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Ayton dominates as Arizona gets by UCLA in OT


during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildcats won 78-67 in overtime.

Ethan Miller

When you list out what Arizona has gone through this season, it’s pretty remarkable.

An assistant coach arrested. A preseason broken foot for one of its best players. The fall from No. 2 to out of the rankings after a three-game losing streak. A(nother) failed drug test for a star. The head coach alleged to be on a wiretap talking about a six-figure payment to secure a player. A federal probe ever-present.

It’s a striking list, isn’t it?

Chaos has been the constant for the Wildcats. Well, chaos and Deandre Ayton being awesome.

The Arizona big man put up another monster performance, posting 32 points and 14 rebounds, on Friday as the Wildcats outlasted UCLA in overtime, 78-67, to advance to Saturday’s Pac-12 tournament title game.

Jalen Brunson or Trae Young might be your pick to be national player of the year, but Ayton is a singular force in the game. He’s clearly the best NBA draft prospect in college - given we really haven’t seen Michael Porter, Jr. but for one game.

It’s hard to call Ayton underrated or undervalued given he’s at the top of most draft boards, a consensus All-American and the best player on a top-20 team, but it just seems like the level of excitement about him and for him by the sport at large is muted when compared to his outsized frame and game.

He’s averaging 19.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 62.7 percent on 2-pointers and a respectable 34.4 percent on 32 3-point attempts. And he’s doing it all as 19-year-old with David Robinson’s physique. He moves as well as any player of his size that I can remember.

Whether it’s that he’s playing on the west coast, a conference that is “power” in name only or often on a network that seems more myth than reality, Ayton seems to have flown under the radar a bit, or at least as much as a 7-foot-1 beast can.

Maybe it’s just because there’s been so dang much other stuff to talk about when it comes to Arizona. Talking about a dominant big man is fun, but it’s not as interesting as a coach getting arrested, a failed PED test or a freaking federal wiretap.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Arizona. I mean, look at that list. Just don’t forget to make sure Ayton is on it, too. At the top.