon two days later, the Wildcats fell five spots, from 14th to 19th, heading into the final week of the regular season.
In between those games, head coach Sean Miller left the team following a report on Friday that alleged a source of ESPN reporter Mark Schlabach, via an FBI wiretap, heard Miller discussing a potential impermissible payment to freshman center Deandre Ayton.
While Miller stepped aside in what he and the school said was the in best interests of his players, Ayton played and did so at a high level. He scored 28 points and added 18 rebounds in the loss to the Ducks on Saturday.
Lawyers representing Ayton’s family and another brought on by the university to conduct an internal investigation have remained firm that the freshman will remain eligible.
Both released statements that said Ayton did not receive any improper benefits allegedly discussed on Miller’s wiretapped phone conversation with Christian Dawkins, a runner who worked with the sports agency involved in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption.
Ayton is averaging 19.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.
Arizona (22-7, 12-4 Pac-12) will host Stanford at McKale Center on Thursday before Cal visits on Saturday to wrap the regular season.
Heading into the matchups, it is unclear whether Miller will return to the sidelines. Associate head coach Lorenzo Romar, who filled in for Miller Saturday, did not have answers for how the team would move forward or how long Miller would remain away from the Wildcats.
Meanwhile, Arizona guard Allonzo Trier remains in limbo after finding out before the Oregon State game that he was suspended for a failed drug test.
The school said it was a positive test for the same substance that kept Trier out of 19 games to begin the 2016-17 season and that they were hopeful the junior would be cleared this season.
Trier is averaging 19.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game this season.