No. 2 Arizona can’t lose to No. 15 Princeton.
Not after what Princeton almost did to Georgetown in 1989. Not after what Princeton did to UCLA in 1996. Not after what Arizona State did to Nevada on Wednesday!
This is bad for Arizona fans, who will have to take prank phone calls from ASU fans and endure taunts from now until eternity. This is bad for Tommy Lloyd, who will have to deal with unflattering comparisons with Sean Miller. This for the Pac-12, which is fighting for relevance like buggy whip manufacturers in the age of the Model T. And it’s bad for the nation, with President Joe Biden having picked UA to win it all!
Unlike Sun Devil fans, Wildcats boosters plan their lives around Arizona men’s basketball. In the Phoenix area, ASU basketball is an afterthought. Down in Tucson, UA hoops is life.
Arizona went scoreless over the final 5 minutes, proving that nerves come into play at even the highest levels of basketball. Blueblood teams simply cannot allow plucky contenders to keep the score close in games like this. It looked like UA had things under control after halftime, but the Wildcats couldn’t match the intensity of the Tigers when it mattered most.
Brackets are busted. Gambling money has been lost. And pride has been shattered.
Tommy Lloyd was on top of the world just a week ago after winning the Pac-12 for the second year in a row. Now? He probably doesn’t want to get off a plane in southern Arizona for a couple of weeks.
He’s going to have to answer whether this loss was worse than Sean Miller falling to Buffalo in 2018.
From here, it wasn’t. Miller had the No. 1 draft pick in Deandre Ayton, plus a slew of blue chippers. On top of that, Buffalo’s coach at the time, Nate Oats, now leads Alabama, which earned the top overall seed in this year’s tournament.
But maybe … No one thought much of Buffalo at the time. And even though Princeton’s big moments in the Big Dance came a million years ago, the Tigers are known to backcut and fundamental their way into shocking big schools.
Regardless of which loss you think was worse, who wants to even have that conversation?!
Especially after Arizona State and the Flyin’ Bobby Hurleys looked like they could qualify for the NBA playoffs just a day earlier. This is the kind of thing little-brother fanbases, like ASU men’s basketball supporters, live to hold over their in-state rivals, which have national title aspirations every year, like UA.
The Pac-12 is fighting for relevance. This doesn’t help. At all.
If the conference disintegrates in the next five years, analysts will be looking back to this loss to ask whether it was the beginning of the end.
And poor Joe Biden. The president is trying to bring together a divided nation and picked UA in a play that could have won him support in a vital swing state. Instead, he looks like a bandwagoner kissing up to earn brownie points. And if it feels unfair, tough cookies. This is what comes with tradition and expectation.
ASU fans have been looking forward to having their weekends free. UA fans have been budgeting for flights and hotels in Houston for the Final Four.
This is completely unacceptable.
It could happen to any team in any tournament, but it’s Lloyd’s job to make sure it doesn’t happen to his squad or to his fans.
He had better win some games in March next season or the conversation around his program, his conference and even his nation are going to sound a lot different.
Reach Moore at [email protected] or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona one-and-done in NCAAs, losing to Princeton, is unacceptable