I haven’t written anything so far this season about the Arizona Wildcats Men’s Basketball team.
Frankly my attention to hoops is lukewarm at best until the UA Football season ends and I have a chance to dial down from the energy I put into that effort weekly.
The Cats are now 10-2 after they survived letting a 22-point lead slip a way to four Saturday in a win over Texas A&M at the Lone Star Shootout.
So here are a few, or maybe slightly more than a few, thoughts on UA to this point.
This is as impressive a freshman class as I think I’ve seen in this my now ninth season covering Arizona Basketball.
Lauri Markkanen speaks for himself. He can shoot, he can dribble, he can spin and fade. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a seven-footer in college do the things he does.
I didn’t quite know what to make of Rawle Alkins through about the first three games but this kid is as strong as an ox. The most impressive thing I think I’ve seen from him is his ability to crash on the offense glass with a ferociousness that is generally reserved for big men.
Kobi Simmons is just smooth. His defensive consistency needs some work but I like the way he glides across the floor.
While Markkanen provides the steadiness and Alkins does the dirty work, Simmons brings the electricity.
They are the three leading scorers on a team that has been hit with mass casualties due to injury and mystery.
Let’s talk about last Wednesday night. Frankly I think UA vs. GCU is a game that should happen every year.
Too bad the school is private because if it was public, the Arizona Board of Regents would probably mandate it like they do with UA and ASU having to play NAU in football.
I like to play this game called, "If I were UA Athletics Director Greg Byrne...". And if I were Greg Byrne I would strongly encourage that my basketball program not only play Grand Canyon every year but that they play the series as a home and home/neutral with games in Phoenix at both GCU Arena and Talking Stick Arena.
This could be a great rivalry and a great event because aren’t these really the two best Division I college basketball programs in the state right now?
And if you missed it, yes that was shot at Arizona State.
Back to this team.
I’m really impressed with the leadership that Kadeem Allen has showed. He has bounced back from what was a bad end of the 2015-16 season in the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament loss to Wichita State.
His defense is Pac-12 1st team quality. I mean how many guards would be second on their team in blocks (10).
Dusan Ristic is the best percentage shooter (53.1%) in Sean Miller’s main rotation. That jumped almost two percent after he went eight-of-12 in the win over the Aggies.
That’s not bad but I also wouldn’t mind seeing that number above 55%.
With the depth issues created by the injury and mystery, Ristic has got to provide a more consistent low-post presence.
He went 4-of-5 against the Antelopes but had several more potential shots knocked away before he could even bring the ball into the shooting position.
He needs to get stronger in that respect.
Keanu Pinder? Well he’s just the best thing since Kevin Parrom.
Allonzo Trier missed another game for the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, his 12th.
We still don’t really know for sure what’s going on with Allonzo. But I think we have a pretty good idea so let’s play hypotheticals.
Say for instance this whole situation does indeed involve some type of failed drug test that was either administered by the NCAA or UA.
This we do know about the current NCAA rules for failed drug tests. If it was a failed test for a performance enhancing drug, the suspension is for one-year.
If you fail a test for what the NCAA deems is a street drug, the suspension is for 50% of the season.
Past athletes, such as Florida quarterback Will Grier, who have failed PED tests have been immediately suspended for the year.
The problem is that, like in the Trier case, there is very little available information on NCAA drug suspensions.
Most schools it appears, like UA, are not releasing the information.
I believe if Trier had failed a PED test he would have been suspended like Grier right away. That did not happen.
I also think it’s clear at this point that Trier will play this season.
That’s not to say that if this is a drug suspension that it falls in to the second category (street drugs).
It certainly could, but there always the possibility of extenuating circumstances and whatever may have occurred during a likely appeal process.
I also could not find any information regarding amended punishments, meaning a student-athlete was given an initial punishment and then that punishment was reduced on appeal.
That happens all the time in the professional sports world. Athlete A is suspended for eight games and on appeal the suspension is reduced to four games.
That certainly is also a plausible scenario.
So with the research I did and the information that is available at this time it’s my belief that you will see Trier play again for the Wildcats on Saturday, January 7 when UA hosts Colorado in their 4th Pac-12 Conference game.
Arizona is scheduled to play 31 regular season games this season and the Colorado contest will be Game #16 which is the first past the 50% point of the regular season.
If I was in Las Vegas I would bet on January 7.
Now for the other dark cloud hanging over Arizona Basketball.
And that’s the disconnect between the program and one of its most high profile alumnus.
If you haven’t noticed the Wildcats are missing a walk-on who was a part of the team the past two seasons, and that’s guard Trey Mason.
And this in a year when UA actually needs walk-on guards with the injury to Parker Jackson-Cartwright and the mystery that is Trier.
Now don’t get me wrong. Walk-ons are just that, non-scholarship players who although valuable pieces in the grand scheme of the daily workings of any sports program, don’t make much of an impact on gameday.
Trey Mason though was not your average walk-on. He was a legacy walk-on and he left the program prior to the start of the season.
I’m not going to get into the reasons for why he left, because neither Mason nor the program are commenting on it.
But let’s just say you have to be living under a rock not to know what this is all about.
And it’s sad really.
Harvey and Jeannine Mason are probably the most high profile UA Athletics alumni couple.
He played on Lute Olson’s first Final Four team in the late 1980s while she competed on the UA Volleyball team.
The elder Mason has gone on to an accomplished career as a music producer working with some of the top acts that the current business has to offer.
The Masons are members of the Wildcat Club, meaning they donate money to the Athletics department and held a high profile at UA Basketball games even before their two children arrived at University and Park.
The family is so highly respected that the Masons were Grand Marshals of UA’s Homecoming parade just ONE year ago (2015).
And when daughter Mia (Sand Volleyball) arrived as a freshman last Fall, there were numerous local publications, the Daily Wildcat and Tucson Lifestyle just to name two, that did stories on the Mason family and the fact that mom and dad met as Wildcat athletes and now son and daughter were competing on sports teams at UA.
Our station has done in-depth stories with the Masons in recent years.
I asked Miller last month about why Trey was no longer on the team, a routine roster question.
He indicated that Mason was still in school at UA and wished his former player well in his future endeavors.
Miller however declined to comment on the disconnect between the Mason family and the UA Basketball program.
Byrne, through the department’s media relations wing, also declined to comment.
The Masons as I mentioned have not spoken publicly about their rift with Arizona Athletics but Harvey did have this to say when I reached out to him.
"In lieu of saying something negative, I will not be commenting on the relationship between Sean Miller, the current basketball program and the Masons at this time. We will however continue to loyally support the individual players and wish them all great success."
So there you have it. One of the most high profile, well thought of UA Athletics' families, is on the outs with their program.
And If I were Greg Byrne, I’d be working on a way to fix this look because it’s a bad one for UA Athletics.
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