Arizona showed on Friday night it can do just fine without Kerr Kriisa, but having its emotional leader be more than just a cheerleader for the NCAA Tournament would be even better.
Coach Tommy Lloyd said Kriisa, who suffered a sprained right ankle in the final minute of Thursday’s Pac-12 quarterfinal win over Stanford, could be back for the NCAA tourney.
“I don’t think the severity of it is ... I think him playing next week is a real, a real possibility” Lloyd said after the UA beat Colorado 82-72 in the semifinals. “We got a great training staff. We’re just gonna take it day by day. All the major stuff checked out okay, and now it’s just a matter of attacking it.”
Kriisa, who has started 30 games and is averaging 10.1 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, spent Friday’s contest at the end of the Arizona bench in street clothes. His left foot was in a boot and he used a single crutch to get around, a crutch that doubled as an artificial noisemaker at times.
In his place, sixth-year senior Justin Kier got his third start with the UA and finished with 13 points—his second-most of the season—five rebounds, three assists and a steal. He was 6 of 6 from the line, attacking the lane much more than Kriisa, Arizona’s top 3-point shooter with 78 triples.
“I literally had zero reservations,” UA coach Tommy Lloyd said of Kier.
With Arizona a stone-cold lock to be sent to San Diego for the first weekend of the NCAA tourney, that will give Kriisa’s ankle an extra day to heal, since that pod’s first-round games are on Friday. The UA likely wouldn’t travel to San Diego until the Wednesday before, giving Kriisa several days for treatment before leaving Tucson.
While Kriisa didn’t play against Colorado, his presence was everywhere in T-Mobile Arena. Knockoff versions of his signature white headband, which were passed out to UA fans outside the facility, donned the heads of hundreds of UA fans in the bleachers.