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Arizona vs. Florida: Wildcats prepared to make national statement

Arizona basketball has fallen off the map the past couple of years. A win on Saturday changes everything.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Two top-10 teams are set to meet at the McKale Center on Saturday night. It will mark the first time since 2004 that such a highly-regarded matchup will go down in Tucson.

Part of the drought comes from a once-messy situation at Arizona. After three decades of greatness, four head coaches have been at the top of the program since 2007. Sean Miller has a firm grasp on the reins now, but it did not come without the Wildcats momentarily stepping out of the national spotlight.

Sure, there was a surprising Sweet 16 and Elite 8 appearance along the way, but the nation really hasn't grasped the concept of Arizona being officially back on the map.

That can change this weekend.

An argument can be made that Florida has been the most successful hoops program of the past 15 years. They've won two national championships and lost another, and have reached the Elite 8 five times. It may be recognized as a football school, but UF has become a basketball powerhouse under coach Billy Donovan. And they feature yet another stacked team this time around.

The Wildcats feature plenty of talent themselves, although the consistent knock against them is that they've played a weak schedule so far. With the possible exception of Clemson or Charlestown Southern, it's tough to find any NCAA Tournament worthy opponents on the slate through the first month of the season.

That changes this weekend.

McKale Center will be packed full, and given that ESPN is broadcasting the game in primetime, it's just about guaranteed the UA faithful will create a raucous environment. A statement win is exactly what Arizona needs right now, and they'll have the chance to earn it on Saturday evening.

Does a loss ruin the season? Absolutely not. But it will be a true test to see what Arizona is really made of.

Sit down, strap in, and get ready for a wild night in Tucson. This is a basketball town, and there's nothing better than a little college hoops under the bright lights.

Arizona basketball is back. Now it's time to show it to the entire country.