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Arizona improves to third in AP poll; looking at the road to No. 1

Kaleb Tarczewski

Kaleb Tarczewski slams in two points against Miami on Sunday night. Photo by Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats moved up to No. 3 in the AP college basketball poll Monday, improving one spot because of Syracuse’ loss to Temple.

That dropped the Orange from third to ninth.

Arizona, meanwhile, is marching on. The Cats had little trouble in either of their first two games in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, reaching the Christmas Day title game with a 73-53 win over East Tennessee State and a 69-50 triumph over Miami.

Arizona will play 17th-ranked San Diego State at 7:30 p.m. Tucson time on Tuesday (ESPN2).

Now that the 11-0 Cats have reached this high in the rankings, can they get to No. 1 for the first time in nearly a decade? The program’s last No. 1 ranking in the AP poll came on March 10, 2003.

Obviously, Arizona has to keep winning and hope for a couple of losses. Its strength of schedule is iffy, but wins over Florida and Miami helped, and beating San Diego State would be an attention-grabbing victory.

After Tuesday’s game, Arizona is off until the start of Pac-12 play — Jan. 3 vs. Colorado and Jan. 5 vs. Utah. Then comes a tough road trip to Oregon (Jan. 10) and Oregon State (Jan. 12).

Duke is the current No. 1. Let’s take a look at the Blue Devils’ schedule:

Dec. 29 — Santa Clara
Jan. 2 — at Davidson
Jan. 5 — Wake Forest
Jan. 8 — Clemson
Jan. 12 — at N.C. State

Michigan is No. 2. Here is the Wolverines’ upcoming schedule:

Dec. 29 — Central Michigan
Jan. 3 — at Northwestern
Jan. 6 — Iowa
Jan. 9 — Nebraska
Jan. 13 — at Ohio State

Duke (with the game at N.C. State) and Michigan (at Ohio State) have difficult road tests on the same weekend. Could Arizona elevate to No. 1 on Jan. 14?

Stay tuned …

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