With recruits already out the door and their head coach on hiatus, the Arizona Wildcats look like a strong fade candidate for this week’s college basketball picks.
It’s time to address the elephant in the room. College basketball has been rocked by scandal: An FBI investigation has identified more than 20 Division I programs where players might have violated NCAA rules by receiving cash payments. Anyone with half a brain knows that at least some star players have been getting paid under the table all these years, but now the lid has been taken off this poorly kept secret.
That goes double for the Arizona Wildcats. According to ESPN reports, FBI wiretaps caught head coach Sean Miller discussing a $100,000 payment that would bring hot prospect DeAndre Ayton to Tucson. Miller left the team Saturday; assistant Lorenzo Romar took charge as Arizona (+4.5 away) lost 98-93 to the Oregon Ducks in overtime. This could be the beginning of the end for the ‘Cats – and even more motivation to fade Arizona with our college basketball picks.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had the Wildcats (22-7 SU, 11-16-2 ATS) in our crosshairs. It already had been a challenging enough season for Arizona; now Miller has stepped away. While we don’t know for how long, at least one of his recruits has abandoned ship. Shareef O’Neal, son of legendary NBA star (and LSU alum) Shaquille O’Neal, has de-committed from the U of A.
Who else is headed out the door? Ayton (plus-10.2 BPM) is being allowed to keep playing, for now, and he performed well in Saturday’s loss – in the first half, at least. The team ran out of gas in the second half, still feeling the effects of Thursday’s overtime victory against Oregon State. It’s possible Ayton is done in Tucson; his family lawyer vehemently denies any wrongdoing, but the Arizona Board of Regents might decide enough is enough after holding an emergency meeting Saturday.
Whether or not Ayton plays, the Wildcats are in a delicate situation heading into their final week of the regular season. They’ll host Stanford on Thursday (10 p.m. ET, FOX) before wrapping things up Saturday (6:30 p.m. ET) against visiting California. Stanford (16-13 SU, 14-15 ATS) might be worth a spin on the college basketball odds board while ‘Zona officials try to navigate this scandal. Whatever is going on in the players’ minds right now, they’ll probably be focussed for their final home game before Champ Week, so let’s avoid the Cal game for now. Stay in school, kids, and may the sphere be with you.