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Arizona basketball: Wildcats have chance to move to No. 1 next week

Sean Miller

No. 1? Could be soon. Photo by Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats will be the No. 1 basketball team in the nation if they beat UNLV on Saturday.

No. 1 Michigan State lost at home to unranked North Carolina on Wednesday night, opening the way for second-ranked UA to rise to the top spot for the first time since the week of March 10, 2003.

Yeah, the rankings might not mean much in early December, but it’s certainly a source of pride and it’s great for perception and national attention, which all fuels the already-powerful Sean Miller recruiting machine.

UNLV is 3-3, with losses to UC-Santa Barbara (86-65), Arizona State (86-80) and Illinois (61-59).

“We’re definitely not intimidated by them at all,” UNLV forward Roscoe Smith, who averages 16.2 rebounds (yes, rebounds) per game, was quoted as saying in the Las Vegas Sun. “Shockingly, they’re probably intimidated by us.”

Well, OK.

Arizona (8-0) is coming off a 79-58 victory over Texas Tech on Tuesday night.

“We’re excited to move on to what I think is one of the biggest games of the season for us — UNLV on Saturday,” Miller said afterward.

This will be Arizona’s “White Out” game, with fans asked to wear white to McKale Center. As if it wasn’t already going to be, the arena will definitely be rocking, with the tip-off set for 3:30 p.m. The game is sold out. ESPN2 will have the telecast.

The last time the Wildcats were ranked No. 1, they lost that week to UCLA 96-89 in overtime in their first game at the Pac-10 tournament. Arizona went on to advance to the West regional final, where it lost to Kansas.

Arizona was ranked No. 1 in seven different seasons under Lute Olson.

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