Tommy Lloyd set an impossibly high bar for first-year college basketball coaches everywhere last season as he guided Arizona to a Pac-12 regular-season championship, Pac-12 Tournament title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If Year Two under the former long-time Gonzaga assistant is to be similarly fruitful, it will require the Wildcats to replace three of the top 33 picks from June’s NBA Draft.
Gone are Bennedict Mathurin (Pac-12 Player of the Year), Christian Koloko (Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player) and super utility man Dalen Terry, who used a late surge up draft boards to be selected No. 18 overall by the Bulls. While that’s a daunting trio to lose, the Wildcats may wind up as the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 again thanks to the remaining pieces from a rotation that was among the nation’s deepest.
With a trio of international stars back after playing key roles last season in Kerr Kriisa, Pelle Larsson and Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona has a solid base from which to build. From there, the ceiling for the Wildcats may be determined by the player development chops of Lloyd and his staff as players like Adama Bal and Oumar Ballo seek leaps in productivity. Lloyd won Pac-12 Coach of the Year last season, and if he can lead the Wildcats back to a favorable NCAA Tournament seeding, it should validate his ability to doubters who believe the fast start to his head coaching career is merely the byproduct of the excellent roster he inherited from Sean Miller.
As the 2022-23 college basketball season creeps nearer, here’s a glimpse at how Arizona’s starting lineup and rotation could shape up.
Projected starting lineup
1. Kerr Kriisa
6-3 | 180 | Jr.
The boisterous, headband-wearing point guard was second in the Pac-12 in assists per game last season with 4.7 and is Arizona’s second-leading returning scorer behind Azuolas Tubelis. Kriisa closed the season shooting just 33.6% from 3-point range, but his 2-for-17 shooting performance while playing through an ankle injury in two NCAA Tournament games drove down his percentage at the end. Kriisa is a battery pack of emotion and a critical leader for the Wildcats who could take a step forward this season.
2. Courtney Ramey
6-3 | 185 | Redshirt Sr.
After logging 128 appearances, including 106 starts, over four seasons at Texas, Ramey is stepping in at Arizona to help replace the production of Mathurin and Terry. Arizona ranked No. 3 nationally with 84 points per game last season, while Texas ranked No. 231 with just 68.8 points per game. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Ramey surpass his career average of 10 points per game now that he is in a fun and fast system that generates considerably more possessions and points per game than Texas has in recent years.
3. Pelle Larsson
6-5 | 215 | Jr.
Larsson won Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year honors after transferring from Utah and seems likely to hold down a starting role in his junior season. He’s a 40% 3-point shooter for his career and is a solid secondary facilitator who may be asked to take on some big-time defensive assignments. He gained some unique experience on that front over the summer while playing for Sweden and defending Luka Doncic in a FIBA World Cup qualifying game vs. Slovakia.
4. Azuolas Tubelis
6-11 | 245 | Jr.
Tubelis earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors after averaging 13.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in his sophomore season. Now, he could be in line to compete for Pac-12 Player of the Year as he should become the Wildcats’ top offensive option in his junior season. He’s a good passer for his size though not much of a rim protector. His continued growth on defense will be critical as the Wildcats replace two defense studs in Terry and Koloko.
5. Oumar Ballo
7-0 | 260 | Redshirt Jr.
Ballo emerged as a steady reserve big man for Arizona last season after following Lloyd from Gonzaga. Now, he’s poised to take on a starting position and become the team’s interior enforcer after blocking 1.2 shots per game in just 15.2 minutes per contest last season. He’s not going to stretch the floor or do anything particularly flashy offensively, but Ballo converts at the rim, and he’s on track to become an excellent traditional big man for the Wildcats this season.
6-1 | 180 | Fr.
Boswell’s decision to reclassify and join Arizona for the 2022-23 season gives the Wildcats some needed depth. Ranked a five-star prospect and now considered the No. 25 overall player in the 2022 class, Boswell was compared to menacing NBA defender Patrick Beverley by 247Sports recruiting analyst Brandon Jenkins. He will be just 17 for the entirety of his freshman season and won’t be draft eligible until 2024, so anything the Wildcats get from him as a true freshman will be a bonus.
Cedric Henderson Jr.
6-6 | 190 | Sr.
With a JUCO season and three years of double-figure production under his belt at Campbell, Henderson brings some veteran savvy through the transfer portal. He was a 36.7% 3-point shooter and efficient scorer inside the arc in three seasons at Campbell and brings good size to the wing.
6-6 | 190 | Soph.
Bal didn’t turn 18 until a month into his true freshman season and played sparingly after ranking as the No. 131 overall player in the Class of 2021, according to 247Sports. The French prospect did show glimpses of his potential, though, such as in a late-season win over Cal when he finished with 7 points and 3 assists on 3 of 4 shooting in 18 minutes.
6-10 | 200 | Fr.
Veesar committed in May, and the Estonian product should have a chance to play early in his college career. Ranked as the No. 36 overall player in the Class of 2022 by 247Sports, he could wind up being Arizona’s top front court option off the bench.
Filip Borovicanin | 6-8 | 180 | Fr.
Dylan Anderson | 7-0 | 215 | Fr.
As a four-star prospect from Arizona and the No. 90 player in the 2022 class, Anderson has the makings of a long-term contributor for Arizona. In the short term, he should be able to compete with Veesar for a role off the bench during his true freshman season. Borovicanin is also a four-star prospect, and like many of Lloyd’s prospects, he is from the international ranks. The lanky Serbian should have a good chance to earn minutes, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he needs a year to fill out and adjust to the college game.
No. 1 seed Arizona lost three players to the NBA Draft after Tommy Lloyd’s dynamite debut. What’s coming for the Wildcats in Year Two? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast as we discuss Arizona in part of our Summer Shootaround series.