Citizen Staff Writer
It’s the second-largest jump ever in the poll and comes after victories over the Nos. 2, 6 and 23 teams.
By STEVE RIVERA
Jumping from unranked to No. 8, the University of Arizona men’s basketball team made the second-biggest leap in Associated Press poll history yesterday.
Should we be surprised?
“It was surprising we weren’t in there to begin with,” UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough said. “Yes, we lost some guys from last year, but there are still some guys here who are good players.”
Arizona (3-0) – minus four starters from last season’s national runner-up – knocked off its third straight ranked team (No. 23 Texas) last weekend after wins over No. 2 Maryland and No. 6 Florida in New York’s Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Kansas is the only team ever to make a bigger jump. The Jayhawks went from unranked to No. 5 after winning the 1989-90 Preseason NIT, stopping No. 1 UNLV, No. 2 LSU and No. 25 St. John’s.
Arizona’s success has captured the imagination of college basketball watchers.
“What a job (Lute Olson) has done this year,” analyst Dick Vitale said on ESPN yesterday. “The bottom line is that the players around him (Jason Gardner) – Rick Anderson and Luke Walton – are playing well. We have to give a salute to the Wildcats.”
Arizona’s success is familiar to the faithful. In 1995-96, when UA went unranked in the preseason, it proceeded to win all four games in the Preseason NIT. After the first two wins, Arizona was ranked No. 19, and it jumped to No. 4 after the next two. The Wildcats stayed in the top 10 for another five weeks. The team finished the year at No. 11.
The Cats have been in AP’s top 10 six of the past seven voting weeks, dating from last season.