Luke Walton and Jason Gardner on the cover of SI in 2002. That season was the last in which Arizona was ranked No. 1 by the AP, and Sports Illustrated picked them as the No. 1 team in the nation before the season.

Arizona guard Nick Johnson lays up a shot past Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett during the second half Tuesday. The Cats won that game easily, and another victory Saturday against UNLV would likely make Arizona No. 1.

Even before the door opened for the Arizona Wildcats to secure their first No. 1 ranking in over a decade, coach Sean Miller didn’t duck a question about the possibility.

In fact, Miller said it would be a really good thing.

“When you’re playing with that thought in mind, practices matter, how you play matters, everything we do takes on even more added importance,” Miller said. “Because you’re trying in a sense to get to that rarefied air of being the No. 1 team in the nation.”

Miller said all that on Tuesday, after UA beat Texas Tech.

A night later, North Carolina upended top-ranked Michigan State, meaning the Wildcats could be No. 1 if they beat UNLV on Saturday at McKale Center.

So guess how practices are now? And how that game might be Saturday?

“Obviously, it’s going to be a huge challenge for us,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.

If the Wildcats hang on to beat the Rebels, who are 3-3 in a year of roster transition in Rice’s third season, they will likely top both major polls for the first time since March 10, 2003.

That team, which featured Jason Gardner, Luke Walton and Andre Iguodala, spent most of the 2002-03 season at No. 1 in both polls before losing to Kansas in the NCAA Elite Eight.

Here’s how the Wildcats stack up with Michigan State and other contenders for the No. 1 ranking in the AP media poll and the USA Today coaches poll, both of which will be updated Monday.

(Power ratings, top-50 teams and strength-of-schedule are according to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin; the NCAA’s official RPI ratings are not released in the early season.)

Michigan State (7-1)

AP rank: 1

Power rating: 13

Strength of schedule: 180

Vs. top-50 teams: 2-1

Away/neutral sites: 3-0

Top win: vs. Kentucky, at Chicago (78-74)

Loss: vs. North Carolina (79-65)

This weekend: no games

Arizona (8-0)

AP rank: 2

Power rating: 3

Strength of schedule: 209

Vs. top-50 teams: 3-0

Away/neutral sites: 3-0

Top win: vs. Duke, at New York (72-66)

Close call: vs. Drexel, at New York (66-62)

This weekend: vs UNLV, Saturday

Kentucky (7-1)

AP rank: 3

Power rating: 15

Strength of schedule: 287

Vs. top-50 teams: 0-1

Away/neutral sites: 1-1

Top win: vs. Providence at Brooklyn, N.Y. (79-65)

Loss: vs. Michigan State at Chicago (78-74)

This weekend: vs. Baylor at Arlington, Texas, tonight

Syracuse 7-0

AP rank: 4

Power rating: 12

Strength of schedule: 118

Vs. top-50 teams: 4-0

Away/neutral sites: 3-0

Top win: vs. Baylor at Maui Invitational (74-67)

Close call: vs. Minnesota at Maui Invitational (75-67)

This weekend: vs. Binghamton, Saturday

Ohio State (7-0)

AP rank: 5

Power rating: 1

Strength of schedule: 208

Vs. top-50 teams: 2-0

Away/neutral sites: 1-0

Top win: at Marquette (52-35)

Close call: vs. Ohio (79-69)

This weekend: vs. Central Connecticut, Saturday

Kansas (6-1)

AP rank: 6

Power rating: 9

Strength of schedule: 67

Vs. top-50 teams: 1-1

Away/neutral sites: 3-1

Top win: vs Duke, at Chicago (94-83)

Loss: Villanova, at Bahamas (67-63)

This weekend: at Colorado, Saturday

Louisville (6-1)

AP rank: 7

Power rating: 7

Strength of schedule: 327

Vs. top-50 teams: 0-1

Away/neutral sites: 1-1

Top win: vs. Southern Miss. (69-38)

Loss: North Carolina, at Uncasville, Conn. (93-84)

This weekend: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Saturday

Wisconsin (9-0)

AP rank: 8

Power rating: 16

Strength of schedule: 29

Vs. top-50 teams: 3-0

Away/neutral sites: 5-0

Top win: at Virginia (48-38)

Close call: vs Florida (59-53)

This weekend: vs. Marquette, Saturday