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Tommy Lloyd advocates for days off in conference tournaments as injuries mount across college basketball

Arizona-Wildcats-Tommy-lloyd-pac12-tournament-injuries-health-rest-kerr-kriisa-oumar-ballo Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS–Unlike the NBA, there’s no load management in college basketball. Maybe there should be, Tommy Lloyd said Saturday night after Arizona beat UCLA for the Pac-12 title.

“I think it would be beneficial and it’s worth looking at,” Lloyd said after the Wildcats’ third game in as many days at T-Mobile Arena.

More precisely it was three games in 53 hours, and by the end of it Arizona’s 7-man rotation looked like they’d been through war instead of a tournament.

The postgame locker room was like a field triage tent, with ace bandages and KT tape all over the floor and bags of ice attached to several body parts.

Point guard Kerr Kriisa, who had his shoulder pop out (but quickly back in) during the first half of Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Stanford, had blood all over his blue shorts from a cut on his right palm. He thinks he got it from diving on the floor, but wasn’t sure.

“Why do I do this to my body?,” he joked to teammate Pelle Larsson, who was slouched on a padded folding chair.

Center Oumar Ballo, who has regularly had his right wrist and thumb taped the last month or so, also played Saturday night with a thick wrap on his left hand that included a splint on two fingers. It was the result of what he told reporters was a break in his hand suffered against ASU on the semifinals, though he said he’ll be fine for the NCAA Tournament.

And UCLA was without one of its best players, Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Adem Bona, after he injured his shoulder diving for a ball in the semifinals. He’s expected to be available for the NCAA tourney, but with the short turnaround between the semis and finals there was no way he was going to be able to come back so quickly.

Kriisa managed to return for the second half against Stanford, but did not attempt a field goal, and the next night he missed his first six 3-point shots before making his seventh down the stretch. Against UCLA he hit two late 3s, including one that put Arizona up 54-53 with just over five minutes left, but had he gotten some time off to heal his overall play likely would have been much better.

“In college basketball at the highest level, it’s hard to have great depth anymore because there’s so much parity,” Lloyd said. “To ask six or seven guys or eight guys, whatever it is, to go play high-level basketball three straight nights is a lot, and so I think you’re going to see more and more of these teams across the country getting guys banged up.”

Lloyd suggested conferences look into tossing a day off into the tourney schedule, possibly between the semifinals and finals, but acknowledged that logistics might prevent that.

“There’s costs involved,” he said. “You have to rent a facility for another day and fans have to travel for another day. And so there’s a lot of things that go into it and I know these conference tournaments are important for each conference. I mean, look what Arizona does for the Pac-12 tournament. I mean, they bring fans, which generates revenue, which helps pay bills.

“I don’t care if it’s two games and a day off and then a final or a quarter final day off, you know, something like that. I think it would be beneficial and it’s worth looking at. So hopefully there’s a way we can kind of all rally around and get together and figure out a way to kind of lessen the impact on the players so teams can be closer to a hundred percent come tournament time.”

Arizona won’t play again until Thursday or Friday, depending on where it is sent for the first weekend of the NCAA tourney. And there are days off between the first and second rounds and again between the Sweet 16/Elite Eight as well as the Final Four/title game.

No games, but still plenty of work, which is why when guard Courtney Ramey said in the postgame press conference that Arizona should take Sunday off, Lloyd was quick to nip that in the bud.

“No, no. We got film, we got practice, and you were 1 for 5 from 3, so we got shooting too. Lift with (strength coach Chris) Rounds. Let’s go!"