How Wildcats Have Fared in Years They Cracked AP Top Five

How Wildcats Have Fared in Years They Cracked AP Top Five
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

Few college basketball teams across the men’s game have started the season better than Arizona has in its third season under coach Tommy Lloyd.

With seven straight wins, including victories over No. 2 Duke in Durham and No. 21 Michigan State in Palm Springs, and a No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll, there’s no denying this year’s Wildcats are a definite title contender.

Oddsmakers agree with that assumption, as the Wildcats currently are listed as the No. 3 title favorite on ESPN BET Arizona at +1200 (behind Purdue at +900 and Kansas at +1100), while BetMGM Sportsbook Arizona lists them at +1400 (tied with Duke and Marquette for third, behind Purdue at +1000 and Kansas at +1100).

We’ll know for sure whether the Wildcats are better than the Boilermakers in a few weeks, when the two schools meet in Indianapolis on Dec. 16. Arizona then takes on Alabama on Dec. 20 and No. 11 Florida Atlantic on Dec. 23.

To aid in your Arizona sports betting, broke down how the Wildcats have fared since the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 when they’ve cracked the top five of the AP poll.

It’s worth noting the Wildcats never reached that mark when they won their lone national title in 1997, as that squad only got as high as No. 6 before making their surprise romp through the Big Dance.

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Arizona Basketball in AP Top 5 Since 2000

Year Highest Ranking First Date Reached Season Result
2023-24No. 1Dec. 4TBA
2022-23No. 2Nov. 28Lost to Princeton in NCAA 1st Round
2021-22No. 2Feb. 21Lost to Houston in NCAA Sweet 16
2017-18No. 2Nov. 20Lost to Buffalo in NCAA 1st Round
2016-17No. 4Feb. 20Lost to Xavier in NCAA Sweet 16
2014-15No. 2PreseasonLost to Wisconsin in NCAA Elite 8
2013-14No. 1Dec. 9Lost to Wisconsin in NCAA Elite 8
2012-13No. 3Dec. 24Lost to Ohio State in NCAA Sweet 16
2003-04No. 3Jan. 5Lost to Seton Hall in NCAA 1st Round
2002-03No. 1PreseasonLost to Kansas in NCAA Elite 8
2001-02No. 4Nov. 26Lost to Oklahoma in NCAA Sweet 16
2000-01No. 1PreseasonLost to Duke in NCAA Championship

Top 5s Don’t Mean Titles

In the 21 instances since 1985 where the Wildcats reached the top five of the AP poll, Arizona has reached the national title game once (2001), while falling in the Final Four in 1988 and in the Elite Eight four times (1998, 2003, 2014 and 2015).

On the other end of the spectrum, Arizona also was knocked out in the tourney’s opening round six times in seasons where it cracked the top 5, including when Steve Nash and the Santa Clara Broncos upset the Wildcats as a 15 seed in 1993.

The most common defeat for Arizona teams that cracked the top 5 came in the Sweet 16, with seven Wildcats teams falling in the third round of the Big Dance, most recently doing so in 2022 against Houston.

This year, Lloyd’s bunch will look to turn the corner after falling in the Sweet 16 and the first round in successive seasons. Arizona betting apps list the Wildcats as the clear frontrunner for the Pac-12 title at +120. USC is second at +450.



Christopher Boan is the lead writer at after covering sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years, including stops at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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