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How will the new NCAA basketball rules affect Arizona?

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NCAA Basketball: New Mexico at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA unveiled wide-sweeping changes to college basketball on Wednesday, and we highlighted the most important ones here.

Since this is an Arizona Wildcats website, let’s take a look at how they might be affected by these changes.

Undrafted players can return to school, which means there is little downside to declaring

Underclassmen are now allowed to return to school if they go undrafted, so there is very little downside to declaring anymore.*

If you declare and don’t get selected, you can sign as undrafted free agent or just go back to school. If you declare and do get picked, congrats, you’re in the NBA.

College coaches may not be too fond of the new rule, since they likely won’t know whether a declaring underclassman is returning or departing until the NBA Draft concludes. And schools will probably have to hold a scholarship spot for those players in the event of a return, potentially causing some messy roster crunches late in the summer.

Arizona has had several underclassmen go undrafted in recent years — Rawle Alkins, Allonzo Trier, Chance Comanche, Kobi Simmons, and Brandon Ashley — so you wonder how things would have been different if this new rule change was in place when they declared.

Would Alkins, Trier, Comanche, and/or Simmons still be at the UA? Maybe, though probably not. None of those guys were really on the fence when they declared, and three of them signed two-way contracts, which are pretty solid deals.

Besides, there are other rule changes that encourage players to go pro.

For one, Division I schools will be required to pay for tuition, fees and books for players who left school and returned later to the same school to earn their degree.

For another, agents can now cover costs for players to go through the pre-draft process, even if those players are still leaving the door open to a return to school. (Though the player would have to terminate his relationship with the agent if he chooses to return to college.)

*-One interpretation of the new rule is that only players who attend the NBA Combine will be able to return to school. If that’s the case, only a few players each year will be subject to these changes. Comanche, for instance, did not participate in the combine so he would not have been able to return to school.

FBI findings can be used to punish Arizona

Here is the big rule that could be damning for Arizona:

“People charged with investigating and resolving NCAA cases can accept information established by another administrative body, including a court of law, government agency, accrediting body or a commission authorized by a school.”

That means any infractions uncovered in the FBI investigation are punishable by the NCAA.

To recap: The federal complaint says former UA assistant coach Book Richardson took money from a sports agency and bribed a recruit to attend Arizona, which is an NCAA violation.

Another new rule says school presidents and chancellors will be “personally accountable” for their athletics program following the rules.

While UA president Robert C. Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke weren’t working for the school when the alleged infractions occurred, they have been outspoken in their support of Sean Miller.

Perhaps under these new rules, administrators might not be as willing to back their head coaches if there is any inkling of wrongdoing, knowing they can face NCAA punishments of their own.

Miller was never personally mentioned in the complaint, but NCAA rules state “a head coach is presumed responsible for major/Level I and Level II violations (e.g. academic fraud, recruiting inducements) occurring within his or her program unless the coach can show that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff.”

More recruiting visitors

Recruits are now allowed to take up to 15 official visits, which is three times as many as before, over a two-year span. Meanwhile, schools are allowed to host up to 28 official visitors in a two-year span.

Previously there was no limit — schools hosted as many official visits as they could afford — but Arizona only hosted seven official visitors in 2018 and nine in 2017, per 247Sports, so we might see a jump in those figures moving forward.

In general, this change seems to benefit top-tier basketball schools that are able to afford to host so many visitors. Not to mention it gives them more opportunities to show off their facilities and deliver recruiting pitches, so you might need to be scanning the crowd at McKale Center for more recruits.