Arizona Basketball

Lloyd: “I think we are ready to be in attack mode” as NCAA tourney looms this week

Conspiracy theory much?

Well, don’t. Not in the case of Arizona vs. Long Beach State on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Stuff happens. Matchups happen. Never mind the coach (Dan Monson) who helped hire Tommy Lloyd at Gonzaga will be facing one another. The game is scheduled for 11 a.m.

“Muns and I go back a long way, but we’re both professionals, so we’re both going to prepare our teams the best we can this week,” Lloyd said after a viewing party at the Union House.

It would have been weird facing Gonzaga in the first round – “Thank goodness that didn’t happen,” Lloyd said – but instead Long Beach State went on a late-season run (just days after Monson and Long Beach State mutually agreed to part ways and now will face one another).

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In fact, they were on a text group all week – maybe longer – as the teams prepared to get ready for the tournament. Now, they will be opponents. Lloyd called Monson a close family friend and a good man.

The two had informally agreed to play a guarantee game together (Arizona to play Long Beach Stae, which would visit McKale Center) but it eventually didn’t happen. “This was Mon’s fault,” Lloyd joked.

But it will on Thursday.

“I’m proud to be part of that coaching tree and he’s obviously at the very top of it,” Lloyd said.

Now, on to the game where Arizona returns as a No. 2 seed in back-to-back seasons. Of course, there will be conversations about last year when the Wildcats lost to Princeton as a No. 2 seed.

“Last year was last year,” Lloyd said. “We’ve never denied it. We’ve owned it. It’s part of our history, part of our legacy. And when you’re in a program like Arizona, you’re gonna have great successes and you’re also going to have some things that look like monumental failures. It’s just how it goes.

“We’ve never avoided it all year. We talk about it; we openly acknowledged our program; we’re not embarrassed about it. We’re looking forward to another opportunity this year, and this team’s journey is different than last year’s journey. We’re excited to get out there and play Thursday.”

One thing is certain: Arizona is well rested. Lloyd brought up the point on stage as he addressed the fans and then again with the media. It’s not like the last two seasons when Arizona played in the Pac-12 title game, came back home late and then got ready with a viewing party then a game a few days later.

“I know we’re definitely healthier than we were last year,” he said. “I think we’re ready to be in attack mode.”

Ready, but will they be? All season, Lloyd has said he loves this team. It has “dawgs,” he has said. It’s built for a run. It looks like it can make that run or at least did in the early part of the season.

“This team’s capable of winning games in March, and that’s the ultimate goal when you put it together,” Lloyd said. “I feel like we’re capable of that. But me feeling we’re capable doesn’t guarantee anything. Now (you’ve) got to go out and do it. I definitely feel like we’re healthier this year than maybe we have been the past couple of years, especially last year. I’ve taken that as a positive.”

Arizona was named the sixth best seed in the tournament. It’s the fourth-best betting favorite in Vegas (15-to-1 odds).

As for the negative, well, Arizona has lost two of three and has stumbled a time or two or three to teams it should have beaten.

“I feel good (about the team),” he said. “Hey, at the end of the year you’re gonna play hard games. And you’re gonna win some, you’re gonna lose some. We’ve been fortunate to win some of those games and then you get in the tournament, and you lose one. We’re playing the hand we’re dealt.”

That hand might come down to how good UA’s backcourt is and plays. Arizona’s duo of Caleb Love and Kylan Boswell hasn’t been consistent lately, with Boswell being less consistent that Love.

“We trust them. We believe in them. There’s no pressure on them,” Lloyd said. “They don’t need to do anything other than what they’ve done consistently for the most part all season. That’s how games go. That’s how seasons go … We just got to get them back on track, but it’s nothing that I’m really stressed out or losing sleep about.”


There was a photo of Boswell playing blackjack at a Vegas casino circulating after Arizona lost to Oregon on Friday night. Nothing has been confirmed about the photo, but on Sunday Lloyd was asked about the photo. “We’re aware of it,” Lloyd said. “And we’ve handled it internally. That’s all I gotta say about that. We’ve got a strong culture. But again, we’re not perfect. We love Kylan. … I have no worries.”

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