Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats and Kentucky, make a game at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas a reality


LAS VEGAS — John Calipari and Sean Miller shake hands on this.

Greg Byrne make some calls to Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, a man you know very well. You were the associate athletic director for development at Oregon State from 1998-2002, when Barnhart was the AD for the Beavers.

You followed Barnhart to Kentucky with the same title for three years after Barnhart became the athletic director for Big Blue Nation in 2002.

Those ties have to mean something.

Make this dream a reality: Arizona vs. Kentucky in Las Vegas in November or December at the new, state-of-the-art, awe-inspiring T-Mobile Arena.

Can you imagine a packed arena of almost 20,000 fans decked in red and blue? That would be a sight to behold, one to talk about with your grandkids.

Although Tucson is a 6-hour drive away, a majority of the tickets might get nabbed by the rabid Kentucky fans. It’s like a circus with Kentucky and Calipari is the ringleader.

The blue-clad fans invaded T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, making it look like Rupp Arena West, in Kentucky’s enthralling 103-100 win over North Carolina. The announced crowd of 19,298 actually sounded less than what was seen by the naked eye.

Somebody asked Calipari about his thoughts of T-Mobile Arena, which still had a few thousand Kentucky fans milling around the venue more than a half-hour after freshman stud Malik Monk scored 47 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the victory.

“The thing I liked about it for us is maybe it’s another place we travel to because our fans love it,” Calipari said.

The thought of Kentucky playing Arizona here immediately came to mind … my mind, at least. But there has to be thousands like me out there in Tucson.

As electric as the atmosphere was Saturday — in one of the best games ever — it would be lights out with Arizona and Kentucky involved.

North Carolina probably had about 10 to 15 percent of the fans in the arena. A 60-40 or 50-50 split between Arizona and Kentucky would certainly get the goosebumps going.

If Arizona can draw a significant amount of fans for its game against Butler here on the same night the football team played ASU, just think of the droves of fans who would show up to watch the Wildcats play Cal’s Cats?

The game markets itself:

— Miller coaching against his buddy Calipari, who reportedly advised Miller to leave Xavier for the Arizona job in 2009.

— Kentucky and Arizona have the second and third most wins, respectively, in college hoops in the last four seasons. Villanova is No. 1 with 108 wins. Kentucky is next with 104, followed by Arizona and Gonzaga with 102.

— Arizona has a three-game winning streak against Kentucky, starting when Lute Olson’s group beat Rick Pitino’s team in the 1996-97 title game.

Kentucky coach John Calipari talks to the media after the 103-100 win over North Carolina (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Don’t think for a second that Kentucky fans don’t know of that streak that includes a 15-point loss in the 1997 Maui Invitational (seven months after losing in the championship game) and a 12-point setback at Madison Square Garden in 1999.

How is it that Arizona has not played Kentucky in 17 seasons when the powerhouse programs met four times in the 1990’s, including a thrilling 93-92 win by Kentucky in the 1992 Maui Invitational?

Arizona must beat programs like UCLA and Oregon to the punch playing a non-conference game at T-Mobile Arena. Steve Alford sounded like UCLA had an advantage over his Pac-12 brethren by playing here Saturday (winning 86-73 over Ohio State).

Panoramic view of T-Mobile Arena (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“From a playing standpoint, love the floor, love the brightness of it,” Alford said. “I thought it was a tremendous setting for us, and it really hits us at a good time to be able to play a game in here in December, knowing that we’re coming back here for the Pac-12 Tournament.

“It’s something our guys will be familiar with. Because when you come back for the Pac-12 tournament, you’ve got all the teams here, and you don’t get much court time. Our guys will be able to reflect in two months that they were here. They’ve seen this locker room. They’ve seen this facility, and the surroundings they’ll be comfortable with, so we hope that helps us later in the year.”

Hopefully, the wheels can get in motion soon, if they have not already.

Cirque du Soleil will have nothing on Arizona-Kentucky on The Strip.

It’s a classic waiting to happen.

Don’t make the wait take long.

Some photos of T-Mobile Arena taken Saturday:

T-Mobile Arena with the advertisement of the upcoming Pac-12 tournament (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The Executive VIP entry area at the T-Mobile Arena (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Hallway entering the T-Mobile Arena floor for the NHL hockey teams who will play there next season (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Hallway near the ground-level VIP lounge area at T-Mobile Arena (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

View of the upper concourse with the skyline of The Strip on top (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Workers take apart the floor following the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

To Top