Arizona's top basketball teams of all time

February 14, 2014 12:01 am

We asked you, the reader (1,149 of you, to be precise, completed our online survey), and columnist Greg Hansen to give us a definitive list on the best Arizona basketball teams of all time. Click through to find out where you ranked them, and at the end, see Greg's top five.

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    • Record: 24-6
    • Coach: Fred A. Enke
    • Notable player: Bob Honea (leading scorer at 12.8 ppg, 80 percent free throw shooter)
    • High point: Arizona steamrolled the Border Conference by going 15-1, and the only loss was a 1-point defeat against New Mexico State.
    • How the season ended: The Cats lost a first-round game in the NIT to Dayton, 74-68, and fell again a week later in the NCAA tournament to Kansas State, 61-59.
    • Record: 27-6
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable player: Ben Davis (14.2 ppg and 9.5 rpg led the team)
    • High point: Arizona, led by Davis, Miles Simon, Corey Williams and Michael Dickerson, set the tone for its season with a win at Arkansas and two more in New York over Michigan and Georgetown for the Preseason NIT championship.
    • How the season ended: In a topsy-turvy game in which both teams went on huge scoring runs, Kansas took control late and got a big three-pointer from Jerod Haase to topple the Cats.
    • First-place votes: 1 (one second place vote)
    • Record: 25-5
    • Coach: Fred A. Enke
    • Notable player: Link Richmond (led team with 14.8 ppg, .627 free throw percentage)
    • High point: Arizona won the Border Conference with a 14-3 record, then won the Border Conference tournament and earned an NIT berth for its first trip to a postseason national tournament.
    • How the season ended: Arizona drew powerhouse Kentucky, led by legendary coach Adolph Rupp, and was hammered 77-53.
    • First-place votes: 1 (one second place vote and one fourth-place vote)
    • Record: 26-5
    • Coach: Fred A. Enke
    • Notable player: Leon Blevins (led team with 14.9 ppg)
    • High point: Perhaps cosmic NCAA basketball karma came into play some 40-plus years later, but Arizona slammed Santa Clara 80-64 and 63-45 in back-to-back games to start this streak.
    • How the season ended: Hardin-Simmons won at home, 57-53.
    • First-place votes: 2
    • Record: 29-6
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable players: Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire. Reeves set the single-season record for the UA at 24.2 ppg, while Stoudamire averaged 18.3 – they comprised the best scoring tandem in Arizona history.
    • High point: In Damon Stoudamire's and Khalid Reeves' best season as Wildcats, Southeast No. 2 seed Arizona steamrolled Loyola (Md.), Virginia, Louisville, and top-seeded Missouri – winning by double digits each time – to advance to the school's second Final Four. 
    • How the season ended: Arkansas' famed pressure defense forced Reeves and Stoudamire into an 11-for-43 combined shooting performance, and eventual champion Arkansas won 91-82.
    • First-place votes: 3
    • Record: 24-9
    • Coach: Fred Snowden
    • Notable player: Bob Elliott led the team in scoring at 18 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game. He was a third-team All-America according to Basketball Weekly.
    • High point: The Fred Snowden-coached and then-WAC Cats beat UNLV in a 114-109 overtime thriller to advance to the final eight in the 32-team NCAA tournament.
    • How the season ended: The year after John Wooden's retirement, the UCLA Bruins knocked Arizona off 82-66 to end the Wildcats' shot at a first-ever Final Four.
    • First-place votes: 4
    • Record: 24-4
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable player: Chris Mills, the Pac-10 Player of the Year, led the Cats with 20.4 ppg while shooting .520 from the floor and .483 from the three-point line. 
    • High point: The Cats clobbered in-state rival ASU 116-80 in the 16th win of Arizona's then-record 19-game winning streak.
    • How the season ended: Then-24-and-3 Arizona became the second No. 2 seed to lose to a No. 15 seed as Steve Nash's Santa Clara Broncos ended the Cats' season.
    • First-place votes: 11
    • Record: 30-7
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable player: Sharpshooter Salim Stoudamire was the Cats' heart and soul, and he was a fan favorite while completely blistering the nets from distances that even NBA players rarely launch from. He led the team in scoring at 18.4 ppg and shot .504 from behind the arc while setting a team record for most three-pointers made (120, which broke Steve Kerr's 114 in 1988). He and Kerr remain the only two Wildcats to hit better than 50 percent in a season (while taking enough to qualify for official stats).
    • High point: Arizona won seven straight to start the month of February and help seal a regular-season Pac-10 Conference title.
    • How the season ended: Arizona lost a 15-point lead in the last four minutes and fell by a single point in overtime to No. 1-seeded Illinois.
    • First-place votes: 14
    • Record: 28-4
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable players: Jason Gardner led the Cats with 14.8 ppg, 4.9 assists per game and 1.8 steals. Channing Frye led the Cats in rebounds with 8 per game and in field goal percentage at .569.
    • High point: Arizona upended Oregon 88-80 at McKale Center to complete a second 10-game winning streak in the same season.
    • How the season ended: Jason Gardner's UA career came to a close against Kansas in the NCAA Tournament when he missed a game-tying three-pointer.
    • First-place votes: 27
    • Record: 30-8
    • Coach: Sean Miller
    • Notable player: Derrick Williams' accomplishments in his second and final season with the Wildcats are too numerous to mention here, but we'll dish on a couple of his achievements. He led the team in scoring, rebounding, FG percentage, FTs made and taken (both school records), blocks and steals (19.5, 8.3, .595, 247 of 331, 0.7, 0.9). Oh, and he also hit 42 of 74 three-pointers for a .568 percentage. He didn't take or make enough to be counted among NCAA leaders, but only Steve Kerr had a better percentage in UA history among those with more than 40 made threes. 
    • High point: Arizona's Derrick Williams scores 25 first half points as the Wildcats roll No. 1 Duke in the Sweet 16 and end the Blue Devils' bid to repeat as national champions.
    • How the season ended: Williams and Jamelle Horne each missed go-ahead three-pointers in the final seconds as the Cats lost to eventual champion Connecticut.
    • First-place votes: 28
    • Record: 29-4
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable player: Sean Elliott, who just got better every year as a Cat, became Arizona's only Wooden Award winner as national player of the year. He was a consensus first-team All-American for the second straight season. He scored 22.2 points per game and led the team in free throw and three-point shooting percentages (.841 and .437).
    • High point: Arizona slammed Clemson 94-68 in the second round of the NCAA tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 and cap the second 11-game winning streak of the season.
    • How it ended: In another infamous moment in Arizona's NCAA tournament history, Kenny Lofton fell to the ground after he and Anderson Hunt collided, and Hunt used the opening to hit a three-pointer with two seconds left in the Sweet 16 to upend the Cats 68-67 and leave Sean Elliott, the Cats' only Wooden Award winner in school history, without a title.
    • First-place votes: 51
    • Record: 30-5
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable player: Sophomore point guard Mike Bibby didn't disappoint after helping the Cats win their first title the year before. He was the Pac-10 Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American. Bibby led the team in assists (5.7) and steals (2.4).  
    • High point: With everyone back from its first national title, Bibby, Miles Simon, Jason Terry and Michael Dickerson, among others, shuffled to an 8-3 start before reeling off 19 straight wins — including two epic pastings of a 30-5, Final Four Stanford team by a combined score of 183-133.
    • How the season ended: The top-seeded Cats were run off the court in the Elite Eight against Rick Majerus' Utah Utes. Andre Miller outplayed Arizona's All-American backcourt with a triple-double, and then-30-and-4 Arizona's season ended with a 76-51 loss.
    • First-place votes: 129
    • Record: 28-8
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable player: Gilbert Arenas, the Midwest Region Most Outstanding Player, led the team in scoring (16.2 ppg), three-point shooting (.416), steals (1.8 spg) and laughs (he was renowned as being the team prankster) as the Wildcats made their second NCAA championship game appearance.
    • High point: The Cats won their 11th straight game by smashing defending champion Michigan State 80-61 in the Final Four in a season marked by the death of Lute Olson's wife Bobbi, who died of cancer on Jan. 1, 2001.
    • How the season ended: Down four points in the second half of a fast-paced, freewheeling game, no call was made on a Jason Gardner layup attempt that included contact with a Duke player. In the ensuing break the other way, Blue Devil star Mike Dunleavy hit a wide-open three-pointer to stretch the lead to seven – a five-point swing – and Duke held on.
    • First-place votes: 436
    • Record: 35-3
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable player: Sean Elliott. Steve Kerr, Anthony Cook and Kenny Lofton were great players, but Elliott and Lute Olson put the Wildcats on the map and elevated them to the loftiest reaches of college basketball – a place the program has remained for most of the last 30 years. Elliott was a consensus first-team All-American and won the first of two Pac-10 Player of the Year awards in 1988.
    • High point: Arizona clobbered North Carolina 70-52 in Seattle to advance to the school's first Final Four and complete a 15-game winning streak – the second double-digit streak of the Cats' winningest season in school history.
    • How it ended: Harvey Grant and Stacey King scored 42 points for No. 1 seed Oklahoma, 57-percent three-point shooter Steve Kerr went cold (2-12 from deep), and Sean Elliott's 31 were not enough as the Cats lost 86-78 in the Final Four.
  • And here it is, the readers' selection as the best basketball team in Arizona Wildcats history – by just five votes, no less! As late as two days ago, this squad was in second place and a handful of votes behind the 1987-88 Final Four team. But a few of you out there made a late push in the last 48 hours, and we've got a champion! Make sure to keep clicking to see where Greg Hansen ranked his top 5. 

    • First-place votes: 441
    • Record: 25-9
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Notable player: This was a true team title, but Miles Simon was the heart and soul of Arizona's only national championship team. The NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player led fellow Cats Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson, Jason Terry, A.J. Bramlett, Bennett Davison and Eugene Edgerson to new heights.
    • High point: Tucson's celebration upon the team's return from its only national championship.
    • How the season ended: No. 4 seed Arizona became the first team to beat three No. 1 seeds in a single tournament – Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky – and slipped past those other Wildcats in overtime of the title game behind Most Outstanding Player Miles Simon's 30 points.
    • Record: 29-6
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Greg says: Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves were the top 1-2 scoring punch in school history.
    • Record: 29-4
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Greg says: The Sweet 16 non-call on UNLV's Anderson Hunt left Kenny Lofton in tears.
    • Record: 30-5
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Greg says: Arizona took everybody's best shot until it ran into Rick Majerus.
    • Record: 28-8
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Greg says: From 1 through 5 (Jason Gardner, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, Michael Wright and Loren Woods), no weaknesses, and the entire team survived Bobbi's death.
    • Record: 35-3
    • Coach: Lute Olson
    • Greg Hansen says: This team had zen, karma, chemistry, Kerr and Elliott.
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