The Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team is on its way back to being a top 25 program.
At least, that’s the consensus from the first preseason rankings for the 2021-22 college basketball season. National and regional basketball writers are beginning to release their first polls for the upcoming season, and the Wildcats are a constant fixture.
These rankings come with several asterisks, of course. Arizona’s roster for next season is still a work in progress, with at least one expected starter, James Akinjo, currently testing the waters for the NBA Draft. The Wildcats are almost certain to add at least one player from the transfer portal, which could elevate the team’s potential.
Nevertheless, Arizona’s unanimous presence in preseason top 25 polls speaks to the expectations that will follow the program this fall.
Here is where the Wildcats are ranked in the first 2021-2022 preseason rankings. Included are brief snippets provided by each outlet.
Kevin Flaherty, 247Sports: No. 11
“The Wildcats were seen as a year away this past season after landing the No. 7 recruiting class in the 247Sports Composite, albeit one without a true one-and-done talent. And after going 17-9 with a team whose two most-used lineups late didn’t include a single senior, the Wildcats look ready to roll. James Akinjo, Kerr Kriisa, Benedict Mathurin, Jordan Brown, Azuolas Tubelis and Dalen Terry are all entering their second seasons on the court for the Wildcats.”
Jon Wilner, The Mercury News: No. 16
“We’re assuming a suspension for coach Sean Miller but not a postseason ban, meaning plenty of motivation for what should be a stout roster led by point guard James Akinjo, wing Bennedict Mathurin and big man Azoulas Tubelis. (We believe Akinjo will return after testing the waters.) The Wildcats aren’t back, to their pre-scandal status, but they are inching forward.”
Jeff Borzello, ESPN, No. 16
“A mostly forgotten team this past season, Arizona was a likely NCAA tournament team for most of the campaign despite having nothing to play for due to a self-imposed ban. It’s not clear the Wildcats will be able to play in next season’s NCAA tournament either (or if Sean Miller will still be the coach), but until a punishment is handed down, I’m rolling with them as a potential second-weekend team. Miller’s teams in the past have been known for defense, but this version was terrific offense. James Akinjo is an excellent playmaker at the point of attack, and the Wildcats have an assortment of versatile frontcourt pieces to give teams problems. Benedict Mathurin, Kerr Kriisa, Dalen Terry, Azuolas Tubelis, and Jordan Brown all made impacts during their first year in Tucson, and Miller also brings in a solid recruiting class led by top-100 prospect Shane Nowell. Expect Arizona to hit the portal, too.”
Jeff Goodman, The Stadium: No. 21
“The Wildcats weren’t eligible for the NCAA tourney this past season, but likely would have gotten in if they hadn’t self-imposed a ban. If they bring back their core of Akinjo, Tubelis, and Mathurin while adding a trio of solid freshmen, there’s no reason to think they can’t compete for the Pac-12 title.”
Gary Parrish, CBS Sports: No. 21
“Most of the pieces that helped Arizona finish in the top 30 at KenPom are expected back. As long as James Akinjo withdraws from the NBA Draft, the Wildcats should return to the NCAA Tournament (provided they’re eligible for the NCAA Tournament).”
Where do you think Arizona should be ranked heading into the 2021-2022 season?