Arizona climbs to No. 4, expects Allen, Ristic back this week

Arizona has moved up to a season-high No. 4 in this week’s college basketball rankings heading into two big home games that could go a long way toward cementing a Pac-12 title for the Wildcats.

Arizona (25-3, 14-1 Pac-12) hosts USC (21-6, 8-6) on Thursday and fifth-ranked UCLA (24-3, 11-3) on Saturday at McKale Center. The Wildcats are one game clear of Oregon (24-4, 13-2) in the conference standings with two weeks remaining, but the Ducks hold the tie-breaker due to a head-to-head victory in the team’s only meeting of the season.

The Wildcats posted a pair of road victories over Washington State and Washington last week. Freshman forward Lauri Markkanen averaged 22.5 points and 12.0 rebounds in the two games to earn Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for the second time.

Arizona coach Sean Miller said Monday that he expects guard Kadeem Allen and center Dusan Ristic to be “fully functional” for this week’s games, after Allen missed both of last week’s games (dislocated pinkie) and Ristic (sprained ankle) played only 12 minutes on Thursday.

Miller said Allen could require a few weeks to recover completely, but the injury shouldn’t prevent him from playing.

“Hopefully it’s a positive for Kadeem, because he’s led our team in minutes and, sometimes when a guy can get a brief stretch away . . . you have kind of have a renewed energy. We ask a lot of him, especially considering how much we depend on him as a defensive player.”

Arizona, UCLA and Oregon are back-to-back-to-back in the AP rankings, fourth through sixth. The top three spots remain occupied by Gonzaga (28-0), Villanova (26-20 and Kansas (24-3).

Rounding out the Top 10 after the three Pac-12 teams are Louisville, North Carolina, Baylor and Duke. Baylor dropped from fourth to ninth following a pair of losses last week — allowing Arizona to climb to No. 4.

Wichita State (25-4) makes its Top 25 debut this week at No. 25, while South Carolina (20-7) drops out after losses to Arkansas and Vanderbilt.

In addition to UCLA-Arizona, other Top-25 matchups this week include:

No. 7 Louisville at No. 8 North Carolina and No. 22 Butler at No. 2 Villanova on Wednesday.

No. 23 Creighton at No. 2 Villanova and No. 13 Florida at No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday.

AP Top 25

The top 25 teams in The Associated Press’ college basketball poll, with records through Feb. 19:

 1. Gonzaga (59)   ­   28-0  1618   1

 2. Villanova (5)  ­    26-2  1556   2

 3. Kansas (1)     ­      24-3  1503   3

 4. Arizona        ­        25-3  1356   5

 5. UCLA           ­        24-3  1316   6

 6. Oregon         ­       24-4  1297   7

 7. Louisville     ­       22-5  1267   8

 8. North Carolina ­ 23-5  1138  10

 9. Baylor         ­         22-5  1108   4

10. Duke           ­        22-5  1014  12

11. Kentucky       ­     22-5   943  13

12. West Virginia  ­ 21-6   908   9

13. Florida        ­       22-5   822  15

14. Purdue         ­      22-5   807  16

15. Cincinnati     ­    24-3   733  18

16. Wisconsin      ­   22-5   713  11

17. SMU            ­       24-4   554  19

18. Virginia       ­      18-8   427  14

19. Florida State  ­  21-6   419  17

20. Saint Mary’s   ­ 24-3   375  22

21. Notre Dame      ­21-7   322  25

22. Butler         ­       21-6   295  24

23. Creighton      ­   22-5   178  20

24. Maryland       ­   22-5   159  23

25. Wichita State  ­ 25-4   153  —

Others receiving votes: VCU 39, Northwestern 25, Iowa State 22, South Carolina 12, Southern Cal 10, Dayton 9, Middle Tennessee 8, Oklahoma State 7, Minnesota 5, Miami 2, Monmouth (N.J.) 2, Michigan 1, Vermont 1, Virginia Tech 1.