Arizona hopes Brandon Ashley is back at 100 percent by August

Brandon Ashley was injured mid-game of what would become Zona's first loss last year. (USATSI)

Arizona fans are no doubt thrilled that next season, potentially, could be as good as the last one.

And it's likely plenty are still wondering what could have been. Sean Miller's group rightfully played its way to a No. 1 seed, but fell in dramatic fashion -- in one of the best games of the 2014 tournament -- to second-seeded Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.

If do-it-all forward Brandon Ashley is on the floor in that game, instead of rehabbing an injured foot injury, maybe it's not as close. Maybe Arizona wins. Maybe Arizona gets to the Final Four -- and who knows what happens from there.

But the Wildcats will have Ashley back next season, in addition to a few more veterans. And newcomer/stud freshman shooting guard Stanley Johnson. They look really good. We've got them ranked No. 3 heading into the fall. So long as Ashley is past the mend and in the mix.

Coach Sean Miller, who will work with Team USA's Under 18 team next week, gave an update to the media this week on Ashley's recovery. Turns out the Wildcats junior will be on campus this summer for classes and is expected to be playing at full force by August.

“He’s a little bit over four months (since his Feb. 1 injury) and this four months really was about healing,” Miller said, "really allowing everything to take shape, to stay off it. The one thing he’s doing is he’s started to walk under water. He has less and less soreness; it’s not pain anymore.
“We look at June, July, August as being pivotal. At that point we would like to see him return to form and be out there. He’s been in a difficult situation of taking it slow. It’s not easy just to do nothing.
“He’s lifting weights and when he comes back he’s going to be on a mission to returning back to five-on-five fullcourt. And once he does that we have to be smart making sure we push him and yet not push him too much. But so far so good with Brandon. We expect a full recovery, not only here but allowing him to leave Arizona and have a long career beyond.”

The right kind of words from Miller at this point. Even without a healthy Ashley it would be fair to have Arizona in the top 10 somehwere. But with him, they're a true title contender.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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