No. 19 Arizona preps for Stanford without Miller (Feb 28, 2018)
Arizona heads into Thursday night's game against Stanford with a chance to become the Pac-12 Conference regular-season champion. However, that could end up being only the third or fourth bullet point after the game should it happen.
For starters, it remains unclear whether Arizona (22-7, 12-4 Pac-12) is still Sean Miller's team.
The ninth-year head coach has not been with the Wildcats this week after a report surfaced late Friday that claimed he was recorded by FBI wiretaps discussing a $100,000 payment to star freshman Deandre Ayton.
Representatives for Ayton and his family have disputed the report and Miller put out a statement Saturday claiming he is confident he will be "vindicated" as the school goes through its investigation into the matter.
Arizona associate head coach Lorenzo Romar, who is in his first season with the program after spending 15 years as Washington's head coach, was tasked with leading the team in its 98-93 overtime loss to Oregon on Saturday night.
Romar has been leading practices for the 19th-ranked Wildcats as they prepare for Stanford and Cal this week at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz., in what has become a day-by-day process for Arizona with Miller not being around this week.
"It's just a situation that was tough," Romar said about going through one game without Miller at the helm. " ... I don't think we've gone out and done anything without him there, his presence. So it's tough, but again I thought our guys were phenomenal in how we came out and began that game."
The expectation is that Romar will again coach the team Thursday while the team awaits a decision by Arizona's administration on Miller's future.
Ayton was cleared to play in Saturday's game and finished as the team leader with 28 points and 18 rebounds.
It has been a turbulent week for the players, but with plenty still to play for the focus remains on continuing to try and win games.
"It's obviously difficult," Jackson-Cartwright said. " ... I'm a senior and I've been battle tested. I have experience, and my job as a leader of this team is to make sure myself and the rest of the team is ready to play regardless of who's coaching.
"We have a job as players, and that job is to come out and play extremely hard for the name on the front our jersey. If we do that, we'll be fine."
Stanford (16-13, 10-6) heads into Thursday's game with three straight wins and in third place in the Pac-12 with positioning within the conference's postseason tournament still on the line.
Big man Reid Travis, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the last meeting, leads the Cardinal with 19.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Arizona is not expected to have standout guard Allonzo Trier on Thursday night as he remains ineligible after it was determined he failed an NCAA drug test for a banned substance last month.
The Wildcats could also again be without freshman power forward Ira Lee, who continues to sit out practice while recovering from a concussion.