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The question is both utterly simple and yet filled with layer upon layer of complications:

What now for Arizona basketball?

On Thursday night, Sean Miller's Arizona Wildcats – one of the most talented teams in the nation, ranked No. 3 in the preseason, with a transcendent freshman in Deandre Ayton, who may be the No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft – lost to the 13-seeded Buffalo Bulls 89-68 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

But this wasn't just a loss. This was a 21-point beatdown of a team that was a trendy Final Four pick as a four-seed. This was the fourth-largest point differential in NCAA Tournament history in an upset of a No. 4 seed by a No. 13 seed.

The most shocking upset in Thursday's NCAA tournament games could be explained by a number of things: That Buffalo made 15 of its 30 3-point attempts while Arizona made 2 of 18 from beyond the arc. That Buffalo's guard play and pressure defense got to Arizona early and often. That Sean Miller flat-out got outcoached by Nate Oats. Or the most damning explanation of all: That Buffalo played twice as hard as Arizona, and that it was Buffalo, not Arizona, who clearly wanted it more.

"They really took it to us," Miller said afterward. "They beat us hands down from start to finish."

No matter the explanation, here is where Arizona basketball stands today:

  • The Wildcats wasted the rare opportunity of a once-in-a-generation talent in Ayton, plus a handful of talented supporting pieces in seniors Dusan Ristic and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, junior Allonzo Trier, and sophomore Rawle Alkins. Those opportunities don't come around for programs, even the elite programs, all that often. When Arizona had this golden opportunity, the Wildcats bowed out in the first round.
  • The coach's right-hand man, Book Richardson, who has worked under Miller for more than a decade, is facing federal prison for his part in the ongoing FBI fraud investigation that was revealed in September.
  • The coach is wrapped up in it too, after a February report by ESPN that alleged Miller was caught on wiretap with Christian Dawkins, a runner for agent Andy Miller, discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the commitment of Ayton. (The report has been disputed fiercely by Miller, and ESPN has issued several corrections about the timeline. But the fact remains that this was reported by a reputable reporter at a reputable journalistic institution, and ESPN continues to stand by its work.)
  • And next season Miller and the Wildcats are looking at a decimated roster. In the wake of the FBI investigation and the wiretap report, all three members of Arizona's well-regarded 2018 recruiting class decommitted: Point guard Jahvon Quinerly left for Villanova. Big man Shareef O'Neal – son of Shaq – left for conference rival UCLA. And point guard Brandon Williams decommitted but hasn't named another school.

Arizona currently has six players expected to be on its 2018-19 roster, with zero commitments from recruits. I can't imagine Miller will be able to land any of the few high-level recruits that are left this late in the game, not with this cloud hanging over the program. Perhaps he'll hit the transfer market. But even that is a fraught path. I would imagine that the experience of Damion Lee and Trey Lewis – two graduate transfers who came to Louisville for the 2015-16 season only to have their one shot at playing in an NCAA Tournament stripped away from them when Louisville self-imposed an NCAA Tournament ban in the wake of the stripper scandal – is fresh in the minds of upcoming transfers.

I don't know if Miller's job will be safe. But I do know that Arizona's road forward looks extraordinarily difficult. Perhaps this is karma coming at Miller for running a dirty program. Perhaps this is utterly unfair to Miller, and that he's completely innocent. Or perhaps he's just a regular actor in a corrupt system – just the unlucky one who got caught.

I'm not going to pretend to know the answer there. I'll leave that up to the FBI and the NCAA.

But Thursday evening had a feeling of some sort of ending. Maybe just an ending of a great chapter in Arizona basketball history, but when the page turns, another great chapter will soon come. Or maybe it's something more than that: That Sean Miller had one last shot at shedding the title of best coach to not make a Final Four, and now that this team squandered that opportunity, he'll be cast out into the darkness of college basketball for a while.

"In terms of my emotions, I'm not going to change," Miller said in the postgame press conference. "Taking things one day at a time. Obviously this is a tough day. We have to move forward."

But for Arizona, moving forward will not be as easy after this season as it has after past seasons.