UCLA, Syracuse highlight schedule

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

At first glance the 1995-96 Arizona men's basketball team's schedule may not look overly difficult.

But looks can be deceiving.

While Long Beach State, Texas-El Paso and Texas A&M may not strike fear into the heart of the casual basketball observer, those three teams are the defending champions of the Big West, Western Athletic and Southwest conferences, respectively. The Wildcats play all three in Tucson before New Year's Day.

The schedule does not lack for big names, however. In addition to the usual gauntlet of Pacific 10 Conference teams including defending NCAA-champion UCLA Arkansas looms as a potential second-round matchup for the Wildcats in the preseason National Invitational Tournament. Also, Syracuse travels to Tucson on Dec. 23 and Cincinnati meets the Wildcats on Feb. 11 in the annual 7-Up Shootout in Phoenix.

"The schedule is challenging again, like every year," said UA basketball coach Lute Olson. "We have a good combination of different styles of teams up-tempo teams, halfcourt teams, teams that play close to the basket. It's a very attractive schedule."

The least attractive part of the schedule could be the annual Bank One Fiesta Bowl Classic, which runs Dec. 28-30 in Tucson and features less-than-powerful Pacific, Rutgers and Texas A&M. Olson was realistic when addressing the lineup for the Classic.

"It's really difficult to get a team to give up two home games," he said. "We're not willing to do it."

Olson will use the early season matchups against the Orangemen and, potentially, the Razorbacks to judge the team before they head into what will be a particularly brutal conference season.

"Anytime you see a team like Syracuse, it will give you a good barometer of where you are," Olson said. "The NIT will be a good guide as well."

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