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Arizona basketball: Lute Olson says 2017-18 Wildcats are most talented team he’s seen at UA

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That means a lot

Arizona Wildcats v UCLA Bruins Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Even after the Duke Blue Devils landed Marvin Bagley III, there are still folks who believe the Arizona Wildcats are the top team in the country heading into the 2017-18 season.

UA legend Lute Olson is probably one of them.

The former Arizona head coach said this Arizona team is “the most talented team that I saw at the U of A, and we had some pretty talented teams.”

He’s not kidding.

Olson led Arizona to its only national championship in 1997 along with three other Final Four appearances during his 25-year tenure in Tucson, a feat Arizona has not been able to accomplish in 16 seasons.

Not to mention Olson coached the likes of Andre Iguodala, Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton, Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Gilbert Arenas among others while with the Wildcats.

However, the 2017-18 Wildcats are a rare team in the modern era as they feature several experienced players to go along with a stellar freshman class.

Arizona will start two seniors in Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic, plus an outstanding wing duo of Allonzo Trier, a junior, and Rawle Alkins a sophomore. The fifth starter is a freshman, but it’s DeAndre Ayton, who is arguably the No. 1 prospect in the country.

On top of that, Arizona’s bench is loaded with highly-touted recruits and experienced transfers, so it’s not exactly a top-heavy team, either.

But is that better than any team Olson had? That might be a stretch. In 2001, Olson had Walton, Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Wright, Loren Woods, and Jason Gardner on his roster.

In 2003 — the year Arizona was on the cover of Sports Illustrated — Arizona had Gardner, Walton, Iguodala, Salim Stoudamire, Channing Frye, Hassan Adams and Rick Anderson.

Regardless, Olson evidently liked what he saw from the 2017-18 team in practice and he certainly knows a thing or two about Arizona basketball.

“These guys are unreal,” Olson said. “I think the fans are gonna have a great year following them. And the fact that they’re nice kids in addition to being good players, I think that’s important to the Wildcat fans.”


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire