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Men’s basketball notebook: Is it starting to feel like 1997?

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Jackie Cabrera | The Daily Wildcat

The Arizona men's basketball team poses for a picture in McKale Center on March 5. The Wildcats won the game against California 89-61.

The Wildcats nearly sweep the Pac-12 awards

Out of the major six awards that the Pac-12 hands out each season, five of the winners were from Arizona. Bennedict Mathurin was named Player of the Year of the conference of champions and is the first player since former Wildcat and current Phoenix Sun, Deandre Ayton in 2017-18 to take home that hardware. Along with Mathurin, Christian Koloko and Azuolas Tubelis were named to the All-Pac-12 First Team. Head coach Tommy Lloyd was happy to hear that his team was recognized with the 2021-22 Pac-12 season awards at his weekly press conference. 

“[Mathurin] had a dominant year, you know, I mean, he really has, and it's been fun,” Lloyd said. “His best days are still far ahead of him, but this year, I think he really took some big steps forward and kind of solidified his opportunities for the future.”

In his first season being the head coach in Tucson, Tommy Lloyd was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year after going 28-3 and winning the Pac-12 regular season championship. 

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“All great team accomplishments, I mean, whenever these postseason all-conference awards come out It's always a team thing.,” Llyod said. And, you know, I'm proud of the guys proud of the team and you know, I’m thankful we had a great regular season I'm ready for what's coming next.”

Koloko is the first Wildcat to win the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award in school history. For the second straight season, the sixth man of the year comes from Tucson after Pelle Larsson won the 2021-22 award and former Wildcat Jordan Brown won it last year. 

"He's come really far and I’m proud of him, you know when we first talked about him staying [in Arizona,] I told him I thought these things were possible,” Lloyd said. “And that I love coaching and developing big guys, and, you know, we're going to make it a priority.”

“I said, now I need you to commit to working and stick with the process and hopefully what I'm going to show you is we're going to work hard, you're gonna make progress and you’re gonna want to work harder” Lloyd said

Dalen Terry was a Pac-12 honorable mention while being on the Pac-12 All-Defensive-Team but the team’s starting point guard in Kerr Kriisa was not recognized when the all-conference awards were released and coach Lloyd disagreed with that. 

“Kerr is my point guard, and he is very deserving to be on this all-conference list,” Lloyd said. “I wouldn’t choose any other [point guard] and he’s done an unbelievable job at leading this team and the one thing he cares about is winning.”

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One trophy down, two to go 

The Wildcats won the Pac-12 regular season championship and celebrated this past weekend after their victory against University of California Berkeley. The atmosphere was great in McKale, while fans were celebrating and cheering on the players, the athletes were cutting down the net. 

Tommy Lloyd and Justin Kier spoke to the fans after their last regular season game was over and expressed how grateful they are for the fanbase. One message was present throughout the entire team, they are happy to win this trophy, but they are not finished winning this season. 

“Pressure is a privilege, and it’s great to be playing in meaningful games,” Lloyd said. 

Although Arizona closed the season on a high note, they did suffer a few setbacks throughout the season with losses to University of Tennessee, UCLA, and University of Colorado. 

“I don't mind losing, you know, I mean, obviously you're not trying to lose, and I understand this as a results driven business,” Lloyd said. “But you know, losing gives you a chance to really honestly assess yourself and get better and make adjustments, so it's I think it was always a good catalyst for improvement.”

This year’s Wildcat team is not about one player, it has been about the entire team since the start of the year. Whenever one player has an amazing game or play, they always continue to complement each other and state that it takes everyone’s help to achieve great things as a whole. 

“I'm not really big into recruiting classes, I'm big into building a team. And as we were figuring out who was going to come back and then we started looking at what we needed to add, and when we tried to find pieces that we thought, you know, fit the puzzle,” Lloyd said. “I like building a team where you have the pieces complement each other, I think that it's easy to develop chemistry there and everybody knows their role and embraces it.”

Stanford/ASU quarterfinals matchup preview 

The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team will play the winner of the Stanford versus ASU first round matchup that will take place at 1:00 P.M. The Wildcats are 4-0 in the regular season against both opponents and most recently defeated Stanford by 11 points last week in Tucson. Although Arizona beat their in-state rival Arizona State in both matchups this season, they did struggle early on in both contests to get good looks on offense and control the pace of the game. 

For this Wildcat team to win the Pac-12 tournament championship they need to be able to hit three-point shots at a high level while making it a priority to get their big men involved early and often with Tubelis, Koloko and Ballo. Their best player throughout the entire season in Mathurin needs to step up and continue to be confident on offense while taking quality shots from the outside.  


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