Arizona basketball: On Brandon Ashley's NBA decision and Elliott Pitts' impact

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Ashley told ESPN he's likely to return to Arizona next season, while Elliott Pitts became the surprise off the bench for the Wildcats. A few thoughts on those items and more.

Thoughts and links to Arizona basketball happenings.

  • While visiting his alma mater, ESPN reporter Jeff Goodman got a Dirtbags reference on the SportsCenter lead-in following the game, but he also came out of Tucson with news that Brandon Ashley believes he'll stay another year at Arizona because of his foot injury. I know what you're thinking: Would he even have a shot at the NBA after this season? Had it gone in the direction it seemed, absolutely. Like Aaron Gordon's stock as is and like Derrick Williams' after an Elite Eight run in 2011, the NBA sees potential and will nab it before it grows into production. Goodman reports a few NBA execs saw Ashley as a borderline first-round pick. Now, the interview with Ashley could be skewed because he was hours from receiving a nice ovation from fans at McKale Center and the ZonaZoo, but there's now a lot more risk for him to go pro and no court time for Ashley to move up the draft boards. Next year's team is in a better place by way of a terrible injury.
  • Speaking of which, how much did Ashley's injury hurt Arizona this year? Both Jay Bilas and Goodman still like the Wildcats, but in an ESPN Insider piece, they both believe it takes UA out of the championship discussion. On this site, we had a debate about if Arizona had separated itself as the clear No. 1, and that was back on Dec. 22. The Wildcats clung to the top spot for more than a month after that discussion -- I think UA, Syracuse and Kansas are Elite Eight locks (not Final Four so I give some leeway for upsets) -- but now they fall pack to the pack. The odds are still there for them to make a tournament run, but the room for error has been wiped away.
  • Bruce Pascoe's notes package for today hits on Elliott Pitts first significant action, and the best part of it is that it sounds as if the Wildcats weren't just turning to the freshman swingman against a small-ball Oregon Ducks team. Most notably, Nick Johnson complimented Pitts' defense, and certainly that makes Pitts more deserving of playing time. He looked alert and confident, and he didn't make any obvious mistakes with the ball in his hands. Certainly more playing time will allow for more confidence in his shot, which is supposedly out of this world (then again, so was Jordin Mayes before ... whatever happened there).
  • By the way, Gabe York sort of got lost in the fold against the Ducks, but he put in a solid game with eight points and three assists. That's all the Wildcats need, but I also wouldn't mind even more aggression from a shooter like York.
  • Pascoe's notebook also covers the academic misconduct issues of point guard commit Parker Jackson-Cartwright, which was originally reported by the Los Angeles Times. Sounds like Miller is still going to let the undersized guard play at Arizona, where he could back up T.J. McConnell next season. Who knows what this is about -- could be as simple as cheating off another classmates' test. Not condonable, but also not a sign Jackson-Cartwright is a bad dude.

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