The Arizona Wildcats are in the midst of a good season, with a 15-2 overall record and 4-0 start to Pac-12 play.
They are led in scoring by a trio of freshman, with Lauri Markkanen, Rawle Alkins and Kobe Simmons contributing 15.9, 12.3 and 11.9 points, respectively, per game.
But as anyone who follows the Wildcats knows, the team could be — if not better — substantially different if every player who is on the roster was able to play.
While Ray Smith retired due to another torn ACL and Talbott Denny is missing the season due to the same fate, wing Allonzo Trier has been unavailable not because of injury, but because of an unspecified suspension.
The team’s leading returning scorer from last season after he averaged 14.8 points per game as a freshman, Trier’s continued absence landed him on an ESPN Insider panel’s list for the the most disappointing player in NCAA hoops this season, with Eamon Brennan, C.L. Brown and Myron Medcalf all pointing to the sophomore.
Brennan: Another quasi-off-the-floor answer from me here, and in this case, “off the floor” is meant literally: Allonzo Trier. The Arizona sophomore guard was a legitimate Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate entering the season, before UCLA’s Lonzo Ball rode in and transformed the Bruins into a Mike D’Antoni fever dream. But Trier has yet to play a single game in 2016-17, owing to an indefinite suspension for reasons the school has yet to disclose. Recently, coach Sean Miller said he was optimistic Trier would have the chance to play this season. Until then, Wildcats fans can only wait — and wonder.
Brown: Trier. Obviously it’s not because of what he’s done on the court. With Trier, the Wildcats could contend with UCLA and Oregon for the Pac-12 crown. The problem is he hasn’t played in any of the Wildcats’ 17 games (they’re 15-2, 4-0 in the Pac-12). It’s one of the most bizarre suspensions — if you can call it that since the school has not announced exactly why he’s out — in recent memory. Here’s hoping for a resolution, one way or the other, very soon.
Medcalf: Trier. He hasn’t played a game. But that’s the issue. We’re not sure why he’s still sitting, and Arizona officials continue to offer vague explanations for his absence. You add Trier and the Wildcats are national title contenders. Will he return in time for the NCAA tournament? Will he play at all? This is still one of the biggest stories in college basketball. And it’s disappointing because we’re not sure why a talented player has yet to play a minute this season.
Because Trier has not yet played a game for Arizona this season, the last time anyone has seen him on the floor — not counting pre-game warmups — was during the team’s annual Red/Blue Game in October. Trier scored 16 points in the scrimmage, mixing in the kind of aggressive drives, pull-up jump shots, three-point makes and dunks that had people excited for what he could do this season.
As it stands, the Wildcats will press on without the 6-foot-5 scorer, at least until they no longer have to. As the nonconference part of the schedule came and went and now Arizona has gone through half its games without a resolution, questions of when — or if — he will ever play again have run rampant.
On Monday, Arizona coach Sean Miller said he hopes Trier has a chance to play sometime this year.
“If I knew more I would say, if I would be able to, I would say,” the coach said. “But this is far, far higher up the ladder than me. I’m just a soldier in the army, following orders.”
Until Trier is cleared, or at least some resolution arrives, anyone who watches Arizona play will wonder what things would look like with Trier on the floor.
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