TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Lute Olson has coached three Final Four teams. He's won a national championship. He's got 422 victories in 17 seasons at Arizona.
This season's Wildcats could be better than any version before them. They're certainly not the most modest.
Wildcats center Loren Woods says Arizona could be the best college basketball team -- ever.
Anything short of a national title will be a disappointment.
"With a team with this talent and such character, there's no reason for us not to win it," forward Gene Edgerson said.
Everybody from last year's 27-7 team returns -- and then some.
All five starters are nominees for the John Wooden Award as player of the year, something that's never happened in the award's history.
At 65, Olson says he has no plans to retire. With the kind of recruiting machine he has in Tucson, who could blame him? He's never had this much talent.
"This one has fewer question marks than probably any team that we've had," he said.
In the middle is smooth, agile 7-foot-1 Woods, who last season set an NCAA record with 14 blocked shots against Oregon. Arizona was a serious national title threat until Woods went down with a back injury and missed the final eight games. After offseason surgery, he said he's stronger than ever.
"If we win the national championship and we play to the level we're capable of playing, then we will be the greatest team ever," Woods proclaimed.
The guards are sophomores Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arenas, as athletic a pair as there is in college basketball.
The 5-foot-10 Gardner came back with a shaved head and noticeably more muscles. "He's our buff midget," teammate Richard Jefferson said. "You need your point guard to be tough, to be gritty. You need him to work harder than everyone else."
Gardner and the supremely athletic Arenas worked all summer on improving their outside shots. Every day for two months, Arenas said, he would arrive at 7 a.m. to practice shooting with ex-player and current graduate assistant Josh Pastner, then at midnight, he would be back on the court for more shooting practice.
"Everybody knows we can win it," Arenas said. "We've just got to be ready. We can't look past anybody."
The quietest member of the starting five is 6-foot-7, 238-pound Michael Wright, the strong power forward with a soft midrange jumper. Wright averaged 14.8 points and was the leading rebounder in his two seasons at Arizona.
Then there's Jefferson, maybe the most talented of them all. The 6-foot-7 junior, who missed 13 games last season with a broken foot, can shoot from long range and soar high above the basket inside.
Off the bench are Luke Walton and Justin Wessel, who both moved into starting spots a year ago when injuries sidelined Jefferson and Woods. Then there's the 6-foot-6, 237-pound Edgerson (about 7-feet if you count his giant Afro), who returns for his senior season after taking last year off to complete his teaching degree. Edgerson, a tough-guy leader, played on Arizona's 1997 national championship team.
"I know I can come back to the team and help us win with something special, and that something special will be my all-out hustle and intensity throughout the whole game," Edgerson said. "Guys vibe off of that."
Lamont Frazier will back up Gardner after missing last season with academic and health problems, and 6-foot-6 freshman guard Travis Hanour was one of the country's most-recruited prep players.
"We've got everything," Gardner said. "We've got an inside game. We've got an outside game. We've got quickness. We've got strength. It's going to be hard for anybody to match up with us."
The team is so deep that Rick Anderson, part of the regular rotation in 1999-2000, has decided to sit out this season as a redshirt because of a lack of playing time. "You may never see a collection of talent like this again," said Jim Rosborough, Olson's longtime assistant.
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