Arizona men's basketball No. 8 in Sporting News basketball preseason poll

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Colin Darland and Colin Darland | The Daily Wildcat Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat Junior forward Solomon Hill attempts a layup in the second half of the Arizona Wildcats' 64-63 road loss to the Colorado Buffaloes. Hill had 10 total points and two blocks in the game.

In what’s projected to be a two-team race for the Pac-12 title, Arizona made its first claim of conference superiority — at least on paper.

In Sporting News basketball preseason poll released Tuesday, No. 8 Arizona ranked three spots ahead of No. 11 UCLA in the first major poll released for the upcoming 2012-2013 season.

Arizona’s season kicks off Oct. 21 with its annual Red-Blue game, but the Wildcats won’t officially take the court until its regular season-opener against Charleston Southern on Nov. 11. With no other Pac-12 teams in the Sporting News Poll, it’s shaping up to be a deadlock between UCLA and Arizona for the title of Pac-12 favorite.

This comes after both the Wildcats and Bruins underperformed last year and missed out on the NCAA tournament, finishing fourth and sixth in Pac-12, respectively.

On the recruiting trail, it was a different story though, as UCLA signed the second-best class according to Scout.com and Arizona the third, trailing only national champions in Kentucky.

With four big name recruits now in Tucson, including three five-star big men — Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jarrett and Brandon Ashley — according to ESPN’s Recruiting Database, the Wildcats now have the size and depth they’ve lacked in the past.

The Bruins brought in big names of their own — No. 2 Shabazz Muhammad and No. 5 Kyle Anderson — but both players face possible eligibility issues, likely causing UCLA to sink behind Arizona in the Sporting News Poll.

Being at the top of the Pac-12 isn’t a rarity for UCLA or Arizona.

The two schools have combined to win 41 conference championships since 1944, including 17 in 18 years for the Bruins from 1961-1979, but neither have seen the same kind of national prominence since 2008.

In the Sporting News article, Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star wrote that the depth of the Arizona roster and its mix of talent, size and experience makes the Wildcats a top 10 team.

Another factor that put Arizona over the edge is the transfer of veteran guard Mark Lyons from Xavier.

Lyons, who is eligible to play immediately since he’s enrolled as a graduate student, will help fill the gap left by the transfer of point guard Josiah Turner. The return of forward Solomon Hill, the teams’ second leading scorer and top rebounder, gives the UA another veteran playmaker.

Hill averaged 12.9 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and snagged 7.7 rebounds a game.


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