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Arizona basketball: Could the Wildcats play at GCU in the near future?

Could Arizona take the leap and play the Lopes in Phoenix?

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NCAA Basketball: Grand Canyon at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats will be hosting the D-1 transitioning Grand Canyon Antelopes in McKale Center this Wednesday for the first time since GCU started their move into Division-1 and the WAC.

McKale’s known for being not just the best home atmosphere in Arizona, but the entire western half of the United States.

GCU’s trying to change that.

This season -- their final one before becoming tournament-eligible — the Lopes have hosted the Louisville Cardinals and San Diego State Aztecs at GCU Arena, losing to the first and beating the second. And those games have shown what some of us have seen for three years now.

Traveling to GCU Arena is no joke.

The nation’s attention was grabbed by Rick Pitino after the Louisville game, when he had nothing but complimentary things to say about the atmosphere in the building.

“This was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” Pitino, who has been coaching the game since 1974, said about GCU’s atmosphere. “I don’t know a whole lot about Grand Canyon except us doing Dan (Majerle) a favor coming out here, and I probably would’ve lost my job if I lost by doing people favors, but you got something special here. Really special.”

“Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as special as that environment tonight,” continued Pitino. “Just really, really impressed with what you have here. The fans are special. The whole setup is special.”

This whole setup has people wondering if GCU has surpassed ASU in terms of basketball (spoiler: they have).

So, now that Arizona is allowed to schedule GCU, will the Cats make that two-hour trip to I-17 and Camelback for a tough, in-state road test?

Sean Miller’s not too certain at this point.

“We respect them,” Miller said at a weekly Monday press conference. “Dan Majerle was obviously a tremendous player and doing a great job with their program. We’re gonna play ‘em, and maybe once we get through this year, we’ll revisit that.”

As far as getting other home-and-home matchups setup to improve the McKale Center non-conference schedule, Arizona is working on a few options beyond the upcoming series with UConn and Gonzaga.

But getting a home-and-home setup with GCU could greatly benefit both schools. That gives the Lopes another marquee event as they become tournament-eligible, and it gives Arizona a potentially tough true road game. It also gives Phoenix-area fans a chance to see the Wildcats for much less money than traveling to McKale or even Wells Fargo Arena.

And once Majerle’s squad can play in the postseason, you can bet they’ll take another step up as far as talent and the competition that they’ll bring. You’re already talking about a team that finished 2nd in the WAC regular season standings the last two years, and third in their inaugural year in the league.

The Arizona baseball team is playing at Grand Canyon on April 11th, 2017. The basketball team should follow that up with a visit eight months later.