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Mailbag: Answering your Arizona basketball questions

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Salt Lake City Practice Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Miller was supposed to take questions from the local media Tuesday at his weekly press conference, but he is sick so it was postponed until Wednesday.

Therefore, I decided it would be a good time to answer your questions about the Arizona Wildcats that you sent me on Twitter.

Here are the best ones. (If you still have a question that you would like answered, write it in the comment section below and I will try my best to answer it.)

@PolishVision: Could we be seeing a repeat of a few seasons past when the regular season conference champ is not invited to the NCAA Tournament because they lose in the conference tournament?

I believe the Pac-12 is a one- or two-bid league this year. One bid if the regular-season champion also wins the conference tournament. Two bids if it does not.

I can buy the one-bid theory, though. A team like Washington did not have a single impressive win in non-conference play, so I think it is entirely possible that they miss the NCAA Tournament if they, say, win the regular-season championship but lose in their conference tournament opener.

The one thing Arizona has going for it is a win over Iowa State, albeit the Cyclones were without a couple key players. Arizona State can say the same with its wins over Kansas and Mississippi State.

@AllonKessell: Does the departure of Emmanuel Akot open up another scholarship for next year that will be filled this spring?

Not necessarily. Akot’s departure means Arizona is now right at the 13-scholarship limit for 2019-20 or still one over if you include Jake DesJardins in the total. (I do not include DesJardins because I do not think he will be on scholarship next season.)

What Akot’s exit does mean, though, is that Arizona is only one more transfer or NBA Draft departure away from having an open roster spot that it could use to add someone like Santa Clara transfer KJ Feagin.

Which brings me to this next question...

@jodiss21: Who else do you think could transfer from the team this year?

Well, you have to start with the guys who aren’t playing much this season, and don’t have an obvious path to playing time in future seasons.

To me, that makes Alex Barcello a prime transfer candidate. His playing time has increased a bit lately, but he is still only averaging 8.5 minutes per game as a sophomore, which is a minute fewer than he averaged as a freshman.

Arizona will lose Justin Coleman after this season, but add Nico Mannion, Terry Armstrong, and Josh Green to its backcourt, and it is hard to imagine Barcello playing over any of those guys. Not to mention Brandon Williams should be back for another year, serving as the point guard when Mannion is off the floor.

Devonaire Doutrive and Dylan Smith are in a similar position as Barcello, so those are two other guys to watch. Smith, especially, because he is in his fourth year of college, meaning he might be able to classify as a graduate transfer depending how far along he is with his coursework.

Brandon Randolph could be a sneaky transfer candidate too if he thinks he will lose his starting job and/or significant playing time to someone like Green or Armstrong.

@bigshotrob22: What do you think the impact of Book Richardson pleading guilty will have on the program? Also how soon?

I think the punishment will be minor. Richardson pled guilty to accepting bribes to steer UA players to certain managers or financial advisers once they turned pro. He did not plead guilty to the accusations that he paid recruits to attend Arizona, which would have been the most damning charge from an NCAA perspective.

I think it is possible Arizona goes entirely unpunished since Sean Miller was not implicated in the federal investigation. However, NCAA rules do say that head coaches are responsible for the actions of their assistants unless they can “rebut the presumption of responsibility” so that might be too wishful of thinking.

@hemauer_carol: How is Chase Jeter doing?

We will find out more on Wednesday. The prognosis seemed positive after the Oregon State game, as Miller was hopeful Jeter would play Thursday against USC, saying he suffered back spasms rather than a “disc injury.”

One thing is for sure: Arizona sorely needs Jeter to be available in Los Angeles. While neither USC nor UCLA are good this season, they both have solid big men and would be favored against the Jeter-less Wildcats. The Duke transfer is not only Arizona’s best player, he is irreplaceable because UA lacks frontcourt depth.

And needless to say that Arizona does not have a lot of room for error, so it needs to avoid a sweep on this trip if it wants to reach the NCAA Tournament.

@J_Vasquez_93: Is the UofA the only school to have a Super Bowl MVP (Nick Foles) and a NBA Finals MVP (Andre Iguodala)?

No. There aren’t many others, but I know UCLA and Kansas have had both as well.

@Coach_Kain: When will Daniel Berk (Arizona basketball’s sports information director) get promoted to the coaching staff?

Hopefully soon. Still searching for its first Final Four appearance since 2001, Arizona needs some championship pedigree on its coaching staff to get over that hump, and Berk can supply it. Legend has it that, as a high schooler, he coached a team at the Jewish community center to a league championship.

Plus, as Arizona basketball’s SID, he has had an up-close seat to every UA game this season. Being the savant that he is, you have to assume he has absorbed a thing or two about the game. Then again, his coaching history suggests he already knows everything there is to know.

After all, Berk attended the University of Kansas and probably learned from Dr. James Naismith himself.

Bonus football question from @AZCATSFAN5: Does DeMarco Murray get Bijan Robinson to Arizona?

I don’t think so. The Salpointe running back has offers from bluebloods like Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Oklahoma, and it is hard to imagine him turning down opportunities like that to play for Arizona, even though he is from Tucson and his dad is an alumnus. The Pac-12 is not exactly an appealing conference to play in these days, marred by small crowds, unfavorable kickoff times, and, let’s face it, subpar competition.

I’m sure Murray’s star power helps Arizona’s chances of landing Robinson, but not to the point where it makes them the school to beat. But, man, it would be a heck of a coup if the Wildcats can land Robinson. He would be the school’s most hyped football recruit in a long, long time.