Aug. 24, 2012
TUCSON, Ariz. - The University of Arizona men's basketball program has long considered itself as an elite program nationally, and now there are numbers to back it up.
Over the last three days, ESPN.com has released its rankings of the top-50 college basketball programs of the last 50 years, and the Wildcats checked in at No. 10 with 388 points.
Arizona was joined in the top 10 by North Carolina, UCLA, Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Louisville, Indiana, Syracuse and Connecticut.
Arizona positives cited by the network include its streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, four Final Fours, the 1997 national championship and the 2001 runner-up finish.
ESPN selected UA's starting five over the last five decades (by position), which included guards Mike Bibby (1996-98) and Damon Stoudamire (1991-95), forwards Sean Elliott (1985-89) and Chris Mills (1990-93), and center Bob Elliott (1973-77); and top reserves Jason Terry (1996-2000), Jason Gardner (1999-2003) and Steve Kerr (1983-88).
Additionally, Lute Olson (1983-2007) was selected as Arizona's top head coach of the span, and the 1987-88 (Final Four, 35-3), 1996-97 (NCAA champion, 25-9) and 2000-01 (NCAA runner-up, 28-8) squads were tabbed as the Cats' best clubs.
The rankings, devised by ESPN Stats & Information, are based on a system that rewards success by crediting points for accomplishments like conference championships, winning percentage, NCAA Tournament wins, All-Americans and NBA draft picks. Conversely, points were taken away for NCAA infractions.
This is the second time in the last four years that ESPN has attempted to quantify success and rank programs nationally. Back in 2008, the network released its Prestige Rankings of the nation's top programs from 1984-85 to 2008, and Arizona ranked fifth in that poll.