College basketball offseason is upon us, bringing with it the annual tradition of media putting out way-too-early top 25 polls for the upcoming season.
Trying to predict who will be atop college basketball come November is mostly a fool’s errand when so many programs are bound to lose key players to the NBA Draft and transfer portal in the coming weeks. Arizona, like many programs, will also add several players from the transfer portal this spring.
While roster construction is a work in progress in Tucson and across the country, it’s nevertheless interesting to see where the media perceive Arizona to rank heading into the new season. When it comes to the oddsmakers, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Wildcats at +2000 to win the 2024 national title, which is tied for seventh-best (and tops among Pac-12 schools).
Here is where the Wildcats stand in each of the early 2023-24 polls.
Kevin Sweeney, Sports Illustrated: No. 7
There are plenty of questions to answer this spring in the backcourt for Tommy Lloyd, but the Wildcats could have the nation’s best frontcourt assuming big men Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo return to school. Tubelis profiles as a potential National Player of the Year candidate after being a second-team All-American this year. The question is whether the Wildcats can get consistent guard play: Sophomore Kylan Boswell could be in for a breakout campaign, but hitting the transfer portal needs to be a priority.
Seth Davis, The Athletic: No. 8
Tubelis will likely test the NBA Draft waters, but he is projected to be a low second-round pick. If he comes back, he’ll be a preseason first-team All-American. Larsson was supposed to have a breakout season, but he fizzled. Coach Tommy Lloyd also has several players (Henri Veesaar, Dylan Anderson, Filip Borovicanin) who have potential to make a jump after playing limited roles last season. Bal is in the portal. The Wildcats don’t have any other freshmen coming in, so Lloyd will need to add some transfers. He is also an expert international recruiter, so that could be a potential source of reinforcements.
Gary Parrish, CBSSports: No. 14
This ranking is based on the Wildcats returning three of the top five scorers from a team that won the Pac-12 Tournament before securing a No. 2 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. All-American Azuolas Tubelis should headline a roster that will be good enough to once again compete with UCLA for the Pac-12 title.
Jeff Borzello, ESPN: No. 8
This ranking assumes Azuolas Tubelis returns to Tucson. If he’s back in the fold, Tommy Lloyd will once again have arguably the best frontcourt duo in the country in Tubelis and Oumar Ballo. Besides Tubelis’ status, we’ll be closely watching whether the Wildcats can land enough perimeter pop. Kylan Boswell should be fine as Kerr Kriisa’s replacement, while Pelle Larsson is also back. But expect more weapons.
John Fanta, Fox Sports: No. 18
The Wildcats could bring back the dynamic duo of Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo in the frontcourt, and Pelle Larsson will return in the backcourt. Expect Tommy Lloyd to acquire guard play in the portal, and as much as Kerr Kriisa is a loss, I think it’s best that both sides moved on from one another.
Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus, Paul Myerberg, USA Today: No. 12
Much of the outlook for the Wildcats will be determined by draft decisions from Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo. Should both return, along with Pelle Larsson, there are the makings of a foundation that should make Arizona the favorite in the Pac-12. Rising sophomore Kylan Boswell looks well-suited to point guard duties after Kerr Kriisa’s departure through the portal.
Kevin Flaherty, 247Sports: No. 16
The Wildcats’ stunning loss to Princeton in the first round overshadowed how good this team was, a roster that could feasibly return both Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, but figures to bring back at least one of the two. Add in Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and some of the names Arizona is linked with in the transfer portal, and the Wildcats should be among the Pac-12’s best again.
Jeff Goodman, Stadium: No. 15
The Wildcats are losing a lot — likely Azuolas Tubelis in addition to Kerr Kriisa and Courtney Ramey. Tommy Lloyd has veteran big man Oumar Ballo, Pelle Larsson and point guard Kylan Boswell returning. Lloyd also likes the potential of young international big man Henri Veesaar.