Are they blue blood or slightly watered down?
Is Arizona Basketball a “blue blooded” basketball program, or are we just homers as fans who think otherwise? And will Tommy Lloyd take us there?
When you ask a sports fan to define blue blood, it’s like asking someone to define obscenity; you can’t define it, but you know it when you see it. Any subjective concept with unclear parameters will promote debate, and debate is the sport of sports fans.
Like most impressionable young students at the U of A, I immediately developed a healthy (and arguably unhealthy) passion for our Wildcats when I first set foot on campus many years ago. Now I’m not that young or impressionable.
This fresh and vibrant era of Tommy Lloyd in Arizona Basketball has generated so much excitement in Tucson and everywhere else that Wildcat fans are once again yearning for lasting success.
The post-Olson years have dampened expectations, regardless of the quality recruits Sean Miller brought in and the Pac-12 titles he acquired. The average U of A fan was humiliated, while the Duke’s, UNC’s, Kansas’, etc. continue to play the final weekend of March Madness, amassing titles.
So, no, Arizona is not college basketball blue blood by its basic definition, although it pains me to admit it.
The thing is, the U of A has only one national championship, which took place years before today’s Arizona undergraduates were even born. From 1988 to 2001, Arizona made four Final Fours, once every few years (with two league appearances). We were spoiled.
It’s been over two decades now, and Arizona has given way to Villanova and Michigan State in the blue blood conversation.
Consider these fun (albeit heartbreaking) facts:
- UCLA has had four Final Four appearances since Arizona’s last Final Four in 2001.
- The Kansas Jayhawks, the current national champions, have had five.
- Heck, Oregon has appeared in more Final Fours than Arizona in the past two decades.
- Twenty-one (!!!) teams have had more Final Four appearances than Arizona since 2001.
Although Arizona as a whole has been blessed with successful campaigns over the past 30+ years, which most college basketball programs could only claim, we should just be grateful that Arizona can be considered one of the elite programs on the West Coast, of which there are few. .
Speaking of Few (as in Mark), at least Arizona has one title more than Gonzaga. And with an ex-Zag and current AP Coach of the Year, Tommy Lloyd, leading the charge, let’s hope the “is Arizona blue blooded” debate can ever be put to rest.