Expectations high for Arizona basketball in 2022-23 way-too-early rankings

Apr 5, 2022, 8:31 AM

A national championship for the Kansas Jayhawks on Monday night means a quick flip of the switch for the rest of the college basketball world.

It’s on to next season.

For the Arizona Wildcats, the bar for Tommy Lloyd’s program coming off a 33-4 debut season as head coach has been set.

In a roundup of way-too-early top-25 rankings for the 2022-23 men’s college basketball season, the Wildcats are widely regarded as a top-15 team, if not a top-10 squad.

There are a few things that could swing that expectation. Arizona likely will lose its two best players to the NBA Draft in wing Bennedict Mathurin and center Christian Koloko. They would join departing senior and backup point guard Justin Kier on the way out.

There is also an outside chance that wing Dalen Terry or power forward Azuolas Tubelis — despite the latter’s struggles in the NCAA Tournament — could consider departing for the pros.

Lloyd has five-star center Dylan Anderson incoming as a freshman for next year, but after that, any roster additions will depend on who stays and who goes. If Arizona loses Mathurin, Koloko and Kier as expected, their returning rotation will again include point guard Kerr Kriisa, Terry and Pelle Larsson on the wings, with Tubelis and center Oumar Ballo in the frontcourt.

Anderson could figure into the equation, and current freshman Adama Bal, who logged a few significant minutes late in the year, likely will crack the rotation.

That said, here is what national analysts are saying about the next version of the Wildcats.

ESPN’s Jeff Borzello – No. 10

This is another ranking that can fluctuate wildly in the coming weeks. For now, we’re assuming Bennedict Mathurin is certainly gone, while Christian Koloko and Dalen Terry are also projected to be picked in ESPN’s latest mock draft. If Tommy Lloyd loses all three players, this ranking might look a little high. If either Koloko or Terry returns, then we could see the Wildcats rise. Arizona was clearly not the same team without a fully healthy Kerr Kriisa, but he and Pelle Larsson should form a quality backcourt — while Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo will continue to give Arizona a size advantage over most teams up front. The question is on the wing, where Adama Bal could be poised for a huge step forward.

Sports Illustrated’s Kevin Sweeney – No. 9

Year 1 under Tommy Lloyd certainly inspired plenty of confidence in the future of the Wildcats’ program. There will be roster turnover this offseason—we’re penciling in the departure of Bennedict Mathurin in these rankings, but frontcourt stars Christian Koloko and Azuolas Tubelis could also head to the pros. But with a returning backcourt headlined by Dalen Terry and Kerr Kriisa and potential for one or both of Koloko and Tubelis to return, this group will be in the mix to win the Pac-12 yet again.

247 Sports’ Kevin Flaherty – No. 8

It’s a shame that Kriisa wasn’t healthy for the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament run, though Houston would have been a tough out regardless. What that does do is give him plenty of motivation, and don’t be surprised if he takes the next step and becomes one of the Pac-12’s best point guards. But the attraction here is the chance for the frontcourt duo of Tubelis and Koloko to return. Koloko was one of the nation’s best two-way big men and currently projects 36th in ESPN’s most recent mock draft. So there’s a chance the Wildcats run this thing back, and with Terry continuing to grow into Arizona’s next pro-ready wing, the Wildcats won’t lack for star power. The Wildcats, like a number of teams, figure to be players in the transfer portal this year.

CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish – No. 11

 The Wildcats’ ranking is based on Arizona returning every relevant player from its Pac-12 championship team except for Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko and Justin Kier. A core of Azuolas Tubelis, Kerr Kriisa and Dalen Terry should keep the Wildcats a part of the national conversation.

Sporting News’ Michael DeCourcy – No. 13

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