Sporting News ranks Arizona No. 1 in preseason hoops
The Arizona Wildcats are ranked as the preseason No. 1 team in the country by The Sporting News college basketball yearbook.
The magazine tweeted pictures of its regional covers Monday morning, including one featuring Arizona sophomore wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Sporting News lists its top 10 teams on every cover, with Arizona leading the way, followed by Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke.
The Wildcats are coming off a 33-5 season in which they lost to Wisconsin in the West regional final. Arizona's five losses came by a total of 17 points.
(Disclosure: I worked for Lindy's preseason college basketball magazine, although had no input in the rankings. I can say that Arizona is third in Lindy's rankings, behind Kentucky and Wisconsin. No other Pac-12 team made Lindy's preseason Top 25, although Utah and then UCLA are among the next several teams.)
Arizona returns three starters -- senior point guard T.J. McConnell, junior forward Brandon Ashley (coming back from a midseason foot injury) and junior center Kaleb Tarczewski. Hollis-Jefferson essentially played starter's minutes as a super sub, and guard Gabe York was a starter down the stretch.
Coach Sean Miller added another top five recruiting class to that strong core, including guard Stanley Johnson, a likely one-and-done player already projected as a high pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
With size, experience, depth, great defense (Arizona allowed opponents to shoot only 38 percent last season) and multiple players with first-round talent, it's easy to understand projections of UA dominating the Pac-12 and being on the short list of legit national title contenders.
Arizona begins its season at home against Mount St. Mary's on Nov. 14. The first significant test will come Nov. 24, when the Wildcats take on Missouri in the first round of the championship bracket of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
Other notable non-conference games for Arizona include Gonzaga (Dec. 6), Michigan (Dec. 13), at UTEP (Dec. 19) and at UNLV (Dec. 23).
The preseason magazines are scheduled to reach the newsstands in a few weeks.