The Pac-12 won’t release its preseason poll for another 10 days or so, while the first Associated Press Top 25 isn’t due for a few weeks. But with the men’s basketball season only about three weeks away, it’s time to start thinking about where Arizona figures to rank at the outset.
According to KenPom.com, not far from where it finished the previous campaign.
Arizona is ranked 10th in KenPom’s rating of the 363 Division programs, five spots below its No. 5 finish to the 2021-22 season that saw the UA post a 33-4 record and win both the Pac-12 regular-season and conference tournament titles en route to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney and a trip to the Sweet 16.
The Wildcats are the highest-ranked Pac-12 squad, one spot ahead of UCLA. Also in the top 50 are Oregon (29th) and USC (36th), with five other teams in the top 75. The league begins the season as the sixth-best conference in Division I, per KenPom, trailing the Big 12, SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Big East.
Including conference games, Arizona is scheduled to face at least 19 teams ranked in the top 100. Five of those will be in non-league play, highlighted by the Dec. 17 home game against No. 4 Tennessee and the Dec. 10 clash with No. 12 Indiana in Las Vegas.
The Wildcats face No. 51 Cincinnati to open the Maui Invitational, then will face either No. 19 San Diego State or No. 32 Ohio State. Their final Maui game will be against either No. 13 Arkansas, No. 17 Texas Tech, No. 22 Creighton or No. 91 Louisville.
“I love playing in those big neutral tournaments,” coach Tommy Lloyd said at Arizona’s Media Day. “I think they’re incredible learning experiences for your team. You’re literally gonna have 120 minutes of hard basketball in a really short window, you’re gonna be fully exposed. I think the teams that end up having great seasons utilize those tournaments as a great learning tool. And so that’s we’re always going to try to play in the best tournaments we can.”
Arizona’s other six nonconference games are against teams ranked 173rd or lower. The three pre-Maui opponents, all coming to McKale Center, are ranked No. 247 (Nicholls), No. 269 (Southern) and No. 258 (Utah Tech) and the final game before Christmas is against No. 297 Morgan State.
“I definitely think we scheduled well enough to give ourselves a chance to win an at-large bid, and if we perform well in our schedule, we probably have a chance to get a decent seed in the (NCAA) tournament,” Lloyd said. “I think those are the things you try to accomplish with your scheduling. There’s a lot of moving part of that scheduling game. It’s not easy. Sometimes what you ideally would want to do with the schedule and what realistically can happen, are so far apart your mind would be blown. So it’s a work in progress, and we’re still trying to get a feel for exactly how we want to pin down our nonconference schedule.”
Not including the TBD opponents in Maui, KenPom gives Arizona at 50 percent chance or better at winning all but one game: the regular-season finale at UCLA, where the Wildcats have a 39 percent chance of victory. At the same time, though, KenPom projects a 23-6 overall record (not including the other two Maui games) at 15-5 mark in Pac-12 play and tying for first with UCLA.
Arizona currently has the 10th-best odds to win the NCAA title, per DraftKings Sportsbook, at +2000. The quartet of Gonzaga, Kentucky, Houston and North Carolina are tied for the best odds at +900.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.