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Arizona ranked No. 1 team in college basketball by Sports Illustrated

The magazine predicts Arizona to be at the pinnacle of college basketball

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Championship Arizona vs Oregon Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

With an FBI investigation hanging over college basketball, one sports publication is ignoring the noise and focusing on the details that matter — who will be on the court.

In their 1-351 ranking, Sports Illustrated has put the Arizona Wildcats at the pinnacle of college basketball, going into the 2017-2018 season.

SI projects the Wildcats to have the second-best offense and 19th-ranked defense in the country, while finishing first in the Pac-12 and landing a one-seed (likely) out west.

While Rawle Alkins is expected to be out until December with a broken foot, SI’s staff believes Arizona’s combination of experience and new talent will be enough to carry the torch throughout the season.

SI writes about the team heading into the season:

Arizona gets the nod as our No. 1 team thanks to an enviable blend of proven veterans and freshman talent. Junior guard Allonzo Trier averaged more than 20 points per game on high efficiency over the final 10 games of last season and senior center Dusan Ristic has shot over 55% in the paint three years running.

Big man DeAndre Ayton, a projected top-five pick in the 2018 NBA draft, is the linchpin of the Wildcats’ recruiting class, a loaded five-man haul that also includes two wings with the potential to make significant impacts right away: Brandon Randolph and Emmanuel Akot.

The FBI’s investigation into corruption across college basketball casts a dark cloud over the program, and it’s understandable that some have preemptively dinged Arizona for fear that one or more players could be declared ineligible. But we’re evaluating the Wildcats on the assumption that everyone who is believed to be eligible right now will be during the season. If that’s the case, they’re going to roll over most of their opponents.

Rounding out SI’s Top 10 are Michigan State, Duke, Wichita State, Villanova, Cincinnati, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, and Florida.

The USC Trojans are the next highest ranked Pac-12 school, ranked 13th, with UCLA at 20th, and then Alabama, who the Wildcats play in McKale on Dec. 9, slotted at 21st.

Texas A&M and Oregon are ranked 29th and 32th, respectively.


You can follow Alec on Twitter: @UofAlec