Arizona basketball enters 2023-24 highly rated and with strong odds

Apr 5, 2023, 7:31 AM

There could still be moving parts for the Arizona Wildcats and head men’s basketball coach Tommy Lloyd this offseason.

Among the most pressing: Does All-American Second Team member Azuolas Tubelis return for his senior season?

The 6-foot-11 forward does not hold a strong enough NBA profile to make that path the sure next step, and returning to re-team with center Oumar Ballo would put the Wildcats in a strong place to begin the 2023-24 season.

A morning after the UConn Huskies beat the San Diego State Aztecs for the 2022-23 national championship, all eyes are turned to next season. Arizona enters the year sharing the third-best odds to win the NCAA Tournament, according to the FanDuel Sportsbook.

Tubelis and Ballo would be joined by a core including veteran wing Pelle Larson, sophomore point guard Kylan Boswell and incoming freshman K.J. Lewis, a four-star recruit.

It has the hype remaining high for Arizona.

Here’s a peek at what notable websites expect from the Wildcats in early top 25 rankings.

ESPN’s Jeff Borzello

Too-early ranking: 8th

This ranking assumes Azuolas Tubelis returns to Tucson. If he’s back in the fold, Tommy Lloyd will once again have arguably the best frontcourt duo in the country in Tubelis and Oumar Ballo. Besides Tubelis’ status, we’ll be closely watching whether the Wildcats can land enough perimeter pop. Kylan Boswell should be fine as Kerr Kriisa’s replacement, while Pelle Larsson is also back. But expect more weapons.

The Athletic’s Seth Davis

Too-early ranking: 8th

Tubelis will likely test the NBA Draft waters, but he is projected to be a low second-round pick. If he comes back, he’ll be a preseason first-team All-American. Larsson was supposed to have a breakout season, but he fizzled. Coach Tommy Lloyd also has several players (Henri Veesaar, Dylan Anderson, Filip Borovicanin) who have potential to make a jump after playing limited roles last season. Bal is in the portal. The Wildcats don’t have any other freshmen coming in, so Lloyd will need to add some transfers. He is also an expert international recruiter, so that could be a potential source of reinforcements.

247 Sports’ Kevin Flaherty

Too-early ranking: 16th

The Wildcats’ stunning loss to Princeton in the first round overshadowed how good this team was, a roster that could feasibly return both Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, but figures to bring back at least one of the two. Add in Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and some of the names Arizona is linked with in the transfer portal, and the Wildcats should be among the Pac-12’s best again.

Sports Illustrated’s Kevin Sweeney

Too-early ranking: 7th

There are plenty of questions to answer this spring in the backcourt for Tommy Lloyd, but the Wildcats could have the nation’s best frontcourt assuming big men Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo return to school. Tubelis profiles as a potential National Player of the Year candidate after being a second-team All-American this year. The question is whether the Wildcats can get consistent guard play: Sophomore Kylan Boswell could be in for a breakout campaign, but hitting the transfer portal needs to be a priority.

FOX Sports’ John Fanta

Too-early ranking: 18th

The Wildcats could bring back the dynamic duo of Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo in the frontcourt, and Pelle Larsson will return in the backcourt. Expect Tommy Lloyd to acquire guard play in the portal, and as much as Kerr Kriisa is a loss, I think it’s best that both sides moved on from one another.

USA Today’s Erick Smith, Eddie Timanus and Paul Myerberg

Too-early ranking: 12th

Much of the outlook for the Wildcats will be determined by draft decisions from Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo. Should both return, along with Pelle Larsson, there are the makings of a foundation that should make Arizona the favorite in the Pac-12. Rising sophomore Kylan Boswell looks well-suited to point guard duties after Kerr Kriisa’s departure through the portal.

Sporting News’ Michael DeCourcy

Too-early ranking: 12th

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