The women’s college basketball season started Wednesday and the Arizona Wildcats still only have one game on their non-conference schedule—the opener Sunday vs. NAU.
Arizona’s Pac-12 opener against No. 9 UCLA is just five days later on Dec. 4, meaning it only gets one test run before diving into the nation’s top conference.
How worrisome is that?
“I guess when you put it like that, I should be worried,” head coach Adia Barnes chuckled. “I just wasn’t thinking about it like that. I was kind of like, ‘Oh, it’s okay.’ But now the way you made it sound makes me worry a little more.
“The bad thing is now just with the dates, I don’t like the gaps. So we play on the 29th on Sunday, then we’re gonna move on to the Pac-12. Like, that’s not ideal, but I can’t control that so what I’m just going to do is keep on giving us game prep stuff this week, early next week too.”
The non-conference season is usually a chance to experiment and give less experienced players some minutes to see what they can do. But seeing where things stand now, Barnes plans to rely on Arizona’s best lineups from the get-go. (Luckily, the Wildcats are returning more scoring than any team in the country.)
“Before I could have probably worked like seven rotations and seven lineups,” she said. “Now I probably have to go with like three or four.”
Barnes has “tried everything” to find potential opponents, even putting out an open invitation on Twitter to anyone that’s interested in challenging the No. 7 team in the country. She is sure to mention the perks, like the 80-degree weather and that Arizona is willing to pay a hefty sum.
University of Arizona is still looking for a basketball game. Please DM me if you are interested. Dates that could work are 11/25, 11/27, 12/1, 12/10, 12/11,12/13, 12/14,12/15, 12/22,12/23. We can . Travel to the desert it’s still 80 . We all wear masks in Arizona .— ADIA BARNES ⬇️ (@AdiaBarnes) November 21, 2020
It’s not going so well.
“Had no luck,” Barnes said. “Some stuff wouldn’t work out, but there was teams like New Mexico, New Mexico State that were in Tucson and didn’t want to play. GCU didn’t want to play. It just was frustrating not being able to get regional people because it saves both of us so much money. So the only really close regional game is NAU.”
Well, and maybe one more.
“Last night I get a call from a friend of mine, he must of have saw it on Twitter, and he’s a coach from a school not that far,” Barnes said. “I don’t want to say it because we don’t have it confirmed, but he was like, ‘hey, we can make [December] 23rd work.’ And I’m like, ‘the 23rd is not that great.’ I said, ‘what about the 22nd?’ He said, ‘We want to do the 23rd,’ and I said, ‘OK, deal.’ I sent it off to our people, so I’m putting the contract out, but we still need one more.”
Scheduling was already getting difficult for the Wildcats before the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hard to find opponents brave enough to play a top-10 team in front of 10,000 screaming fans.
It’s even harder when half your team is in quarantine. On Saturday, a UA player twice tested positive for COVID-19 and seven other players were forced to enter quarantine since they had been in close contact with her at practice, at dinner, and in the car.
Barnes hinted that several of them were starters, making her uncomfortable about scheduling games for this week.
“I was looking at games, but I wasn’t going to go into like a Louisville or a really tough game this week without half my players,” she said.
Fortunately, a PCR test revealed those antigen tests were false positives and the Wildcats returned to practice Tuesday. They’re still on track to face the Lumberjacks on Sunday, but Barnes said it doesn’t feel like a game week yet.
“It’s kind of a disaster a little bit, but I only can control what I can control, so now I’m just in preparation mode,” she said. “Basically my prep this week will be Thursday, Friday, Saturday, which is kind of typical in our Pac-12 weeks, so I’m not that worried. But it’ll feel more like a game week on Thursday.”