Arizona Basketball

Tommy Lloyd: No cake walks in the NCAA Tournament; hopes team comes out with ‘energy and swag’

Tommy Lloyd, tired but refreshed, is ready for what’s ahead, this time as a head coach and not as a top assistant.

Is his team/program ready, after not playing in the NCAA tournament since 2018?

Yes, it’s been that long, but Arizona – the No. 1 seed in the South – is back and will play, um, either Bryant or Wright State on Friday.

Bryant (22-9) is the Northeast Conference tournament champion and Wright State is the Horizon League tournament winner.

Lloyd said he’ll prepare for each team as Arizona awaits the winner on Friday. What’s clear, after three straight games of tough Pac-12 action enroute to a title, is the Friday meeting is “huge” in as much as it allows for an extra rest day for his team.

“That allows us to, kind of, push everything back this week,” he said. “The guys have nothing the rest of the day (Sunday) and tomorrow to be honest, we probably won’t do much and we’ll kind of ramp up a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday prep … kind of like you would do on a normal league week.”

But everyone is aware this is hardly normal but in fact what the program has lived for for more than three decades.

It’s the best time of the year for many – especially those in red and blue.

“I love this time of year,” he said. “It’s cool to be playing meaningful games. Obviously, these are meaningful games. We aren’t going to make then out to be more than they are.

“But it’s our opportunity to make our mark. We’re going to attack it. We’re going for it. Hopefully, we’re going to come out with a bunch of energy and a bunch of swag.”

Arizona is back and seemingly in full force given its record 31-3 and winter of the Pac-12’s regular and postseasons.

It’s the first time Arizona has been a No. 1 seed since 2014.

“Obviously it’s a great honor to be a one seed and the guys were very deserving,” Lloyd said.  “They’ve had an incredible year and, and we’re excited going forward. I’m familiar a little bit with (Bryant/Wright State), but obviously have a lot to learn.”

Ready, set … go. See how the team reacted to being named to the NCAA tournament here: Arizona Basketball (@ArizonaMBB) / Twitter

On to San Diego where Arizona will be close to home with a chance to advance to the second round where it’ll face Seton Hall/Texas Christian winner. The winner there will advance to San Antonio for a possible Sweet 16 meeting with – drum roll please! – Illinois and if Arizona advances further maybe even Tennessee, a team that gave UA one of its only three losses.

“Seems like it always happens, always happens,” Lloyd said when asked about the chance of a repeat meeting with a team it’s already faced. You can’t predict how tournaments are going to fall”

He said he won’t worry about a future that might not happen anyway. Instead, he’ll live in the moment and get ready for his four-team tournament in San Diego. Win it and advance.

“And be the last team standing,” he said.

On Sunday, Lloyd was his usual casual self, joking with the media – an audience he called experts – when asked about the seemingly wide-open many media experts think it is this season given so many good or not-so-good elite out there.

“Obviously, there’s a there’s a group of teams that have maybe separated themselves and physically, you know, that they look the part,” he said. “I think we’re in that group, but there is a lot of parody. You look at all these games, they’re gonna be tough. I’ve been in these 1-16 games, they’re no cakewalk. These teams that made the NCAA Tournament as 14, 15, 16 seeds they are on a roll. They just won their conference tournament, and they’re feeling really good about themselves. So, there is no cakewalk.”

The NCAA tournament never is. Arizona’s history of success and failures should point to a blue print of never knowing what to expect. Who thought Arizona would win the 1997 National Title with the fifth-place team out of the then Pac-10? Who would have thought a year later with everyone back and a top seed in the tournament would lose in the Elite 8?

You just never know. But Lloyd feels good moving forward given Arizona was tested plenty the last three games and all were a bit different. And Arizona found a way.

“I love where this team is at mentally,” he said. “I think physically we’re pretty fine. Kerr’s ankle is the only significant issue. Other than that (his medical staff) is making sure that we’re not only healthy, but we’re energized.”

As for Kerry, Lloyd said he’s “hopeful” Kriisa will be available to play next week but that will be determined later. He added the ankle sprain Kriisa suffered wasn’t as severe as Azuolas Tubelis’ was, one that kept him out for two weeks.

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