I don’t remember when it started, but my wife has a tradition where at some point every Thursday evening she turns to me and says “we made it.”
Admittedly it took me longer than it reasonably should have to understand what she was getting at, but eventually I realized it boils down to this:
With only Friday remaining, the work week is just about done, so there’s reason to feel good about what’s already behind us.
Well, Arizona basketball fans, we made it.
Sure the IARP has not released its findings or handed down its punishment. And on the court, the program’s NCAA Tournament drought cannot end until March 2022. There is also an entire season to play, one that will feature its share of ups and downs.
We can call all that “Friday.”
While we cannot be sure of what’s to come, it’s probably safe to say the worst is probably behind the program. It was a little more than four years ago when Arizona got caught up in the FBI sting, and ever since then there has been a feeling — no, actually, a fear — of what was lurking around the corner.
From fired assistants to erroneous reports on national TV, little of what came out was good. There was then the loss of an entire recruiting class, and while things seemed to stabilize a bit there the vibe around the program just wasn’t the same.
To be fair the Cats would have made the NCAA Tournament in 2020 had there been one, and the 2021 dance was on the table until Arizona self-imposed a postseason ban. Neither squad was expected to compete for the program’s first Final Four since 2001, which is a challenging goal but one that was set in the early part of the 2010s.
For whatever reason, or a combination of many reasons, the decision was made to part with the coach who led Arizona to and through all of that, replacing the polarizing Sean Miller with Tommy Lloyd.
The hiring of the long-time Gonzaga assistant did not come without any questions, most revolving around whether Arizona was too good a job to hand to a first-time head coach or whether or not the new coach should have had direct ties to the program.
That doesn’t even account for those who felt Miller never should never have been let go in the first place, although for them it’s hard to imagine any possible hire would have been good enough.
Whether you wanted Miller to stay or a different coach to replace him, it’s now been nearly seven months since Lloyd got the job and he’s officially one exhibition game into his tenure.
You won’t want to read too much into that exhibition game, a 96-50 win over Eastern New Mexico, because while Arizona may very well be good, their opponent was not big or talented enough to let the Cats really prove it. This was the type of opponent who Arizona should look good against, the type of opponent against which the Cats’ size and athleticism should shine.
So while Arizona moved down the court and scored at a pace that surely delighted fans, it may not be so easy when the level of opponent rises. The Cats shot the ball well from 3-point range, but many of those were open looks surrendered by an overmatched opponent.
Even Lloyd, whose sideline demeanor was a refreshing change from the, shall we say, intense display from his predecessor, may not find it so easy to remain calm when his team is struggling to put the ball in the basket or keep up on the scoreboard.
Those are all potential Friday problems, none of which are guaranteed to arrive. Even if they do, navigating them will be easier knowing there is a weekend on the other side.
The beauty of it all is that like a weekend, the future will bring plenty of great opportunities. Arizona has every chance to put together a good season, as the roster is filled with talent that may actually be a perfect fit for the system Lloyd wants to run. Similarly by all accounts Lloyd is a great fit for this roster, and with every day he looks to be even more of a match for Tucson and the program he is now leading.
Assuming the Cats win plenty of games—and look good doing it—that will re-energize both the fan base and the recruiting, both of which likely have a bit of a “show me” attitude at the moment.
That is plenty fair; Lloyd has no track record as a head coach and while we can all have an idea of what a team coached by him will look like, nothing can compete with what is actually seen on the court.
But as we sit here on the eve of one of the more substantial seasons in recent memory, it appears as though for the first time in a while there is actually plenty to look forward to.