Nov 7, 2022 - Sports

Cats look to build on Lloyd's stellar first year

University of Arizona men's basketball coach Tommy Lloyd holds up a Pac-12 conference championship trophy

Arizona Wildcats head coach Tommy Lloyd. Photo: Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats' unofficial slogan is "Just wait until basketball season," and that wait is over.

  • UofA opens the season Monday night at McKale Center against Nicholls State University.

State of play: In his first season as the Wildcats' head coach last school year, Tommy Lloyd wildly exceeded expectations, racking up a 33-4 record, winning the Pac-12 regular season and conference tournament titles, and earning a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

  • That'll be a tough act to follow for the Wildcats, who head into the new season ranked at 17th nationally.
  • Lloyd has some big shoes to fill after losing three starters to the NBA, including leading scorer Bennedict Mathurin and big man Christian Koloko, the team's top rebounder.

What we're watching: All eyes are on junior forward Azuolas Tubelis, the team's top returning player, who averaged 13.9 points per game and 6.2 rebounds last year.

  • Tubelis skipped playing for the Lithuanian national team in the U20 European Championship over the summer so he could stay in Tucson and train for the new season after a disappointing March Madness performance.
  • Oumar Ballo, who did a solid job backing up Koloko last season, may also have a strong season in store as Lloyd's new starting center.
  • Lloyd got a big addition in the offseason with senior guard Courtney Ramey, who transferred from the University of Texas.

Between the lines: "I think we always want to be physical," Lloyd told the Arizona Daily Star, discussing the team's loss to Houston in last season's tournament. "I think we were physical last year. It's just at the end, we played the most physical team."

1 big difference: Say what you will about the unmet expectations of the Sean Miller era — and Jeremy has had plenty to say over the years — losing him as head coach means the Cats lost his top-notch recruiting prowess.

  • Rivals.com ranked UofA as the 37th best recruiting class of this upcoming season, and 247sports ranked the class at 41st in the country, while Miller routinely attracted top 10 recruiting classes.
  • Yes, but: Recruiting only gets you so far. Miller's stellar classes never got him to a Final Four.

Go deeper: ASU basketball hopes new blood will spur a bounce-back season

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