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Instead of rest, Arizona men’s basketball hard at work trying to secure Pac-12 title

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-travel-schedule-usc-trojans-colorado-buffaloes-2022-pac12 Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

While plenty about the Pac-12 has been new to Tommy Lloyd, one thing that has felt like old times is the league’s scheduling format. At least how it’s supposed to be.

But in this COVID-impacted season, old patterns and practices have had to be thrown out the window, so much so that Arizona heads into the final week of the regular season preparing for its third game in six game in what will be a stretch of five contests in 10 days.

“I’ve been on the West Coast my entire coaching career, and both leagues I’ve played in traditionally have been Thursday, Saturday-heavy, so you get a rhythm,” Lloyd said last week. “On Sunday, you’re probably taking off. Monday, you can take it completely off, (or) you can do a light day, you can do a really heavy day, you have options to kind of, depending on the time of year your team is in.”

That’s how it would normally be had Arizona not had its postponed game at USC rescheduled for Tuesday, a contest that now either clinches the Pac-12 regular-season title for the Wildcats or pulls the Trojans within a half-game of the UA entering the final weekend.

“What it does, it takes away those options,” Lloyd said. “So you’re gonna play Saturday and Sunday, you’re either going to take it off or start walking through SC stuff. Monday, you got to put in the game plan and Tuesday, you got to play a 40-minute game so you just don’t get the rest.:

All three of Arizona’s postponed Pac-12 games have ended up being on Mondays or Tuesdays, taking away days that are normally meant for rest and recovery. Since getting through a COVID-forced break—not theirs—of just one game in 21 days in late December and early January, the Wildcats have only had three weeks with the traditional practice and play schedule.

“It ends up being a lot,” Lloyd said. “It is more difficult and they do end up piling up on you. But that being said, everybody, for the most part, is having to do it. The unfortunate thing for us, and it has nothing to do with anybody, is our three games that all got cancelled were all road games. So that means all three of our makeups, we got to go on the road, so that makes it a little bit tougher. It would have been a different story, probably a little easier, (if) one or two of those games would have been a home game. It just hasn’t happened that way.

Arizona flew home from Boulder after Saturday’s 79-63 loss at Colorado, then will fly to Los Angeles on Monday. In January it stayed in California for the entirety of a 3-game, 6-day trip to Stanford, Cal and UCLA.

The Wildcats (25-3, 15-2) will be facing a USC team that won six in a row—including 3- and 1-point wins at Oregon State and Oregon over the weekend—since losing 72-63 in Tucson on Feb. 5. KenPom.com gives the UA a 66 percent chance of beating the Trojans (25-4, 14-4), its lowest odds since the Jan. 25 game at UCLA (56 percent) and far lower than the 84 percent chance it was given to beat Colorado.

“We’re fine,” guard Justin Kier said. “We’re gonna be fine and we’re gonna bounce back, and that’s the maturity of this team, maturity of the coaching staff, is to know we’re going to be okay. We’ve bounced back like this before, we lost like this on the road.”