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Arizona Wildcats mailbag: On NBA Draft decisions, Sean Miller’s future, throwback uniforms, wide receivers, and more

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Gonzaga v Arizona Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

It’s a slow news day in the world of the Arizona Wildcats, so we let our readers dictate our coverage today by answering their Twitter questions. We got a lot of good ones, so we might do another mailbag so we can address them all.

For now, enjoy these answers and feel free to continue tweeting your questions at us at @AZDesertSwarm and/or @RKelapire.

@lloydamiller: Will Josh Green and Nico Mannion actually declare for the draft and if so, why have they not done so yet?

I fully expect both to declare for the NBA Draft. The deadline to enter isn’t until April 26, and with there being a limited pre-draft process this year due to the coronavirus, there is no rush to make it a formality. Plus, if you noticed with Zeke Nnaji, he had already picked an agent by the time he declared. Finding the right representation also takes time—and could take even longer this year with this whole social distancing thing.

That said, I talked to one plugged-in person who felt like Mannion—who’s been sliding down draft boards—could benefit from another year of college in order to add strength and prove his shooting is better than he showed as a freshman.

Green, according to that same person, should declare without hesitation, as his defense and transition scoring can get him on the floor immediately at the NBA level.

@AdamLerner28: What does Sean Miller have to do next season to keep his job—is Sweet Sixteen enough? So far next year’s outlook is bleak.

This is not based on any inside information, but I do think the coronavirus crisis could have saved Miller’s job, particularly if Arizona had lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

I’ve said it at least a dozen times on here, but the fact Arizona has only won two NCAA Tournament games since the end of the 2014-15 season—and both came in 2016-17—is unacceptable for a program of Arizona’s caliber.

So I think Arizona at least has to win one NCAA Tournament game in 2020-21 to even consider retaining Miller. If the Wildcats win two, then you have to bring him back since most of that roster would be returning the next season, and you have to give it a chance to build on that momentum.

@KevinRo865575658: If Sean gets gone, bring in Damon Stoudamire?

A year ago I wouldn’t have considered Stoudamire a legitimate candidate because he was too inexperienced and hadn’t had a winning season at Pacific. But he did a terrific job at Pacific this season, winning a national coach of the year award, and obviously his ties to the UA would appeal to the fan base.

At minimum, Stoudamire has earned the right to interview whenever Arizona has an opening. Still, as we saw with the way the administration botched the football hiring process, you have to hire the best candidate, not just the one that pleases the fan base or players.

@d_rok37: Any news on whether football will be going back to their throwback uniforms?

Not yet, but I found it interesting that the team was wearing the throwback helmets during spring practice. And they did wear those in the season finale against ASU, so I imagine those will be in the rotation this year if not the primary helmet.

We’ll see if the rest of the uniform follows. It better. The throwbacks are SO much better than anything Nike has been able to cook up.

@AZCATSFAN5: Who will be the top receivers this season, if there is one? My bet is Boobie Curry, then Jamarye Joiner.

I’d say Joiner then Curry. Joiner was already Arizona’s No. 1 receiver last year and should only get better in his second year at the position, assuming the foot injury he’s dealing with is a non-factor. Curry will benefit immensely from his rapport with his former high school quarterback Grant Gunnell, no doubt.

Also watch for Brian Casteel and Tayvian Cunningham. They could see a big uptick in their production with a more accurate QB and a pass-first offense that thrives on quick completions. Both are great at creating yards after the catch.

@pmpaz65: If kept intact, does the combination of Khalil Tate, Rod Smith and Rich Rodriguez win 16 games and at least one bowl across 2018-2019. True or false?

False. Arizona’s defense allowed 30.4 points per game in Rodriguez’s final season, and yielded 38 or more points in four of the last five games.

Arizona’s defense would have had to improve significantly in 2018 and 2019 to win 16 games over that two-year span, and I’m not sure how that would have happened since Arizona wasn’t recruiting well and many of the same players would have been back.

What you have to remember is during that four-game winning streak where Tate went nuclear, Arizona won two of those games by three points or less. Basically, if he hadn’t been putting up video-game numbers, they lose—and probably lose big.

And Tate only rushed for 118 yards over his last three games that year, a sign that teams were finally starting to figure out how to stop his ground game. And with that shoddy defense, any kind of offensive regression would have made for a difficult season in 2018. Same with 2019.

Not including a bowl game, I think Arizona wins 12 or 13 games in those two seasons with Rich Rod, provided that Tate stayed healthy, a big question mark

@Austin_Molina10: How would the baseball and softball seasons have ended?

The Pac-12 was much-improved this year in softball because Oregon was almost back to its usual self after being ravaged by transfers the year prior, and I’m disappointed we didn’t get to see how Arizona would have fared. A Pac-12 championship was definitely a possibility.

But I have little doubt Arizona softball would have finished in the top-8 nationally and hosted a Super Regional. I am less confident that they would have cruised through Regionals and Supers like they did in 2019 because their offense wasn’t quite as prolific as the previous year.

And had Arizona reached the Women’s College World Series again, that would have been the biggest question mark: Could Arizona have scored enough against elite pitching?

As for Arizona baseball, that team is impossible to predict. One week, it lost at home to Rhode Island, the next it beat Texas on the road. One week, the bats would be on fire, the next they’d go ice cold. The pitching was just as inconsistent, though clearly better than the previous year. Hiring Nate Yeskie from Oregon State was a great move.

So if I had to make a prediction, I think Arizona would have snuck into the NCAA Tournament but had its season end in Regionals.

@_JarredHolland_: As a “relatively” new UofA fan (since I started attending in 2017), what past UofA teams (any sport) should I look up, watch, and learn about?

Some that come to mind immediately (keep in mind I started following UA sports in the 2000s):

  • 2013-14 Arizona basketball (best defense in the country by a long shot)
  • 2005 Arizona basketball (just skip the ending)
  • 2001 Arizona basketball (got robbed of a national title)
  • 2008 Arizona football (first time making a bowl game in 10 years + Gronk!)
  • 2009 Arizona football (If it wasn’t for that Oregon game...)
  • 2014 Arizona football (won the Pac-12 South)
  • 2012 and 2016 Arizona baseball (College World Series title and runner-up)
  • 2006 and 2007 Arizona softball (back-to-back titles)
  • Pretty much every Arizona softball season in the 90s and early 2000s
  • 2015 Arizona soccer (second Sweet Sixteen in program history)