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Playing on ESPN will be ‘tremendous exposure’ for Arizona women’s basketball

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 12 Women’s Oregon at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona women’s basketball program took another step in establishing itself as an elite program Monday when it was announced that their Jan. 14 home game vs. No. 8 Oregon will air on ESPN.

It will mark the first time the Wildcats, ranked sixth in the country, have ever had a regular-season home game air on ESPN. It will be their first appearance on the Worldwide Leader altogether since the 2005 NCAA Tournament.

UA head coach Adia Barnes said that national airtime will be “tremendous exposure” for her upstart program.

“It’s great for recruiting, just because more people see you,” she said. “I think it’s great to be on a national stage because more more writers are watching. It just gives you more recognition. I think a lot of times on the West Coast we’re forgotten. I don’t think we get as much love as the East Coast does or the SEC or other conferences. I mean, we are the best conference in the country. So I think it’s good, and I think back to last year when UConn played Oregon. That was a pretty big game and everybody was watching it. Like, we were watching it. So I think the opportunity is tremendous and it just shows kind of where our program has he has risen to. And hopefully we’ll have much more ESPN games, but this year having two is big time.”

While not official yet, Arizona’s road game vs. No. 1 Stanford on Monday, Feb. 22 is expected to air on the ESPN family of networks. A source said UA’s road game at Oregon on Feb. 9 could be broadcast on the Worldwide Leader as well.

If that happens, Arizona would have as many ESPN games this regular season (3) as UConn. Even in an age where games can be accessed online, there is still something to be said about being featured on national TV.

The UConn-Tennessee game last January garnered over 600,000 viewers, a big step up from the Pac-12 Network, which isn’t even carried by many cable and satellite providers.

“It helps your players when it comes down to All-American voting and any national honors because that might be the only time the national writers see you,” Barnes said. “And so I think it means a lot and just for recruiting to have that. I think it’s a pretty big deal.”

Arizona’s recruiting efforts have improved significantly over the last few years, but they could use a boost to catch up to the nation’s premier programs.

Arizona’s top 2020 signee was five-star post Lauren Ware, the No. 26 player in the country. Oregon inked five players ranked higher. Stanford signed the No. 3 player in the country (Cameron Brink) as well as the No. 39 player (Jana Van Gytenbeek).

For 2021, the Cardinal have commitments from two top-20 prospects. South Carolina has four. UConn has three. Arizona’s top signee so far is Madison Conner, the No. 71 player in the country.