After exceeding preseason expectations in years one and two of Tommy Lloyd’s tenure, Arizona men’s basketball has earned some goodwill heading into the 2023-24 season even if the program’s roster is still in flux.
Count ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi as one of the national pundits who believes Arizona will be in the national conversation next season. Lunardi released his revised way-too-early bracketology this week, and he has the Wildcats as the No. 3 seed in the in the West Region, earning the Pac-12’s automatic qualifier.
Lunardi posted his bracket predictions prior to the news that Arizona wing Pelle Larsson is entering the 2023 NBA Draft while retaining college eligibility. Even if Larsson returns, Arizona will lose 60% of its starting lineup and four of its top six scorers from the 2022-23 team that went 28-7 and lost to Princeton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Azuolas Tubelis is expected to remain in the NBA Draft, while Kerr Kriisa transferred to West Virginia and Courtney Ramey and Cedric Henderson Jr. graduated. Arizona will add incoming freshman K.J. Lewis, a 6-foot-4 small forward. The Wildcats will likely bring in at least three more newcomers, whether from the transfer portal, the high school ranks or overseas.
Arizona returns some significant talent, namely Oumar Ballo and Kylan Boswell, but it’s hard to foresee the current roster maintaining a top-10 grip on the sport as the Wildcats have done the past two seasons.
Lunardi appears bullish that Arizona can do just that, though. A No. 3 seed would mean the Wildcats are among the top 12 teams in the country. Lunardi has Gonzaga as a No. 3 seed but in the Midwest region, indicating he’s higher on the Wildcats than the Bulldogs.
Lunardi projects six Pac-12 teams to make the NCAA Tournaments; UCLA as a No. 5 seed, USC as a No. 7 seed, Oregon and Colorado as No. 9 seeds and Washington State as a No. 11 seed. He has Stanford among the First Four Out, while Washington State is the last team in the field.
Lunardi’s full bracketology can be found here.