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Weak schedules hurt UA teams

By Chris Jackson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 25, 1998
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Chris Jackson

Having grown up in Albuquerque, N.M., I know all about how hard it is to get good teams to come to town.

No basketball coach in his right mind would want to send his ranked team into the Pit, the most appropriately named arena in the country.

McKale Center, by comparison, isn't exactly feared by the competition. So why can't the Arizona basketball team get anyone worth a salt outside the Pacific 10 Conference to show up for a change?

The best non-conference opponent the Wildcats had in Tucson last year was New Mexico. This year the Wildcats have to keep up their end of the home-and-home bargain and travel to Albuquerque.

Arizona's non-conference home opponents this year look like cannon-fodder. Included on the list are Texas, picked for fourth in the Big 12, and Big West non-entity UC Irvine. The Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic tournament boasts the talented triumvirate of Penn State, Florida International and Holy Cross.

And that's it. The Wildcats don't play any other home games against non-Pac-10 foes. The opposition on the road doesn't look much better, with marginal powers Tennessee, BYU, Wyoming and Iowa State on the docket alongside the Lobos, who again look like UA's best non-conference foe.

It is true that Arizona will be fielding a young team this season, but didn't it have a young team back in 1997, when it won a little something?

Besides, schedules are planned out years in advance, long before anyone knew Mike Bibby would skip his last two years to go sit out the NBA season with the rest of the players.

But men's basketball is not alone. The women's soccer team, another young group looking for respect, has thrown together a very unimpressive schedule.

The team's home opener tonight is against Denver. Yup, the University of Denver Pioneers. I'm no expert in the power ratings for women's soccer, but I very much doubt Denver is any kind of juggernaut.

Arizona only managed to schedule six home games on the season, four of which are against Pac-10 teams.

For a team looking for some exposure and a chance to test itself against better teams, a schedule like this one is not going to cut it.

In comparison to both, the women's basketball team looks exceptionally brave. The Wildcats will play in a tournament at Nebraska and have Louisiana Tech, last year's NCAA runners-up, in their own Insight Women's Classic tournament.

When was the last time the men's team had a ranked opponent come to play in its tournament?

The women's team has just as many new faces as the men's team, yet it is willing to face high-caliber opponents like the Lady Techsters while the men brave the vicious challenge of the Anteaters.

Strength of schedule is a major factor nowadays in determining what seeding a team gets in the NCAA Tournament. Unless the Arizona men's team is able to put together another 17-1 run through the Pac-10, its schedule is not going to get it a higher seeding than fourth or fifth in a regional bracket.

Arizona has the tradition to bring bigger teams in, even in terms of road games. Maybe not in soccer, but if that team wishes to catch up to the older programs it needs to start bringing in the big guns.

Exposure is everything to a young team trying to make its mark.

Strength of schedule is everything to a team hoping to maintain its position of regional dominance.

Hopefully UA will realize this when planning future schedules for its teams.

Chris Jackson is a junior majoring in journalism and can be reached via e-mail at