Sean Miller: Arizona is ‘not going to be as talented’ in 2018-19
The Arizona Wildcats basketball program has gone through a tumultuous calendar year.
Head coach Sean Miller was linked in an ESPN report to the FBI’s college basketball recruiting investigation, which he denied wrongdoing. Former assistant coach Emanuel Richardson is facing criminal charges from his arrest related to the FBI probe. The team also had no incoming recruits as of April 7 this year.
Miller responded with a strong summer where he was able to get three incoming recruits and two transfers. Most notably, point guard Brandon Williams recommitted after the storm blew over the program from the February ESPN report.
“We’re not going to be as talented. We just aren’t,” Miller told The Athletic’s Seth Davis. “But I think we have a chance to be a good team, and maybe it will be healthy for us to be under the radar. We’ve had five years in a row with incredibly high expectations. This is a year where we can be a good team, but do it at our own pace.”
If Arizona is going to make noise next season, it will need returners Brandon Randolph, Emmanuel Akot, Ira Lee and Alex Barcello to take big leaps forward from underwhelming freshman seasons. The struggles were partly due to lack of opportunity with better and more proven options ahead on the depth chart.
Losses: Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Dusan Ristic, Keanu Pinder
Additions: Brandon Williams, Devonaire Doutrive, Omar Thielemans, Justin Coleman (trasfer), Ryan Luther (transfer)
Returnees: Brandon Randolph, Chase Jeter (redshirt), Ira Lee, Alex Barcello, Emmanuel Akot, Dylan Smith
Arizona has been a one-and-done factory under Miller. Since Miller became head coach in 2009, the team has dominated in the regular season with five 30-plus win seasons but has failed to reach a Final Four despite being a top-5 NCAA Tournament seed five times.
Watching Villanova win two of the last three national championships has changed Miller’s approach for how he fills out his roster.
“I’m looking for four-star guys who want to develop, as opposed to just five-star guys who are thinking about how quickly they can leave,” said Miller. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t take the next Deandre Ayton, but we want to solidify who we are and then mix in one or two guys who are like that.”
With many questions still lingering around the program’s future due to Richardson’s involvement in the FBI’s college basketball investigation, the 2018 team won’t be the juggernaut that Wildcat fans are accustomed to.
There will be strong competition in the Pac-12 from rivals UCLA, USC and of course ASU. Oregon appears to be back in the elite conversation after a disappointing 2017-18 season.
After all the issues off the court in 2017-18, Arizona is probably just excited to focus on basketball in the immediate future.