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December 9, 2013
Arizona tops AP, coaches' polls
Arizona's inevitable ascension to the top is officially complete - for now, at least.
The Wildcats were moved up to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today coaches' polls released Monday. UA, which received 63 of 65 first-place votes from the AP and 30 of 32 in the coaches' ranking, outlasted UNLV last Saturday for a 63-58 win.
It is the program's first No. 1 ranking since the 2002-03 season, when the Wildcats held the spot for 13 weeks - the last coming on March 10, 2003. Arizona also is the first Pac-12 Conference team to be ranked No. 1 by the AP since 2006.
"We know that being ranked No. 1 doesn't mean that we won a championship or that the season's now over," UA head coach Sean Miller said after the win. "But I'm not going to play the negative card at all with that.
"I think it reflects the quality of our program, the incredible atmosphere that we have in McKale, the great teams and players of the past, and certainly this year's team. To be ranked No. 1 is maybe the greatest compliment that you can have."
The conversation for a No. 1 ranking started last Wednesday when Michigan State, which owned the top spot for three weeks, lost at home to an unranked North Carolina, 79-65. The Spartans dropped to No. 5 in both polls while the Tar Heels jumped back in at No. 18 in the AP and No. 21 in the coaches' polls.
Rounding out the top five in the coaches' poll: Ohio State was ranked second, followed by No. 3 Syracuse and No. 4 Louisville. The Buckeyes and Orange picked up the other two remaining first-place votes.
In the AP poll, Syracuse and Ohio State were flipped around and Wisconsin was ranked fourth. The Orange picked up both remaining first-place votes.
The Wildcats have looked every bit like the nation's best team through the first five weeks of the season, winning at San Diego State before it was ranked - the Aztecs are now 24th in the coaches' poll and 25th in the AP - and knocking off then-No. 6 Duke at a neutral site in New York City.
The constant in UA's 9-0 start has been been on the defensive end of the floor, where it ranks ninth in both points allowed (59.1) and opposition field goal percentage (36.8) and second in rebounding margin (plus-14.1). After the Runnin' Rebels shot 64 percent for 42 first-half points and led by three, they made just 7 of 25 field goal attempts and scored 16 over the final 20 minutes.
Now, the conversation for the Wildcats turns to defending the title of the nation's best college basketball team each week, and Miller is embracing the challenge. He said the "parity" in the sport can make it difficult to do.
The road this week includes Wednesday's home contest against New Mexico State and Saturday's road test at preseason top-10 Michigan. The Wolverines are now 25th in the coaches' poll and unranked by the AP.
"If anything, I think it sharpens everything that we do," said Miller, who has a top-ranked team for the first time in his five seasons in Tucson. "Every practice, every shoot-around, being smart on weekends - there's like a sharpness that you have to have and a responsibility to try to stay No. 1."