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How Arizona basketball is affected by Pac-12 postponing sports until January

Gonzaga v Arizona Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The Pac-12 not only followed the Big Ten’s lead in postponing fall sports, they took it a step further by postponing all sports until January 2021 due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Yes, that even means even college basketball is impacted by the announcement. Here’s what it means for the Arizona Wildcats.

The non-conference season has been blown up

Arizona’s non-conference season, which typically runs from November through December, has effectively been cancelled.

That’s a shame because it was supposed to include some marquee road games against Gonzaga and Illinois, as well as the NIT Season Tip-Off, which featured Texas Tech, St. John’s and Cincinnati.

And not only are those games gone, a pair of Pac-12 games are in jeopardy too. Remember, this is the first year the Pac-12 is transitioning to a 20-game conference schedule. Arizona was supposed to host Colorado on Dec. 2 and travel to Stanford on Dec. 19 before beginning the traditional conference schedule in January.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday that the league is reassessing the scheduling model and the one it settles on could depend on what the NCAA does with March Madness.

Matt Norlander of CBS Sports is reporting that the Big Ten is bracing for a January, conference-only start, which seems like the same path the Pac-12 is on.

Presumably, that’d mean March Madness would remain as scheduled, as opposed to being delayed so that some non-conference games can be squeezed into the regular season.

But who’s to say contact sports will even be safe by then? A January start date is the best-case scenario, but in no way a sure thing.

Maybe they’ll go pro?

It’s not too late for underclassmen to change their mind about the NBA Draft. The early-entry withdrawal deadline is Aug. 17.

However, none of Arizona’s draft-eligible players—Brandon Williams, Jordan Brown, Jemarl Baker Jr., James Akinjo, Ira Lee, Christian Koloko and Terrell Brown—declared, so you don’t have to worry about them.

But incoming international freshmen like Kerr Kriisa, Daniel Batcho and Azuolas Tubelis could opt to play professionally overseas, where they will likely be able to suit up sooner than January. All three turned down pro contracts to join the Wildcats. It’s worth noting that Batcho and Tubelis have not reported to campus yet.

But, really, the biggest player movement is more likely to come from Arizona’s rivals. Guys who recently withdrew from the draft like Remy Martin (ASU), Chris Smith (UCLA) and McKinley Wright IV (Colorado) may want to reconsider. Maybe even someone like Ziaire Williams decides to sign a lucrative deal in the G League instead of attending Stanford.

The 2020-21 NBA season is on track to start in December and is far more likely to be played than the college season.

Workouts and practices are unaffected...for now

Most of Arizona’s players reported this week to begin on-campus workouts, and Scott said those will still be permitted on a school-by-school basis. UA athletic director Dave Heeke has since affirmed that the plan indeed is to continue returning its athletes, testing them, and allowing them to train for their upcoming seasons.

That is good news for someone like Koloko, who was frustrated about being stuck at home with limited workout equipment for the last several months.

The first day of practice is usually sometime in late September, and the Pac-12 has not postponed that yet. Only games have been banned.

Arizona has more newcomers than returners, so a delayed season could actually help them be more in sync when/if the season rolls around.