clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Arizona men’s basketball notebook: Wildcats hoping to avoid another road loss, Henri Veesaar to redshirt

arizona-wildcats-mens-basketball-notebook-henri-veesaar-tommy-lloyd-caleb-love-road-games-ranked Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

After playing seven games in six different cities over a span of 22 days, Arizona got a mini-break in the season with only one contest on the schedule this week. The Wildcats’ next game is Saturday at Washington State, a rare one-off road trip during Pac-12 play that doesn’t include a bus ride to Tempe.

“The break was definitely needed,” senior guard Caleb Love said Thursday. “Just giving our bodies just a little bit of rest before we go on this next stretch of games.”

Coach Tommy Lloyd said the first part of this week was spent working “on ourselves,” with Washington State the focus for Thursday and Friday’s practices. Lloyd watched WSU’s win at USC on Wednesday and expects the Cougars (11-5, 2-3 Pac-12) to be a tough out in Pullman as was the cast last year when the UA held on for a 63-58 victory.

Arizona has won 11 in a row at Washington State—while ironically dropping two of the last four meetings in Tucson—but that doesn’t make the trip any less difficult. Not when you look around college basketball see the rash of ranked teams losing on the road to unranked opponents the past two weeks.

“It’s hard to win on the road in college basketball, it’s something you don’t ever take for granted,” Lloyd said. “We had our moment at Stanford and we very well could have another moment in Pullman this weekend.”

The UA’s 100-82 shocker at Stanford happened on Dec. 31, when it was the No. 4 team in the country. This week alone the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 squads have fallen on the road, all to unranked teams, and according to Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller Top 25 teams went 15-13 in road games against unranked opponents the first 10 days of January.

Lloyd said if you look back at the last handful of seasons you would probably find a trend of top teams dropping road games in early January. For many power-conference squads it may be their first true road contest and the hostile environment catches some off guard.

“A really smart person told me, and I think it’s a good way to look at it: a wise man learns from others’ mistakes, a fool learns from his own,” Lloyd said. “We can be a wise man and pay attention to what’s going on and understand we need to be locked in and expect a really, really hard game in Pullman this weekend, and that’s what it’s been the last couple of years. And we’ve also played the fool where we’ve went into maybe these games and haven’t been as ready as we should be. We kind of got both sides of the spectrum covered.”

Said Love: “Any road game is tough, especially in this league, and so we got to take it very serious, gotta be locked and loaded going up there. We remember that Stanford game.”

Veesaar on track for redshirt

All signs point to Arizona redshirting two of its four 7-footers, with Henri Veesaar unlikely to play this season after suffering an elbow injury in October. Lloyd said Veesaar is back to full strength and is available, if needed, but barring an injury to one or more of the Wildcats’ frontcourt players the sophomore from Estonia will remain out of action.

“Henri and I have had some good meetings, and that’s kind of where we both settled in on, that that’d be the best thing for him,” Lloyd said. “In my mind’s eye that’s probably the best thing for his long-term development is to do that this year, just without this injury, and then how the season has played out.”

Already redshirting is fellow sophomore big man Dylan Anderson. Lloyd said Veesaar was expected to be in the mix this year after averaging 7.1 minutes over 29 games as a freshman.

“It’s one of those deals, you watch him in practice the last couple of days and you think maybe, maybe we shouldn’t, because he’s playing pretty well,” Lloyd said. “In my mind, going into the fall and kind of where we were at, I thought, I would have guessed Henri would have been part of our main rotation. But things happen and we had to adjust and he’s had to adjust, and he’s handled it with great maturity. He’s working really hard, and it’s not going to be a year off for him by any stretch. He needs to continue to make a big jump and be ready to be a significant contributor next year.”

Cold-weather Wildcats

The forecast high in Pullman on Saturday is 8º F, but Arizona gets there on Friday night when wind chills could drop the temperature to well below zero. Lloyd said team equipment manager Brian Brigger will make sure all players and coaches are properly geared for the cold, but that otherwise it should have no impact on the game.

“You’re going to play a hard road game; if you’re going to let the weather on the outside impact what’s going to happen on the inside you’re probably not focused on the right things,” he said.

Lloyd, a native of eastern Washington who spent more than 20 years coaching in Spokane, is quite used to weather like that. However, on his radio show Monday he admitted his temperature threshold for being able to play pickleball outdoors has dropped to 46º F.

“My blood has definitely thinned,” he said. “46 is now freezing on my thermometer.”