The Arizona Wildcats set another record today without playing a game: Their stay on top of the AP Top 25 has reached seven weeks, the longest streak in school history.
The Wildcats have held the No. 1 spot during the seasons of 1987-88, 1988-89, 1997-98, 2000-01 and 2002-03 but never for more than six straight weeks, which they did at the beginning of the 2002-03 season.
Arizona held the top spot all the way until it lost at LSU on Dec. 21, 2002 but the Wildcats gained it back for two weeks in January 2003 and for six weeks from February into March 2003.
Javier Morales broke down the UA's time at the top.
While the Wildcats kept the same 61 of 65 first-place votes among the Top 25, with No. 2 Syracuse getting the other four, UCLA and Colorado dropped out of the poll and Cal did not get in.
That means there are no Pac-12 teams in the poll other than Arizona, though Sean Miller said there will be a number of them before the season is over.
“Cal right now is playing in incredible basketball,” Miller said. “They may be playing the best basketball in our conference, even compared with us, when you consider that they’ve already won three road games and their scoring margins. They’ve had a number of guys who have been injured and yet it hasn’t slowed them down. They’re not nearly the same team as they would have been in December and they have a great coach, a system, a style that I think really is a difficult style to go up against.”
Among those who Miller would expect to return is Oregon.
“There’s always peaks and valleys in a season and they’re in a valley right now,” Miller said. “But they’re too good of a team, Dana Altman is too good of a coach, (so) they’ll work their way out of it and don’t be surprised when Oregon shows up playing us they’re playing their best basketball.
“We have in my estimate five or six teams that could be ranked, could be part of this year’s NCAA tournament. But when you’re in a conference that’s really competitive, any team on a given night is able to beat the other team and that’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing.”
Colorado, Arizona’s opponent on Thursday, also is beginning to adjust without Spencer Dinwiddie, Miller said.
“They’re a better team, I’m sure, with Spencer Dinwiddie,” Miller said. “But just the way they play, as evidenced by this weekend … every day they move away from the injury, the more sure of themselves, the more together the more they’ll become, a better team.
“Initially, it’s hard because you’re introducing some new roles. But Tad Boyle is an excellent coach and every time we’ve played Colorado, it’s been a terrific game.”
Gabe York and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were the two players UA chose to be available for today's interviews, which led to a discussion about keeping loose. Hollis-Jefferson is known to have one of the Wildcats' brightest personalities, and Miller says that translates to the floor.
"That's one of the reasons I believe he’s at ease in big moments because that’s his personality, he's kind of easygoing, he’s easy to laugh at himself and he’s a joy to be around," Miller said.
"Some guys you walk in the gym and they sap the living life out of you. Theres other guys you see and you can’t wait to coach them. You know that the next hour and a half is going to be rewarding because you have somebody who’s ready and eager and loves the game. Rondae’s certainly in that second category."
York said Hollis-Jefferson's approach has been good for the entire team, too.
"He’s goofy. He’s a fun-spirited guy," York said. "He’s always trying to joke around. He tries to make the best of every situation and if he’s not having fun his game isn’t going to show.
"That’s what this team sort of was missing last year. We all got a little too serious when Pac-12 came around. This year, we're more relaxed, a little more free-spirited, I guess."
Not surprisingly, Stanley Johnson was named to USA Basketball's Hoop Summit roster. Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon played in last year's game, which annually features the top high school players in the USA against top young international prospects.