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Big jump in rankings not changing Arizona’s approach entering Pac-12 play

arizona-wildcats-college-basketball-utah-utes-pac12-associated-press-top25-tommy-lloyd-maui Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Arizona jumped 10 spots in the latest Associated Press poll, sitting at No. 4 after beginning the season at No. 17.

So what? That’s the line Tommy Lloyd is taking as the Wildcats head into December as one of just 18 unbeaten teams out of 363 in Division I. A 6-0 start is nice, but in the grand scheme of things it means nothing.

“Our guys understand that there’s other games on the schedule, and they haven’t necessarily arrived,” Lloyd said Tuesday. “I think, for the most part, our guys have a growth mindset and embrace getting better. We’re just trying to lock into that.”

The UA opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah, then is home Sunday to take on Cal. After that it goes back into the remainder of its nonconference schedule, which includes a clash with No. 10 Indiana in Las Vegas on Dec. 10 and a visit from No. 13 Tennessee at McKale Center on Dec. 17.

Tennessee was the team that knocked the Wildcats from the ranks of the unbeaten last season, losing 77-73 in Knoxville following an 11-0 start. Afterward, Lloyd called the loss an “experience” that Arizona would learn from.

Lloyd also hopes his team was able to learn from the tough battles it had in winning the Maui Invitational, particularly the victories over ranked San Diego State and Creighton teams.

“It remains to be seen, we haven’t played a game (since),” he said. “We tried to address things in film. A lot of positives, we want to keep reinforcing those. But then some things we need to get better at, and you just get in situations in a game that you’re not able to ... you simulate in practice, but it’s not the same thing. So just being in the game situations. Whether it’s in the middle of a game, learning how to make a run, or stem the tide a little bit, those types of things. We’ll find out.” gives Arizona a 70 percent chance of beating Utah, predicting an 80-74 result. The Wildcats are currently favored to win every remaining game on their schedule except the regular-season finale at No. 21 UCLA.

Utah is 5-2 with losses at home to Sam Houston State—which has also won at Oklahoma—and to unbeaten Mississippi State on a neutral court. Arizona won both meetings with the Utes last season by double-digits.

“I don’t think we’re gonna go in there waltzing in, believing it’s going to be an easy game,” Lloyd said. “We’re going in there knowing that it could be a possession by possession game, and we just got to find a way.”