Asked about the biggest question facing the team heading into the 2022-23 season, Arizona Coach Tommy Lloyd thought for a few seconds and then gave a surprising answer. “Maybe you should start with me,” he said. “Can this guy really coach? Or is he just putting together a list of good names?”
Both things can be true. Yes, Lloyd inherited a quality roster from former coach Sean Miller that included a future lottery pick. Benedict Maturin as well as Dale Terry And Christian clock18th and 33rd were chosen by NBA Draft, but losing to that team – especially a big one like them – was no set piece. First, Lloyd had to re-hire some of the players he was adamant about letting go. He then had to teach them to play a new offense that relied more on ball movement than neutral ball and emphasized the fast break. The season was an adjustment season for everyone, but Arizona, which entered the season unranked, claimed the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. As a result, Lloyd won several national coach of the year awards.
That said, Lloyd, 47, understands the challenges he faces as he enters his second season in the wilderness. Arizona added four freshmen and two transfers. The flow helps, but the biggest priority is for the Patriots to make significant improvements. Lloyd says: “I follow my friends to get better. “I don’t want to be a coach that thinks every recruit we get is going to solve our problems. The biggest jump I want us to make is with the guys in the program, and I feel like they’re hitting their stride.”
It’s unlikely the Wildcats will be the No. 1 seed again, but they could still be very competitive if a few plotlines fall into place. Here are the top stories to watch as the 2022-23 season begins:
The crisis returned again
Few guards in college basketball had as much fun last season as Kerr Kriisa, a 6-foot-3 junior guard from Estonia. He averaged 9.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in 29.5 minutes while leading the Pac-12 with 4.7 assists per game. Chrissa may have been the ghost on the court, but the team brought a much-needed fork. “Kerr is the heart and soul of our team,” says Lloyd.
Arizona’s season could have been cut short had not Chrissa suffered a serious ankle injury in the final minutes of the Wildcats’ Pac-12 quarterfinal win. Stanford. He missed the next three games and returned to the second round of the NCAA Tournament TCUBut he was a shadow of his former self. Kriisa shot a combined 16 of 17 (all 3-pointers) in the overtime loss to TCU and Sweet. Houston.
— Arizona Basketball (@ArizonaMBB) July 11, 2022
Most college players work to extend their shooting range from season to season. Chrissa should be more productive down the line. He made 20 2-point baskets last season after making zero as a freshman. Chrissa spent time in Tucson trying to overcome this deficit and is currently in Estonia preparing for next month’s EuroBasket 2022 with the national team. “We tried to push him to add some things to his game with his size, strength, allowing him to make more 2-pointers,” Lloyd says. “I’m happy with what he’s done so far.”
With Colocco and Terry declaring for the draft ahead of the NCAA’s June 1 deadline, Portal’s options were slim. Courtney Ramey was an exception – both a late arrival and a good enough player to start in Arizona. Ramey, a 6-foot-3 guard from St. Louis who was a four-year starter at Texas, entered the draft by the deadline. Lloyd first reached out to Ramey in May, and stayed in constant contact as Ramey worked through the draft. “It made me really hard,” Lloyd said. I had to really dig to find it, and I respect it for that.
Ramey was a steady, efficient contributor in Austin. In his four years, he averaged 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 36.5 percent from 3-point range. After committing to Arizona, Ramey came straight to Tucson for a press conference where he wowed local reporters and has since been acting as someone ready to be the face of the program.
“Obviously he’s a great player, but he’s also a great person,” Lloyd said. We are still figuring out how to play him, but he has the potential to play 30 minutes a game. He’s the very definition of a combo guard, so he and Kerr would go really well with each other.
Those qualities should also make ramen a good complement Larson skinThe 6-foot-5 junior guard, who was named the Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year, averaged 7.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 20.7 minutes. Larson’s 3-point percentage dropped to 36.3 percent from 46.3 percent as a freshman at Utah. That may be due in part to a broken foot he sustained last summer, which forced him to miss most of the preseason.
Larsson returned home this summer to help the Swedish national team advance to the second round of FIBA World Cup qualifiers. That experience, combined with the late last season should set him up for a big season. “By the end of the year, his minutes were right up there with the starters,” Lloyd said. I expect Pele to be an all-conference player.
size and speed
Maturin was one of the fastest guards in the country, and Terry was adept at leading breaks and finishing downfield. Koloko was 7-foot-1 but could beat many smaller players. It’s little wonder why the Wildcats were ranked the ninth-fastest team in the nation by KenPom.
But now those three are gone and Koloko could be replaced in the starting lineup. Omar Balo, the 7-foot, 260-pound junior center is more bull than gazelle. Does this mean Arizona won’t play as fast as last season? “Hopefully,” Lloyd said. “We were big last year.”
In fact, KenPom ranks the Cats as the second-longest team in the country. Thanks to at least four frontcourt players who are 6-10. What’s more, while the rest of the country (not to mention the NBN) is moving from four-round-one shapes to smaller lines, Lloyd’s is sticking with the traditional look. “I like playing with two big guys. I always have,” he says. “If you can get your fours to guard the hybrid fours, you’re going to flip it and force the other team to learn how to deal with the bigs.”
The 6-11 junior forward will need continued improvement if the Wildcats are going to continue their heavy hitting streak. Azuolas Tublis. It’s not like he had a bad sophomore season — he was named first-team All-Pac-12 after averaging 13.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists — but he’s been somewhat exposed in recent weeks. To be fair, Tubliss was hobbled by a severe ankle sprain he suffered at the end of January, but his weakness came as teams played him heavily and exposed weaknesses in his foot speed, ball handling and decision-making. Tubliss is averaging 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in his last 9 games and went 0-for-8 in the loss at Houston. “I think that leaves a sour taste in his mouth,” Lloyd said. “We’ve gone into attack mode with development this season, and hopefully that shows.”
If the Wildcats are going to succeed in a smaller lineup, Tubelis will need to improve his ability to switch in pick-and-roll coverage. “He wasn’t perfect defensively, but he was pretty good most days,” Lloyd says. Balo is the same, who has 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds after the transfer Gonzaga. If a two-big lineup doesn’t work, Lloyd may be forced to choose whether he wants to play smaller or slower.
Where is the bench?
The answer begins with Cedric Henderson JrThe 6-foot-6 senior transferred from Campbell. Henderson’s father played for Memphis and spent five years in the NBA. Henderson averaged 14.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists last season while making 38.0 percent of his 3-point attempts. Campbell coach Kevin McGeehan uses Princeton’s offense, which means Henderson comes to Tucson with a wide range of skills and quick thinking experience. “He’s got a good feel for separation, movement, passing, cutting, things like that. I’ve been really happy with what he’s been doing since he’s been here,” Lloyd said.
The most intriguing player on Arizona’s bench will be 6-foot-10 freshman forward Henry Vesar from Estonia. Vesar has been destined for stardom ever since he excelled at the FIBA U16 European Championship at the age of 15. At the age of 17, he was the youngest Estonian player to compete for the senior national team at a FIBA qualifier. Vesar has a 7-foot-2 wingspan, is mobile and agile, and can operate 3s. He’s also listed at 207 pounds, so it’s uncertain whether he can physically handle the American college game. “He has a lot of room for improvement but we want him to play this year,” Lloyd said. He’s big, and he’s a real talent.
Honey for humans Ready for the holidays. The 6-foot-6 wing arrived from his native France last summer as a 17-year-old and was in the United States for only a short time. That’s a lot to adjust to, and despite playing limited minutes (4.5 per game), Husband shot 8 of 17 from behind the 3-point line and hit two 3s in Arizona’s Pac-12 win. UCLA. Bale is another import who should benefit from international competition outside of the competition. He averaged 9.6 points and 37.9 percent shooting over seven games for France at the FIBA U20 European Championship. “He’s a ball-handling, big wing, who’s a shot maker but can also adjust to the pick-and-roll,” Lloyd said. I think he is on the verge of becoming a very good player.
Dylan Anderson, a 7-foot freshman from Gilbert, Ariz., is yet another raw but talented big man with a chance to crack the rotation. His ability to pick and pop will come in handy in time, but Lloyd cautions that he’s “making the normal transition from high school kid to college freshman.” The same can be said for another international recruit, Filip Borovicanin, a 6-foot-8 forward from Serbia.
The wild card on the bench is Keelan Boswell, a 6-foot-1 freshman from Chandler, Ariz. This fall. Given the reassignment of high school players and the number of veteran guards in the program, Boswell may struggle to get minutes — especially since he recently underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot. Still, there’s a reason Boswell is ranked 25th, and Lloyd hasn’t ruled out the possibility that he might drop the show.
“He’s a good shooter and a good passer,” Lloyd said. “He doesn’t do jump passes either. They are good passes. He is a great decision maker. You never know, he could help us in the second half of the season, but his priority is to get healthy.
In addition to the usual spring roster shakeups, Arizona suffered a major earthquake in late June. USC And UCLA announced they will leave the Pac-12 in the summer of 2024 to join the Big Ten. That was shocking news to say the least, but if anyone was ready to deal with the rush, it was Lloyd, who had spent 20 years. He was an assistant to Mark Few and was instrumental in helping that program become a national powerhouse from the West Coast Conference. One of the ways Gonzaga has reached that level is through a non-powerful conference schedule. Lloyd showed he wanted to adopt that template when he reached his first year. Duke Coach John Scheer will start next season with the Blue Devils to set up a home-and-home series. “Arizona basketball is in a good position to be nationally competitive in whatever conference we’re in,” Lloyd said. “Like everyone else, I’m interested in seeing how it all works out, but I don’t waste my time worrying about it in the day-to-day operations.”
Regarding the first question: Can this person really train? — Lloyd tries to give back with the same methods and mindset he used throughout his career. He’s no longer a rookie head coach, and this program has a stamp on him from time to time, but the bottom line in Tucson remains the same. “When you coach in Arizona, you know there are high expectations every year,” Lloyd said. “We have very good players. As a team we still have to do everything together, but at the end of the day we will be very difficult to beat.
(Top photo of Kerr Chrissa: Christopher Hook / Icon Sports via Getty Images)