Arizona Basketball

Arizona No. 2 seed playing No. 15 Long Beach State in NCAA Tourney West Region at Salt Lake City

Arizona’s Keshad Johnson goes up for a dunk (Gilbert Alcaraz/Special to

Arizona is the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament West Region at Salt Lake City, where the Wildcats will play Thursday against upstart Long Beach State.

The Wildcats (25-8) and the No. 15 49ers (21-14) will play at 11 a.m. at the Huntsman Center.

Long Beach State won the Big West tournament championship over Cal-Davis 74-70 on Saturday at Henderson, Nev., in the unlikeliest of circumstances. Its head coach Dan Monson was fired earlier in the week but continued coaching the team through the conference tournament.

“God has blessed me with a great career, and these kids have been awesome to coach,” Monson told ESPN broadcaster Corey Williams, a former Arizona player, after the game. “When (Los Angeles Chargers coach) Jim Harbaugh says, ‘Who has it better than us?’, someone needs to tell him, ‘Coach Monson.’”

Monson helped give Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd his start in coaching when Monson was at Gonzaga.

When Lloyd was playing in junior college at Walla Walla (Wash.), Gonzaga recruited that conference.

After watching Lloyd play, Monson told him that he would not be offered a scholarship, but that if he ever wanted to go into coaching, he should give Monson a call. He made the call to Monson after his JC career, but had to back out once receiving an opportunity to play overseas in Australia.

After his playing career, Lloyd and his wife Chanelle spent several months backpacking on several continents before he decided to begin a coaching career.

By that time, Monson was gone to Minnesota after Gonzaga’s 1999 Elite Eight run. His top assistant Mark Few replaced him as the Zags’ head coach. Few honored the tacit agreement Monson made with Lloyd, and Lloyd joined Few’s staff as a volunteer administrative assistant in 2000, becoming a full-time assistant the next year.

“That (getting an opportunity at Gonzaga) was really fortunate for me and my development, I got an opportunity to work and show I’m capable,” Lloyd told ESPN in a 2020 article. “And once you show you’re capable, Gonzaga is just one of those places. ‘Well, let’s add this and add this’ and you just came to get more and more responsibility. Gonzaga was an up-and-coming program and I’m able to get inside of it before it gets so big, so I got a lot of hands-on experience.”

If Arizona gets past Long Beach State, it will face either Nevada (26-7) or Dayton (24-7) in a Round of 32 game Saturday.

Nevada, coached by former UCLA coach Steve Alford, and Dayton, with one-time Arizona recruiting target DaRon Holmes II of Goodyear, play in a first-round game Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Some potential difficult matchups for Arizona in Salt Lake City that won’t happen:

— Nearby BYU is in the East Region playing at Omaha, Neb.

— Utah State, also a school in the area, was sent to Indianapolis in the Midwest Region.

— Gonzaga will be in Salt Lake City, but as the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region.



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