They aren’t in the Top 50 — or even the Top 100.
The ratings were determined by these four factors:
- Quantity of experience on roster.
- Quality of that experience.
- Recruiting rankings for incoming freshmen, with an extra emphasis on five-stars.
- Coach’s past performance.
Using those factors, it is somewhat understandable why Arizona is rated where it is. The Wildcats lost their entire starting five, which hurts them in factor No. 1. Their leading returning scorer is Dylan Smith, who averaged just 4.3 points per game, which hurts them in factor No. 2. (They did add two graduate transfers, though.)
Arizona’s 2018 recruiting class included three four-star prospects, which is solid, but not overwhelming, so it doesn’t do tremendously well in factor No. 3.
But what about factor No. 4? Arizona should rate well there, right?
In nine years at the UA, only two of Sean Miller’s teams have finished outside the Top 50, per KenPom. Generally, they finish inside the Top 30.
Miller’s worst team at the UA was the 2009-10 squad, which still ranked 82nd in the country, while the 2011-12 team finished 51st.
Sure, one can argue that Miller hasn’t maximized his supremely-talented teams, but he has shown a knack for keeping his teams respectable when they aren’t as talented.
The 2018-19 team is sort of in the middle.
While there is no proven talent on the roster, it still consists of several former four- and five-star recruits who are capable of developing into good, maybe great, college players.
It’s not Miller’s best team, but it likely won’t be his worst, either. They sure don’t mind being underrated, though.
Where do Arizona’s opponents rank?
A lot has been said about the weakness of UA’s schedule, so let’s take a look and see how many of its opponents are in ESPN’s Top 100. For this exercise, we will not include potential Maui Invitational opponents like Gonzaga and Duke, who ranked No. 2 and No. 9, respectively.
Alabama — No. 20
Iowa State — No. 31
Arizona State — No. 45
Oregon — No. 49
Baylor — No. 53
USC — No. 57
Washington — No. 67
Stanford — No. 72
Oregon State — No. 99
It’s hard to believe Stanford (without Reid Travis) and Oregon State project better than Arizona and UCLA.
In general, BPI has little faith in the Pac-12, ranking it as the seventh-best conference in college basketball, far behind the other major conferences.
In fact, the average BPI of teams in the Pac-12 (2.3) more closely aligns with the American (2.6), Atlantic 10 (1.8), West Coast (1.8) and Mountain West (1.8) conferences than it does with the Big 12 (6.8), Big Ten (6.1), ACC (5.9), SEC (5.6) and Big East (5.2) conferences.
BPI sees a drop-off for Arizona and UCLA, two of the best teams in the conference in recent years, because of low percentages of returning minutes and less-than-stellar opponent-adjusted efficiency numbers for those returning players. Arizona State (No. 45 in BPI) is the highest-ranked team in the conference, and it ranks that high only thanks to decent defensive efficiency among its returning players.