A warning to all Tucsonans: You may find your internet running slow this morning.
Wildcat fans in town and across the Universe are going to be sitting on their phones hitting refresh until the news is official. Arizona is Number 1.
After waiting this long a little extra download time will be well worth it.
Eleven years is a big chunk of time in and of itself but think back to where the program was the last time the Cats were atop the polls.
It was March of 2003 and Arizona had been incredible throughout the regular season. That team spent just two weeks ranked outside the top two and was never slotted lower than fourth. The ’03 Wildcats lost a heartbreaker to Kansas in the Elite Eight but there were no signs of the program slowing down at all. The Lute Olson machine was humming along with five Elite Eights, three Final Fours and a national championship in a 10-year span.
Now recall everything that has happened since: The 2005 tournament collapse. Lute stepping down. Lute stepping down again. Tim Floyd not being hired. Sean Miller being hired and recruiting like a madman.
And here we are.
The No. 1 ranking validates Miller’s move to Tucson four years ago and his decision to stay two years ago (although the weather on the East Coast today provided validation of another kind).
Miller came to the UA to have access to this kind of talent and to build this kind of team. He stepped up in status in order to be No. 1 now and at the end of the season.
But don’t go printing any 40-0 t-shirts yet. This team is not a finished product and the Pac-12 road is treacherous. Add in every Wildcat opponent playing its best and there are losses lurking. UNLV barely beat Nebraska-Omaha by three and lost to ASU but the Rebels came into McKale playing like a Sweet 16 team. Arizona’s big target is about to get even bigger.
There have been three different teams ranked No. 1 in the five weeks so far this season and other teams are itching to have their turn. Don’t make yourself sick by needing the Wildcats to defend this ranking each and every game. Smile and enjoy it while it lasts.
Miller called the impending ranking a “compliment.” T.J. McConnell said it’s “satisfying.” I call it “really cool.”
This by no means guarantees anything. Arizona was ranked No. 1 during five previous seasons and didn’t win the championship in any of them. The Cats only went to the Final Four in two of the five years. The journey has only just begun.
But this is another step, another rung in the program’s ascent. It’s yet another reminder that the UA has a very good basketball coach who can successfully recruit very good basketball players and mold them into a very good team.
Put your hand in the air. Make a fist. Extend your index finger.
That’s the one.
– – – – –