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Their world turned upside down, Arizona Wildcats charter bus home to Tucson
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Their world turned upside down, Arizona Wildcats charter bus home to Tucson

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UA starters huddle near midcourt during Saturday’s game against Washington in McKale Center. The two teams play again Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.

LAS VEGAS – Instead of playing a Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal game with USC on Thursday afternoon, the Arizona Wildcats will take a long bus ride home to Tucson with their season over.

“The past 24 hours have felt like a bad dream,” UA freshman guard Nico Mannion tweeted.

The Pac-12 announced at 9:17 a.m. Thursday that the remainder of the conference tournament games would be cancelled, forcing the Wildcats to take a bus ride home instead of charter flights they had lined up for Friday and Saturday nights.

Four hours later, the NCAA also cancelled the entire NCAA Tournament as well as the remainder of winter and spring sports, meaning the Wildcats' season will end at 21-11.

“We were getting ready to have a walk-through (game preparation) when the official word came out that we weren’t going to play" in the Pac-12 Tournament, said Ryan Reynolds, UA’s director of basketball operations. "We had a quick team meeting and then the guys went to eat breakfast. A lot of them have been hanging out with their families. It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen as far as the NCAA Tournament.”

With a win over Washington in the first round Wednesday, the Wildcats appeared to secure an at-large bid but now won't get a chance to play it out, as will any of the other 67 would-be invitees.

So the focus quickly went to just getting home, whether by bus or plane.

Because the Wildcats couldn’t hold too many charter options beforehand, they had reserved tentative spots on Friday night, in case they lost Thursday or Friday, and on Saturday, in case they reached the championship game. But a charter could not be arranged on a last-minute basis Thursday.

However, Reynolds said the Pac-12 was able to redirect the bus the Wildcats were taking to T-Mobile Arena to go all the way back to McKale Center.

“Although Tucson isn’t a close drive, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility,” Reynolds said. “It was just a matter of getting a driver who could do it.”

Several of the Wildcats were not expected to travel with the team back anyway, since UA is on spring break and several players are from Southern Nevada (Chase Jeter and Jake DesJardins) or Southern California (Jemarl Baker, Ira Lee, Max Hazzard, Stone Gettings).

Reynolds said it was difficult to tell if the Wildcats would hold practices anytime soon, or what their next step.

Like everyone else in the sports world thes days, they were on hold. With a long bus ride through the desert to think about it.

“At the end of the day I think they want to do what’s right for everyone,” Reynolds said of the decision=makers behind college basketball events. “Especially for the student-athletes, it would be a terrible thing if a whole bunch of them got it.”

Contact sports reporter Bruce Pascoe at 573-4146 or bpascoe@tucson.com. On Twitter @brucepascoe

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