Tommy Lloyd
(Young Kwak/AP Photo)

Tommy Lloyd Is Bringing Arizona Basketball Back to the Promised Land

The Sean Miller era was certainly an interesting time for the Arizona Basketball program. On the one hand, Miller helmed a very successful period for the Wildcats. He finished his 12-year stint with a 302-109 record, three Elite Eights, two Sweet Sixteens, and five Pac-12 regular season titles. On the other hand, Miller left the program mired in conspiracy and was ousted after mounting fraud charges and FBI investigations. The Wildcats stumbled in the conference, failing to finish above fifth place the last three seasons. They suffered a first-round tournament exit in 2018 and have not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since then for a variety of reasons. It became clear that a change was needed. Arizona and Sean Miller parted ways.

All things considered, Arizona is a fairly high-profile job. Historically, they have been quite good. The Wildcats have made four Final Fours and won a national title in 1997. However, their search for a new head coach was a little unorthodox. They jettisoned Sean Miller, and Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd emerged as the favorite for the job, signing on once it became clear that Arkansas had locked up Eric Musselman. He went to work straight away.

Tommy Lloyd Excelling in Year 1

The Wildcats are off to a hot start in the 2021-22 season. Boasting a 12-1 record, they are well on pace to eclipse the 17 win mark they posted last season. Look at any analytics site – chances are Arizona ranks pretty high:

Analytics ProviderRanking (as of 1/12/22)
KenPom9
Haslametrics3
EvanMiya6
Bart Torvik7
ShotQuality1
NCAA NET2

The numbers are on their side. Keep in mind this is what Tommy Lloyd is doing in Year 1 as head coach of the Wildcats. It seems like he is really setting them up for sustained success in the future. Not only is he a proven international recruiter, but he seems to be using his previous role with Gonzaga to gain some leverage with high-level talents stateside.

Lloyd appears to be selling himself as a driving force behind Gonzaga’s dominant offense.

There seems to be some merit to Lloyd’s claims considering that Arizona ranks first in the country in ShotQuality’s rankings. His offensive system has been extremely effective so far, and the Wildcats’ defense is right there to match.

Arizona Is Already a Contender

Tommy Lloyd may be a first-year coach, but he’s going about this like a veteran. Clearly his time on Mark Few’s staff was massively beneficial. Lloyd has the Wildcats in position to win the Pac-12 this season and remain competitive beyond. They certainly have the personnel to make a deep run this season. Bennedict Mathurin is playing at an All-American level. Azuolas Tubelis and Kerr Kriisa have been excellent in their own right, and Christian Koloko has been an absolute menace down low. The Jimmer Range Pac-12 preview slotted Arizona in at No. 3 or No. 4 in the conference. That was too low of an evaluation. Watch out for the Wildcats.

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