When naming the top basketball programs in the country, one of the first teams to come to mind is the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona first appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1951, but went over 25 years before they made it back in 1976. However, the start of the 1984 season kicked off a streak of 25 consecutive years of making it to the Big Dance for the Wildcats. The streak that ended in 2009 is second only to the North Carolina Tar Heels streak of 27 years. Overall, Arizona has made more than 30 NCAA Tournaments, advancing to more than 3 Final Fours and winning a national title 1997.
The Wildcats took a turn to national power when legendary coach Lute Olson took over in 1983. Arizona’s impressive consecutive streak of reaching the NCAA Tournament started under Olson along with their multiple Final Four appearances. The highlight of Olson’s 500+ wins occurred in the National Championship game against defending champion Kentucky. The battle of the Wildcats went Arizona’s way as Olson’s team won 84-79 in overtime to finish the season with an impressive 25 wins. Arizona was led behind star point guard Mike Bibby. The freshman averaged over 13 points for the Wildcats and was named to the All-Final Four Team after scoring 19 points in the title game.
Other impressive stats that stand out for one of the best college basketball programs in the country include: Over 65 players drafted in the NBA since the draft was shortened to 2 rounds in 1989, over 15 Sweet Sixteen appearances, more than nine Final Four games, multiple conference player of the year awards including forward Sean Elliot winning National Player of the Year in 1989, and ranks near the top of college basketball in amount of weeks spent ranked in the top 5 throughout their history.
Arizona Wildcats Recent NCAA Tourament History
After entering the NCAA Tournament as a number seed and a record of 30-4, the Arizona Wildcats had little trouble advancing to the Sweet 16. In their match-up against the number four seed San Diego State Aztecs, the Wildcats continued their March dominance by winning 70-64 behind 15 points from forward Aaron Gordon to advance to the Elite Eight. However, Coach Sean Miller and Arizona’s run for a national championship came up short in a heart breaking loss to the number 2 seed Wisconsin Badgers 64-63 in overtime.