The sports world is one renowned for its fickle nature. All projections of next-season performances are vulnerable to the pervasive threats of scandal, injury, or team politics, each of which could easily render a preseason prediction invalid. That does not, however, stop anyone from making them.
The University of Arizona has been a dynamic presence in college basketball discourse of late, from the investigation into a controversial technical call on head coach Sean Miller during the Wildcats’ March 15 loss to UCLA, to the picks of Grant Jerrett and Solomon Hill in the NBA draft, to the acquisition of the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game, Aaron Gordon.
Ostensibly, these newsworthy appearances bode well for the future of Wildcat basketball: the Ice Miller investigation concluded that Sean Miller’s technical foul was, if not the correct call, at least not reflective of any illicit shenanigans among league officials, and Miller received a contract extension into the 2017-2018 season; Jerrett and Hill prove that Arizona continues to produce powerhouse players; Gordon is slated to fill the scoring breach at small forward.
For every perceived positive, however, is a dual interpretation. Somehow, in spite of all the strides the Arizona program has made — particularly under Miller’s four-year tenure — many are sounding a death knell.
Bruins Nation published a spiteful article in May that re-christened the University of Arizona “Transfer U” and accused Miller of stockpiling individual talent rather than coalescing a team. The article underscored the departure of Angelo Chol and presented the loss of Jerrett as a gaping hole in the lineup that Miller will be hard-pressed to fill.
Though the investigation into Miller’s March 15 technical foul mollified most, it also prompted scrutiny into Miller’s commitment to his own program and conference. Many contend that the derogatory comments that Miller made toward the Pac-12 (albeit in the heat of the moment) are indicative of a larger problem: does Miller want to be here? The Seattle Times ran a column that argued Miller’s deep-seated affinity for the East Coast, even predicting that Miller’s reign in Arizona will not be notable for its longevity.
Even the addition of Gordon is not without its naysayers. Rob Dauster of NBC Sports labeled him “an example of one of the downfalls of the one-and-done rule,” asserting that Gordon’s appearance on the University of Arizona roster is nothing more than obligatory to the league, and discussion of his development within the Wildcat program is futile because he will be honing his skills in the NBA by next year.
Interestingly enough, Miller himself offered an interesting quote to ESPN writer Dana O’Neil, in which he described the changing nature of college recruitment as one in which “you have to be careful at times when you’re talking about getting a degree. It could be taken as an insult.” He added of college recruits, “So many of them aren’t envisioning becoming a senior.”
In the sports world, it is possible to spin anything a myriad of ways. The coach who just signed a contract extension does not think his players are as tough as those on the East coast. The star player is just going to leave next year. But none of the offseason chatter truly matters.
Ultimately, preseason predictions offer the most variant and, frankly, unreliable angle on the sports landscape. So as Arizona gears up for the 2013-14 season, don’t read too much into the naysayers. With the sky high potential of the current group, chances are they’ll settle any arguments with their play on the court.