If it feels like Arizona and Gonzaga are on a collision course to meet at some point soon, you’re not alone. Even the Associated Press voters feel they’re the two best teams in the country.
Arizona has moved up to No. 2 in the latest AP Top 25, one spot better than a week ago and its highest ranking since being No. 2 early in the 2017-18 season. The only team ahead of the Wildcats: Gonzaga, which is No. 1 for the second week in a row and fifth time this season.
The Bulldogs (23-2) received all 61 first-place votes while the UA (24-2, 14-1 Pac-12) was second on all but two ballots, ranking third and fourth on those.
Arizona and Gonzaga have a long history, one massively enhanced by the former’s offseason hiring of Tommy Lloyd off the latter’s staff to run its program. The teams were set to play this season in Spokane, but Lloyd and Gonzaga coach Mark Few agreed to postpone that matchup as Lloyd eased into his first head-coaching gig.
With Lloyd on the Naismith Coach of the Year midseason watch list, and all but a lock to be Pac-12 Coach of the Year, it might be time to reschedule that meeting. It could end up happening at some point in the NCAA Tournament, though based on Saturday’s released of the projected top 16 seeds—where Arizona was listed as the No. 1 seed in the South Region and Gonzaga No. 1 in the West—that game wouldn’t happen until the Final Four.
Asked about if it would be strange to see his program and the one he just left as the two highest-ranked AP teams, Lloyd acknowledged such a situation would be “weird, cool, awesome.”
“I’m proud of those guys,” Lloyd said of Gonzaga. :They got a great team. And like I said, they’re family, and I think their happy for us. We just got to take care of business as they gotta take care of business, and we’ll see how long it plays out.”
Arizona could clinch at least a share of its first Pac-12 title since 2018 as soon as Thursday, if it wins at Utah and both No. 12 UCLA (19-5, 11-4) and No. 16 USC (23-4, 12-4) lose another game. Three wins on their own would lock up the championship for the Wildcats, which would fall in line with a March 1 trip to USC.