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Arizona men’s basketball No. 17 in preseason Associated Press poll

sb-nation-reacts-arizona-mens-basketball-wildcats-pac12-tournament-prediction-poll-results-vegas Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Going into Tommy Lloyd’s first season in charge, uncertainty about the program’s direction caused Arizona to be unranked in the preseason Associated Press Top 25. But by the third week of the season the Wildcats were 17th, climbing to as high as No. 2.

The ascent won’t need to be as steep this season, as Arizona has opened at No. 17 in the 2022-23 preseason poll. It’s the team’s highest preseason rank since starting at No. 3 in the 2017-18 season.

The UA is coming off a tremendous debut season under Lloyd, going 33-4 while winning both the Pac-12 regular-season and conference tournament titles. Arizona earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014, reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017.

Three starters from that squad ended up getting taken in the 2022 NBA Draft, likely impacting Arizona’s starting spot for this season. The No. 17 rank is second-best among Pac-12 teams, with UCLA at No. 8 and Oregon at No. 21.

North Carolina is the preseason No. 1, earning 47 of 62 first-place votes. Gonzaga is second, while Houston—the team that knocked Arizona out in the Sweet 16—is third.

Arizona opens the 2022-23 season at home Nov. 7 against Nicholls. In addition to those in the Pac-12, the Wildcats will face at least two ranked opponents: No. 13 Indiana in Las Vegas on Dec. 10 and No. 11 Tennessee at McKale Center on Dec. 17.

The Wildcats could also face No. 10 Arkansas, No. 19 San Diego State or No. 25 Texas Tech in the Maui Invitational.