The Arizona Wildcats officially picked up their first No. 1 ranking in the major Top 25 polls in over a decade, earning the top spot in both the Associated Press media poll and the USA Today coaches poll.
In the AP poll, the Wildcats received 63 of 65 first-place votes, with Syracuse receiving the other two. The votes for Syracuse came from media based in Kentucky and Virginia.
Overall in the AP poll, Syracuse was ranked No. 2, followed by Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State. Among Pac-12 teams, Oregon (8-0) was ranked No. 15
In the coaches poll, the Wildcats received 30 of 32 first-place votes in the coaches poll, with Ohio State and Syracuse receiving one each. Overall, Ohio State was given the No. 2 spot in the coaches poll, while Syracuse is third, followed by Louisville and Michigan State.
UA was last ranked No. 1 in both the AP and USA Today polls on March 10, 2003. The Wildcats actually spent most of the 2002-03 season there but lost to UCLA in the Pac-10 Tournament and to Kansas in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.
Arizona has been ranked No. 1 for 31 different periods in its history. It has previously been ranked No. 1 during the seasons of 1987-88, 1988-89, 1990-91, 1997-98, 2000-01 and 2002-03.
The polls have mirrored UA's decline toward the end of the Lute Olson era through two transition seasons with interim coaches and its resurgence under fifth-year coach Sean Miller.
The Wildcats dropped out of the Top 10 on Jan. 8, 2007, during Olson's final season and finished that season unranked.
They were ranked in the early weeks of the 2007-08 season, when Kevin O'Neill ran the Wildcats on an interim basis, but then fell out completely during the 2008-09 season until the coaches' poll put them at 23 after the season ended with a Sweet Sixteen appearance (The AP poll does not rank teams in the postseason.)
Arizona stayed unranked during Miller's first season of 2009-10 and through much of the 2010-11 season before it appeared in January 2011 as the Wildcats began to resurge behind Derrick Williams.
The Wildcats then spent only the early weeks of the 2011-12 season ranked before dropping out and eventually losing in the NIT.
Last season, Arizona rose as high as No. 3, while winning the Diamond Head Classic in December, and finished the season at No. 21 in the AP poll.
Arizona's move to the top spot is another sign times have changed quite a bit from when Michigan and Arizona started talking about a series three years ago. They will meet on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Arizona called and asked about a game, and we have a good history of playing some really good teams out of conference,” Michigan coach John Beilein said on today’s Big Ten teleconference call. “They weren’t where they are now and we weren’t where we are now. It’s turned out that we’re both good teams and this game is great for both programs.”
Michigan was ranked No. 1 for a week last season, from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, while later reaching the NCAA championship game.
“The No. 1 issue didn’t make any difference to us when we had a short time with it,” Beilein said. “They know they’re a good team but they also know people will be gunning for them. For us, it’s just another really, really good team that we get to play.”