Scheduling has been a rollercoaster ride for Arizona women’s basketball during the tenure of head coach Adia Barnes. She has joked that everyone was willing to play Arizona for her first couple of years, but those offers dried up after the Wildcats improved. Those challenges continue even now.
Arizona’s schedule will be stronger than it ever has been this season. Games against DePaul, Vanderbilt and Rutgers await at the Paradise Jam. Louisville is on the slate in South Dakota. The Wildcats will face off against Texas in Las Vegas.
“Everybody always questioned me and said, ‘Who are you playing?’” Barnes said. “And, ‘How come you’re not playing anybody?’ And I said, we’ll get better. We’ll play people more. We’re better. We’re playing people. So, here we are, we finally arrived.”
That doesn’t mean the schedule is perfect. All of those tough games will be played away from McKale Center at neutral sites. While that provides a lot of TV exposure for the program, it's not optimal for the hometown fans. It also presents extra challenges for the team.
“These are all pretty big games that I think are going to be a lot of fun, but challenging because they’re on the road,” Barnes said. “They’re not at home, so I think it’s not gonna be easy.”
As for the home slate, Arizona is still trying to get those games sorted out. As of Friday, they still didn’t have all of the contracts signed for this season.
The difficulty in getting games is not just an Arizona problem. It’s one reason that the Pac-12 will move to 20 conference games starting with the 2022-23 season. Barnes wishes that schedule was already in place.
“It’s funny because a lot of us coaches in the top half of the conference really wanted to go to 20 games,” she said. “And we were initially going for 20 games and that got changed back to 18. But we wanted 20 because it’s been really hard for all of us to get games. It’s been impossible. It took me a year-and-a-half to get the last three games. I just literally got the last game—the contract’s not even signed—like a week ago. And we’re already starting the season. It’s very hard to get people to come to Tucson. I don’t want to stay on the road the whole time. So the challenge is going to be getting games and getting people to want to come here.”