Arizona may be entering this college basketball season as the most hyped team of the Sean Miller era.
The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in preseason basketball annuals Athlon Sports and Street & Smith’s this month, while Lindy’s put them second behind only Michigan State.
That suggests a chance the Wildcats will be ranked No. 1 in the official AP and USA Today preseason polls that will be released next month, a spot they haven’t held in the preseason since 2002-03 (they were No. 2 in 2014-15).
Athlon also listed “Sean Miller’s Loaded Arizona Wildcats” as the No. 1 item in its “10 things to watch” category.
“Arizona appears to be the first college basketball program in modern history, and perhaps ever, to add a top-three recruiting class to a roster that’s returning three of its top four scorers from a team that won at least 32 games the previous season,” Athlon wrote. “In other words, no excuses. The pressure is on.”
Among those top returners is junior wing Allonzo Trier, named a second-team all-American by Athlon and Street & Smith, while the cornerstone of the recruiting class, center/forward DeAndre Ayton, was a second-team all-American pick in Athlon and rated a “freshman of note” among top centers in Lindy’s preview.
The Wildcats were also a consensus choice to win the Pac-12 among the three publications, with all three also picking USC second, UCLA third, Oregon fourth and Stanford fifth.
As usual, Miller isn’t ducking from all the hype. Miller’s Wildcats were ranked No. 6 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 in 2013, No. 2 in 2014, No. 12 in 2015 and No. 10 last season.
“You would rather have everybody say awesome things, positive things, about your team than the other side,” Miller said last month. “It’s also that at Arizona…with the expectations we have, knowing the program that we’re all a part of, and the tradition we have, it’s really in my mind no less or more than it’s always been.
“We know what we’re expected to do and we hope to do those things.”
Of course, among those expected things will be making UA’s first Final Four appearance since 2001, a feat even the top-rated 2002-03 team led by Luke Walton and Jason Gardner couldn’t accomplish when it lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight.
A Final Four appearance for UA this season would also be Miller’s first, after he lost Elite Eight games in 2008 with Xavier, and in 2011, 2014 and 2015 with Arizona. The Wildcats also missed college basketball’s highest stage last season when they lost to Xavier in the Sweet 16.
This time, the three preseason annuals all indicate the Wildcats can get over the hump.
“Sean Miller has resources, access to talent, the ability to win at the highest level and a fan base just sane enough to appreciate him most of the time,” Lindy’s wrote.
“They’ll also remind him about the lack of a Final Four on his résumé, but that chatter will soon end because this season ends on a Monday in San Antonio.”
- Sports Illustrated put only one former Wildcat among its Top 100 NBA players: Andre Iguodala (46) of the Golden State Warriors. The magazine’s website had conference rivals UCLA with four, USC with three and Stanford with two. UA has 14 players under contract with NBA teams for the upcoming sea
- Miller is scheduled to make an in-home recruiting visit Sunday with Orlando forward Nassir Little, one of UA’s top remaining 2018 targets, according to 24/7 Sports. Little is scheduled to take an official campus visit to Arizona for the Red-Blue Game on Oct. 20.
- Five-star forward Bol Bol of California’s Mater Dei High School has scheduled an official visit to Arizona for the weekend of Oct. 27, according to Scout.
- Scout placed UA atop its updated team recruiting rankings for
- 2018 because of commitments from five-star guard Jahvon Quinerly, four-star forward Shareef O’Neal and four-star guard Brandon Williams.