The University of Arizona basketball program has been among the most successful in the country over the past 35 years. The Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament every season from 1984-2009, and had some good teams in the middle of the 2010’s as well. However, they have not appeared in the big dance in each of the last three seasons, and the team parted ways with head coach Sean Miller in April. Miller had been with the team for the last 12 years.
Arizona basketball was embroiled in scandals during the final few seasons of Miller’s tenure, including alleged payment of players and being charged by the NCAA for academic misconduct. It will be interesting to see how new head coach Tommy Lloyd picks up the pieces of a program with a storied history but a turbulent recent past.
Lloyd’s experience under the tutelage of Gonzaga head man Mark Few should greatly benefit the program. Over the past two decades, Lloyd has helped the Bulldogs become one of the premier basketball schools on the west coast, and in the country.
“In our 20 years working together, Tommy has proven that he is one of the game’s elite coaches and highest-character people,” Few stated. Via ArizonaWildcats.com
In light of the recent troubles Arizona found themselves in, Lloyd’s ability to get the Wildcats back in the discussion for elite prospects will be critical. From 2010-2019, the Wildcats landed eleven top 20 recruits, greatly bolstering the type of talent the program had on an annual basis. So far for the class of 2021, the Wildcats’ highest ranked recruit is 69th on the overall list, which clearly speaks to the diminished perception of the program.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, Lloyd has been involved with recruiting classes that featured players who stayed in college multiple years, as well as one and dones. It might be asking a lot of Lloyd to get the team back into the mix for top 10 players immediately, so expect him to try to build the program through developing players over multiple years. Gonzaga was successful over many seasons with great college players who didn’t go to the NBA, such as Derek Raivio, Josh Heytvelt and Kevin Pangos.
Lloyd was also instrumental in attracting international talent to Gonzaga. As Arizona’s reputation domestically is on the rebound, Lloyd might look to play the international card as much as he can with foreign kids who may not be too well versed in the university’s recent past. Fans will find out soon enough whether Lloyd can coach on the floor, but he appears to be versatile in the recruiting realm, which is something the Wildcats can take advantage of.