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Arizona Wildcats mailbag: On Brandon Williams, Kevin Sumlin, basketball’s best player, and more

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 17 Oregon at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Mailbag Monday! You asked us questions about the Arizona Wildcats on Twitter and we answered them below. To participate next time, make sure to follow us on Twitter at @AZDesertSwarm and me at @RKelapire.

Ryan Kelapire: Any update on Brandon Williams?

I wanted to find a way to address this and I’m surprised no one asked about B-Will, so I went ahead and did it myself.

It was notable that Williams was the only scholarship player Sean Miller did not reference in his recent 37-minute interview with Brian Jeffries—especially since Miller also said that Arizona could be adding one or two more recruits to the 2020 class. The latter is only possible if someone transfers or, gulp, medically retires.

But the last time Miller did give an update on Williams‘ knee, he seemed pretty optimistic, saying in March that Williams is “doing great” and that “his surgery was successful, I think his rehab has been equally successful, and I think he’s on the right track to return to the court.”

So it’s probably safe to stay in wait-and-see mode.

@BeardownBenson: What are the obstacles with recruiting higher-ranked players to our program? Are rumors about Kevin Sumlin getting fired stopping them from considering us? Are rumors that President Robbins has his nose in the program hurting us? How much does a half empty stadium on a visit sway a recruit?

You hit on some of the reasons Arizona is struggling to recruit. To me, the three things that are hurting UA’s program the most are:

  • Having three losing seasons in the last four years (including two straight under Sumlin)
  • Poor attendance/fan support (Who can blame fans for not wanting to go to games when the team is bad and the kickoff times are super late?)
  • Being the only school in the Pac-12 to not produce an NFL draft pick. (Recruits want to go somewhere that they feel can prepare them for the next level.)

At this point, Arizona’s best selling point is playing time and the university as a whole. The recruiting struggles are certainly a concern since part of the appeal of hiring Sumlin was his track record as a recruiter.

Yet, here’s how Arizona’s classes have ranked in 247Sports composite during his tenure:

  • 2020: 61st in the nation, 12th in the Pac-12
  • 2019: 55th in the nation, 11th in the Pac-12
  • 2018: 61st in the nation, 11th in the Pac-12 (mostly Rich Rodriguez’s recruits)

@jake_pyatt: What, if anything, would have to happen this upcoming season for Sumlin to get fired?

I think 6-6 would be enough for Sumlin to get another year if Arizona is competitive in almost every game and the young players—Grant Gunnell, Bobby Wolfe, Boobie Curry, Christian Roland-Wallace, etc.—play well and illustrate that the program is heading in the right direction. You’d have to give Sumlin a chance to build on that in 2021.

But if 2020 goes like 2019 and 2018, then Sumlin’s seat will be blazing hot entering the offseason. Then again, the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis could complicate things since paying a coach millions of dollars to go away just might not be feasible anymore. Sumlin’s buyout in 2020 is $5 million and it drops to $3 million in 2021.

@AZWildcat4Life: Who will be the best player on the men’s basketball team next year?

I’m leaning toward Jordan Brown, who will pretty clearly be the go-to guy in the post unless Daniel Batcho emerges. That just isn’t the right role for Christian Koloko and Ira Lee. Miller expects Brown to be a double-figure scorer, and I could see him averaging somewhere from 12 to 15 PPG while also being Arizona’s top rebounder.

That might seem like a lofty goal since Brown wasn’t much of a factor in his lone season at Nevada, but he was a McDonald’s All-American for a reason and this time he’ll get plenty of playing time.

@beardown_UofA: Is Arizona basketball a top-25 team?

I wouldn’t rank them in the Top 25 right now. They have way too many question marks, like James Akinjo’s eligibility, Brandon Williams’ health and the overall unprovenness (is that a word?) of the roster.

@dirk_gunz: What’s the status of Jason Terry and the assistant coaching position?

A university-wide hiring freeze because of the coronavirus crisis is likely what’s preventing it from becoming official.

@andyroche16: Batting order prediction for softball? And could there be a competition for who is the No. 2 pitcher?

I can’t imagine Hanah Bowen or one of the freshmen overtaking Mariah Lopez or Alyssa Denham in the rotation. The UA coaching staff tends to go with the experienced arms and Lopez and Denham have already proven to be one of the top duos in the country.

What you might see is a true No. 3 emerge. In 2020, Lopez and Denham pitched more than 90 percent of Arizona’s innings. That’s too many.

As far as the batting order goes, this is my early prediction:

  1. Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, CF
  2. Reyna Carranco, 2B
  3. Jessie Harper, SS
  4. Dejah Mulipola, C
  5. Malia Martinez, 3B
  6. Carlie Scupin, 1B
  7. Sharlize Palacios, DP
  8. Peanut Martinez, LF
  9. Bella Dayton, RF

Those last three spots were tough to decipher. There are so many other options Arizona can roll with.