If you’re going to get stuck playing in a meaningless basketball tournament over winter break, it might as well be in Hawaii…against some quality competition…and you might as well win it.
Well, that’s exactly what the No. 3 Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball team did with their win over No. 16/17 San Diego State 69-68 in the Diamond Head Classic Championship on Christmas.
The Wildcats moved to No.3/4 last week after winning games against Oral Roberts, East Tennessee State and Miami (all by 19 points or more), but they made it a consensus this week with the one-point win over the Aztecs.
One of only four undefeated teams in all of college basketball (Duke, Michigan and Wyoming), Arizona finished nonconference play a perfect 12-0.
Currently sitting atop the Pac-12 standings based on overall record, the Wildcats will begin conference play later this week.
As the Pac-12’s lone ranked representative, Arizona probably won’t get enough of a boost in conference play to make run at No. 1…although UCLA, Oregon and the Wildcats next opponent, Colorado, all received some voter consideration in this week’s polls.
The Pac-12 slipped from third to sixth in this week’s Sagarin ratings as teams continued dropping games to teams they have no business losing to...looking at you Oregon State!
AP Poll: No. 3 (No. 3 LW)
For the second week in a row first place votes broke down 62/3 in Duke’s favor over Michigan.
Sitting just 149 votes from No. 1, Arizona continues to inch closer to the top spot despite not receiving a single first place vote.
However, it looks like the Wildcats will be playing the waiting game until one of the two teams stubs their toe...which is quite possible.
The Blue Devils (12-0) may not be deep enough to survive an off-night…if big man Mason Plumlee ever decides to have one…and the Wolverines (13-0) are beginning Big 10 play, the nation’s toughest conference according to Sagarin.
USA Today Coaches Poll: No. 3 (No. 4 LW)
Similar to the AP, the Coaches Poll was 30/1 favoring the Blue Devils.
A bump in votes wasn’t enough to move Arizona up a spot, but it was…enough to move ahead of Louisville for sole possession of the No. 3 spot, after being tied the week prior.
Voters felt the Wildcats one-point win over a ranked SDSU team on a neutral court was more impressive than Louisville’s home W over a green but improving and going to be dangerous, unranked Kentucky team.
1/3 Colorado (10-2)
The Buffaloes are just 1-2 in true road games this season including an embarrassing 90-54 thumping by No. 9 Kansas.
However, Colorado did finish with a neutral court record of 3-0, beating Dayton, No.16/17 Baylor and Murray State at the Charleston (South Carolina) Classic in early November.
The Buffaloes are you’re standard good, but not great Pac-12 team.
Defense, rebounding, hustle and some scattered production have always made Colorado a tough out.
Junior forward and NBA draft prospect Andre Roberson was getting most of the attention heading into the season but it’s been a pair of sophomore guards, Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie leading the way, scoring just over 14 points per game.
Still, averaging a double-double, Roberson has to be licking his chops at a chance to play Arizona’s increasingly inconsistent trio of freshmen trees.
1/5 Utah (8-4)
Speaking of inconsistent, the Utes have all the size, experience and talent a team needs to be successful but they just can’t seem to put it all together on the same night.
Losses to Sacramento State, Southern Methodist and most recently Cal State Northridge has raised some eye brows…and not in a good way.
Nonetheless, playing a tough Buffalo bunch less than 48 hours earlier and the Oregons the following week, the Wildcats need to avoid overlooking a competitive Utah squad led by freshman forward Jordan Loveridge and seniors Jarred Dubois and Jason Washburn.
Loveridge leads the team in rebounding (7.6), Dubois leads the team in scoring (13.5) and assists (4), and after nine games coming off the bench, Washburn has worked himself back into the starting lineup just in time to tangle in Tucson.