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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Arizona men’s basketball can still climb up the college basketball totem pole

The Arizona men’s basketball team moved up to No. 7 in the latest AP Top 25 poll after dropping to No. 10 following a 58-56 loss against Oregon State. However, could the Wildcats move up higher in the next week or two? They most certainly can.

Arizona (16-2, 4-1 Pac-12 Conference) is currently tied for first with Utah and Stanford in the Pac-12  and has matchups with both teams left on the schedule. Stanford — which Arizona plays on Thursday — is ranked 25th in the USA Today coaches poll and gives the Wildcats another chance at a win over a ranked opponent. With players like Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown, the Cardinal shouldn’t be overlooked.

The other ranked team left is the No. 12 Utah squad that Arizona just defeated by 18 points in McKale Center. Despite the double-digit victory over the Utes, it wouldn’t be smart to count out Delon Wright and company. Utah is simply too talented to think the matchup in Salt Lake City will be anything but a close game.

Considering conferences like the Big 12 and ACC have numerous ranked teams, it might not seem like a huge positive for Arizona, since only two ranked teams remain on the schedule. In reality, wins over ranked teams matter, especially when the two aforementioned opponents will both be road games for the Wildcats.

Looking at the six teams ranked above Arizona, there are some signs that could lead to the Wildcats moving up.

No. 1 Kentucky is basically entrenched at the top spot unless the SEC version of the Wildcats loses to a cupcake. And let be real: John Calipari has way too much talent for that to happen. In essence, it’s nearly impossible for Arizona to jump UK barring a shocking upset.

No. 2 Virginia, No. 5 Duke and No. 6 Wisconsin are perfect cases of teams that could succumb to their rigorous schedules. Each team has at least three or more games against teams currently ranked. Thus, there is a certain level of volatility in that schedule that could lead to a drop in the rankings.

No. 3 Gonzaga has already lost to Arizona and doesn’t play another ranked team all season in the West Coast Conference. Its toughest contests seem to be against a down Memphis squad and a gritty BYU team. They’re solid teams but don’t jump off the page. You have to think Arizona could jump the Bulldogs if the Wildcats could get close enough in the rankings.

No. 4 Villanova just lost on Monday to Georgetown and has a relatively weak schedule going forward. Its only remaining ranked opponent is a home matchup against No. 24 Seton Hall. Again, it’s a matchup that doesn’t jump off the page.

After considering the different paths those teams have lined up, there are no doubts Arizona can move up as high as No. 2 in the rankings if the ball bounces its way. It won’t be easy, and rest assured Sean Miller wouldn’t want it to be, but this Arizona team has plenty talent to get the job done.

It was No. 2 for a reason. Now, it’s time to show it.


Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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