The Arizona Wildcats reached yet another milestone under coach Sean Miller on Thursday, cracking the top 10 of The Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll for the first time in a decade.
Arizona was ranked No. 6, the first time the Wildcats have been ranked in the top 10 during the preseason under Miller, though Arizona rose as high as No. 3 in weekly polls last season when they didn’t lose a game for the first two months.
The lofty preseason prediction from the AP poll largely reflected other expectations the Wildcats have been gaining so far.
They were ranked No. 5 in the USA Today coaches Top 25, and No. 5 by both the Sporting News and Blue Ribbon Yearbook preseason annuals. In the Athlon Sports annual, UA was rated No. 6, and Lindy’s had the Wildcats at No. 11.
Arizona is also the No. 1 seed in the Preseason NIT and was made a heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 Conference, with 21 of 23 media voters who cover the Pac-12 picking the Wildcats first.
During his preseason media address, however, Miller expressed doubts about the depth of his front line and the Wildcats’ shooting.
“It’s just the way it goes, but I do believe with where we’re rated, how good we’re supposed to be, we may not be that good,” Miller said. “I don’t know yet.”
Miller’s caution may not be a bad idea. High preseason rankings historically have not foreshadowed postseason success for the Wildcats.
Of the 12 previous UA teams to be given a top-10 ranking, only four reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament — and only one (in 2000-01) made the Final Four.
Of Arizona’s four previous Final Four teams, the 1988 team was rated No. 17 in the preseason, the 1994 team was ranked No. 18, the 1997 national champions were No. 19 and the 2000-01 team was ranked No. 1.
Three UA teams ranked in the top 5 in the preseason — in 2003-04, 1994-95 and 1991-92 — lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Miller, however, has never had a team ranked in the preseason top 10. The Wildcats were not ranked at all throughout his first two regular seasons, 2009-10 and 2010-11, and began the 2011-12 season ranked No. 16 but were out of the poll most of that season.
Last season, Arizona was rated No. 12 in the preseason poll, swung between No. 3 and No. 21 during the season, while finishing in a second-place tie in the Pac-12 and reaching the NCAA Sweet 16.