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Charles Barkley: If UA paid Deandre Ayton $100K, ‘that’s the best bargain’

LISTEN: Charles Barkley, Suns legend

Charles Barkley doesn’t know who will win the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

The TNT NBA analyst has been prepping for his in-studio work for March Madness, and he said Thursday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station that he has changed his mind about who could win it all about seven times over the last several weeks.

“This is the most wide open this tournament has ever been. And I’m not saying that for dramatic purposes,” Barkley told Bickley & Marotta.

That said, Barkley believes the Arizona Wildcats, who tipped their Pac-12 Tournament against Colorado on Thursday afternoon, have as good of a shot as anyone.

Things have settled down after an ESPN report implicated Sean Miller’s involvement in illegal NCAA recruiting practices. And with guard Allonzo Trier back after missing two games due to a suspension stemming from a positive drug test, Barkley believes the Wildcats are right in the mix to make a deep run.

“Since they got the Trier kid back and all the controversy is in the rear-view mirror — first of all you can’t make any predictions until you see the brackets — I think Arizona with that big boy in the middle, I think they got a chance of getting to the Final Four. I really do,” Barkley said.

“That big boy in the middle” would be center Deandre Ayton, a potential No. 1 NBA Draft pick who is averaging 19.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.

Ayton allegedly was the subject of a phone conversation between Miller and a runner, who according to the ESPN report, discussed a payment of $100,000 for Arizona to land the center as a recruit.

Following that report, Miller stepped away from the team. He returned last Thursday after being cleared by the university, which found no evidence to support the news — it was based on a source of reporter Mark Schlabach hearing the conversation between Miller and the runner, Christian Dawkins, on an FBI wiretap.

As for what to believe regarding that report that Miller vehemently denied, Barkley doesn’t know the facts.

He does know cheating has been commonplace in college basketball. And for the time being, the Wildcats are in a good spot with Ayton eligible and denying any acceptance of money.

“If they got that kid for a hundred grand, they call that a bargain where I’m from,” Barkley said, “’cause he’s the best player in college basketball. And I don’t even think it’s close.

“If y’all got that big boy at Arizona for a hundred thousand dollars, that’s the best bargain I’ve seen in a long time.”

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