Arizona senior transfer Cedric Henderson, Jr., has never been in the NCAA tournament … until now.
But this was one of the reasons why he chose Arizona after playing at Campbell for four years.
“I can’t wait,” he said on Sunday afternoon after UA was announced as a No. 2 seed in the South and schedule to face Ivy League team Princeton. The game is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. on TNT.
Henderson, a crucial part of Arizona’s run all season, said the last 16 or so hours had been “surreal” and a “dream” in winning the Pac-12 tournament title and now headed to the Big Dance.
“Now we have to get ready for another tournament,” he said. “… we’ll give it our best shot.”
This year – unlike last year – most of this year’s team, save for Henderson, Jr., will have NCAA tournament experience. Last year, Arizona reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed, falling to Houston.
The experience should help Arizona be better or at least more comfortable.
“It helps a lot (because) we have a lot of guys with experience,” said Pelle Larsson. “It’s (about) maturity and patience that the tournament requires and we’ve got that now.”
He later added: “Anytime you have familiarity you feel comfortable the second time around. This group is ready to go.”
Not much is known about Princeton (21-9), although it does have the reputation of methodical, run-its-offense play. But this year, under coach Mitch Henderson, Princeton is averaging 76.4 points and beating opponents by an average of 7.4 points per game.
Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said Princeton’s offense is “a staple of college basketball and teams are running variations of it.”
He said his coaches will start “to dig into” Princeton Sunday night in preparation for Sunday’s game.
“We’ll make no assumptions,” Lloyd said of Princeton’s offense.
Lloyd said he didn’t want to make any assumptions Princeton was still running what gave them success in the past – who can’t remember Princeton beating UCLA in 1996? – but noticed the numbers showed they might not be.
“We’ve played a lot of slower teams,” Lloyd said. “We’ll figure it out.”
Lloyd said he knows being on the road – and in the South region – will be tougher than staying out west, but Arizona is still a No. 2 seed. There had been some thought UA would stay in the west and UCLA would be shipped given Saturday’s result between the two.
“UCLA won the league by four games, I think that carries some weight,” he said. “I’m happy we beat them last night …”
Now, begins the madness of March.