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Wildcats Mailbag: Answering Arizona fans' questions about the Pac-12's future

Mike Luke Avatar
July 2, 2022

It’s time for another Arizona Wildcats mailbag! In today’s edition, we take a look at the future of Arizona athletics with USC and UCLA leaving the Pac 12, as well as where the Wildcats’ football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams stand.

Q: What is your opinion on what Arizona athletics should do in the wake of USC and UCLA moving on to the Big 10 conference?

A: Arizona should try and gain admission into the Big 12 conference as quickly as possible. The Pac-12 can’t sustain itself without the LA schools, and no matter the stopgap measures that are pursued, the conference is likely to fold in the near future.

I’ve received quite a bit of feedback from Arizona fans angered about the possibility of leaving the Pac-12 but here’s an analogy I would offer:

The Arizona basketball fan who is distraught and no longer cares about college athletics is the husband/wife with three children who’s in a bad marriage and thinks life is over because the husband/wife finally asks for a divorce.

After a while, the husband/wife realizes the marriage was awful, and in the end, it’s the kids and happiness that matter.

The Pac-12 is the crappy marriage partner. You’re together because that’s all you know, but when you look back, you realize the entire situation sucks.

For far too long this conference has been run by an incompetent leader, Larry Scott, enabled by a high percentage of school presidents. Arizona’s Robert Robbins certainly doesn’t apply here, but they don’t care about athletics and allowed Scott to raid the conference of its treasure for his grand palaces while negotiating TV deals that made no sense and would leave his conference way behind.

It’s an understatement to say Larry Scott appeared out of touch to the average fan.

Arizona athletics, especially basketball, are the three children in the marriage. The only thing that matters is its well-being, and there’s no way that getting away from the amateur Pac-12 and into a conference that actually cares about sports isn’t a benefit.

Arizona basketball is an entity that stands on its own and is much better utilized being showcased on ESPN against the Kansas and Baylors of the world than being relegated to a 9:30 p.m. tipoff against UCLA with an announcer more interested in talking about sunsets.

Q: Should we be worried by the lack of big names in the 2023 Arizona football recruiting class?

A: I will say that I am a little surprised by the amount of committed 2023 players who don’t even have recruiting profiles or other Division 1 offers.

But Jedd Fisch has shown he knows what he’s doing on the recruiting trail, and many of these prospects New Mexico’s Tylen Gonzalez, for example are huge kids with wide frames.

Fisch is essentially saying that if he’s going to miss on raw prospects, he’s going to miss on big kids.

Due to the emphasis on linemen recruits, where elite ones are few and far between, this 2023 recruiting class was always going to be lighter on highly rated prospects, but it’s going to be on Fisch to take players whom he views as talented with upside and mold them into major college contributors.

Q: Best guess on where 2023 Arizona basketball recruiting rankings end up?

A: Currently, Tommy Lloyd and Arizona basketball are headed toward a top-five national 2023 high school basketball class.

With 5-star guards Kylan Boswell and KJ Lewis already in the fold, there is a sense of confidence that top-five national power forward Kwame Evans Jr. is next. With Tommy Lloyd in attendance, Evans dominated this past week at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, and all signs point to a July or August commitment from Evans.

Recruiting is a very fluid process, but Arizona likes where it stands with Evans.

Arizona would love to finish out the class with a commitment from Cody Williams, a top-50 wing for 2023 out of Perry High School in Gilbert. There isn’t much information on the programs Williams is looking at, but Arizona generally signs the in-state kids it prioritizes.

Q: You mentioned that you thought 2022-23 could be Adia’s best team at Arizona. Can you elaborate?

I’m not saying that Arizona will end the season one shot away from winning the national title, but this should be her deepest team.

Last year’s squad had too much roster filler and not nearly enough scoring, which led to an entire roster overhaul with new talent like McDonald’s All-American post Maya Nnaji and top-30 guards Paris Clark and Kailyn Gilbert.

Then Barnes pulled off the ultimate coup by raiding ASU of Jade Loville, their 17 points-per-game scorer, to combine with the double-digit scoring of Oklahoma State transfer-guard Lauren Fields and West Virginia forward Esmery Martinez.

Combine these additions with a returning nucleus of point guard Shaina Pellington, leading scorer Cate Reese and developing center Lauren Ware, and this is the most talented roster that Barnes has had since being at Arizona.

It might take a while, but this team is going to be a major problem come March Madness.

Follow Mike Luke on Twitter

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