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Arizona listed as Pac-12 ‘sleeper’ by Sports Illustrated

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 15 Baylor at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12, but one national writer wouldn’t be surprised to see them repeat as conference champions.

Sports Illustrated’s Dan Greene listed Arizona as one of his “top-three sleeper teams that could steal a regular-season conference title.”

“Is there such thing as a sleeper in the Pac-12?” he wrote. “The Wildcats have been somewhat of an afterthought in Arizona State’s shadow during this rebuilding year, but they defend as well as anyone in the league and Sean Miller has won this thing a few times.”

Greene is right that there is probably no such thing as a sleeper in the Pac-12. The conference ranks sixth in the country, the worst among the power conferences, per KenPom. The Pac-12 even ranks below the American Athletic Conference for the first time ever and has a losing record against the West Coast Conference.

Not one Pac-12 team is currently ranked inside the Top 25 and only one team — Oregon — finds itself inside KenPom’s Top 40. The rest of the Pac-12 ranks 50th or worse. Arizona checks in at 53rd.

So there is a lot of bad basketball being played in the so-called Conference of Champions, with little separation between the top teams and those perceived to be in the middle of the pack.

For instance, KenPom projects Oregon will win the conference with a measly 12-6 record, then projects three teams — ASU, Arizona and Washington — will finish tied for second at 11-7. Then there’s UCLA and Colorado who are projected to finish 10-8.