Even before the door opened for the Arizona Wildcats to secure their first No. 1 ranking in over a decade, coach Sean Miller didn’t duck a question about the possibility.
In fact, Miller said it would be a really good thing.
“When you’re playing with that thought in mind, practices matter, how you play matters, everything we do takes on even more added importance,” Miller said. “Because you’re trying in a sense to get to that rarified air of being the No. 1 team in the nation.”
Miller said all that on Tuesday, after UA beat Texas Tech.
A night later, North Carolina upended top-ranked Michigan State, meaning the Wildcats could be No. 1 if they beat UNLV on Saturday at McKale Center.
So guess how practices are now? And how that game might be Saturday?
“Obviously, it’s going to be a huge challenge for us,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.
If the Wildcats hang on to beat the Rebels, who are 3-3 in a year of roster transition in Rice’s third season, they will likely top both major polls for the first time since March 10, 2003.
That team, which featured Jason Gardner, Luke Walton and Andre Iguodala, spent most of the 2002-03 season at No. 1 in both polls before losing to Kansas in the NCAA Elite Eight.
Here’s how the Wildcats stack up with Michigan State and other contenders for the No. 1 ranking in the AP media poll and the USA Today coaches poll, both of which will be updated Monday.
NOTE: Power ratings, top-50 teams and strength-of-schedule are according to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin; the NCAA’s official RPI ratings are not released in the early season.