Four weeks from tonight, the Arizona Wildcats will open the 2019-20 college basketball season at home against NAU. Six days prior to that they will have play Chico State, the only exhibition the NCAA allows Division I teams to schedule.
But it won’t be Arizona’s only preseason competition, just the only one anyone is allowed to watch.
Per Jeff Goodman of Stadium, the Wildcats and the Saint Mary’s Gaels are set to face each other Oct. 19 in Phoenix in what’s unofficially referred to as a “secret” scrimmage.
Almost every major college team plays at least one of these during the lead up to the regular season as a way to get some good competition in while not violating any NCAA rules. The scrimmages will include referees, with score and statistics kept, but they have to be behind closed doors.
“We definitely keep score, and you tend to forget when you didn’t do well,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said in 2017. “But when you win, if you’re Saint Mary’s scrimmaging Arizona, you definitely remember.”
Arizona and Saint Mary’s played each other in secret scrimmages prior to the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, and were on tap to do so before the 2016-17 slate but the meeting was cancelled. They instead met in the 2017 NCAA tournament, with Arizona beating the Gaels 69-60 in the second round.
Sean Miller said at the time there was a great benefit to those scrimmages, noting that “for us being available in a quiet gym, to play a team that’s as well coached and disciplined, that sets as many ball screens as they do, has the style they have, would really teach our team what we want to become and how hard college basketball is.”
While no official box score will come from the game, some stats are likely to leak out after the teams play.