Nov 6, 2023 - News

Arizona Wildcats top the Pac-12 men's basketball rankings in their final year in the conference

Wildcats big man Oumar Ballo in the Pac-12 tournament in March. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats start their final season in the Pac-12 in a strong position to win the conference one last time before its current teams split up for good.

  • Since joining the conference in 1978, they've won either the regular conference title or the Pac-12 tournament 18 times.

Driving the news: UofA starts the season in a familiar spot, with big expectations and a high ranking, snagging No. 11 in the preseason coaches poll and No. 12 in the AP preseason poll.

  • They top the Pac-12 team in both. Aside from USC and UCLA, no other conference teams made the top 25.

Yes, but: Next season the Wildcats will play in the Big 12, which includes preseason No. 1 Kansas and top-10 Houston as members.

Flashback: The team ended last season with one of the most devastating losses in program history, falling to 15-seed Princeton as a 2-seed in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

  • UofA is the only team in NCAA history to lose to a 15-seed in the tournament twice, after the first time in 1993, when they lost to Santa Clara in the first round.

1 big senior: Seven-foot center Oumar Ballo is back for his final season in Tucson, and if last year is any indication, it'll be a grand finale.

Plus: If someone besides Ballo steals the spotlight at McKale Memorial Center this year, it'll probably be Caleb Love, a guard who transferred from the University of North Carolina during the offseason.

  • Love led the Tar Heels in scoring last year with 16.7 points per game.

Threat level: The team has lost several key starters, including Tubelis, last year's leading scorer, who declared for the NBA draft, and guards Courtney Ramey and Kerr Kriisa, the latter of whom transferred to the University of West Virginia.

  • Kriisa is suspended for nine games for accepting impermissible benefits while playing at UofA.
  • The suspension won't affect Arizona, which is still under NCAA probation from infractions under former head coach Sean Miller.

Zoom in: The Cats' pre-conference schedule is absolutely stacked.

  • Their second game of the season is against Duke (No. 2 in the AP poll), followed by Michigan State (No. 4) on Nov. 23, Purdue (No. 3) on Dec. 16, Alabama (No. 24) on Dec. 20, and Florida Atlantic (No. 10) on Dec. 23.

Be smart: The Wildcats have an extra incentive to make a deep March Madness run this season: The Final Four will be in Glendale.


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