The SEC/Big 12 Challenge and Sunday’s thrilling non-conference game between Virginia and Villanova brings to mind some of the classics during this time of year and February when Lute Olson was the head coach.
During the 24-year Olson era, Arizona played 32 non-conference games after the Pac-10 season started. In a three-year stretch from the 1988-89 season through the 1990-91 seasons, the Wildcats played three such games.
Because of the schedule demands of the Pac-12 tournament and most college basketball programs setting their non-conference schedules by the end of December, this kind of scenario is no longer the case for the Wildcats.
Sean Miller actually played in one of these games for Pitt on Jan. 25, 1992, when the Panthers traveled to McKale Center and lost 96-76. Miller had 13 points and an uncharacteristic six turnovers in that game against Khalid Reeves, Chris Mills and Co.
ESPN’s College GameDay crew spent some time on the subject of non-conference games in the middle of conference season yesterday and Jay Bilas and Jay Williams agreed more games like the Big 12/SEC challenge, such as the Kansas-Kentucky showdown, should be scheduled in late January and in February.
The following is one of the classics of when Arizona played a non-conference team in February from the 1988-89 season when the Wildcats with Sean Elliott defeated Duke and Danny Ferry in the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The list of the games Arizona played out of conference from 1985 to 2009 follows.
WHEN ARIZONA STEPPED OUTSIDE THE CONFERENCE DURING CONFERENCE SEASON
(1) at Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, N.J.
(2) at Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford, N.J.
(3) at 7-Up Shootout, St. Petersburg, Fla.
(4) at 7-Up Shootout, Phoenix, Ariz
(5) at 7-Up Shootout, Tucson, Ariz
(6) at 7-Up Shootout, Phoenix, Ariz.
(7) at 7-Up Shootout, Phoenix, Ariz
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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.