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Arizona women’s basketball notebook: On non-conference play, Bendu’s eligibility and Adia’s delivery date

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 22 Women’s Arizona at Stanford Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s been a tumultuous summer, but some measure of clarity finally exists for Adia Barnes and Arizona women’s basketball. Barnes was finally able to meet with the media after months of dealing with questions of reentry, remote recruiting, and her pregnancy. As is typical of the Wildcats’ head coach, she was optimistic about the future despite the current challenges.

As with many of her press conferences, it was a discussion as much as an interview. Barnes ended things by asking the media if we thought the season would happen. Fingers crossed that it does and that it’s as close to normal as possible.

As to how Arizona hopes to get there, Barnes had a lot of thoughts. In fact, she had so many thoughts, that it took a two-part notebook to cover them all. The first part can be found here.

The possibility of non-conference games

Before Barnes had her press conference, Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke met with the media to discuss issues around the postponement of sports until at least Jan. 1, 2021. Heeke left open hopes of there being non-conference play for basketball, saying it was “in the best interest of college basketball.”

The question is whether those outside the Pac-12 feel the same way. At this point, no other major conference has opted to postpone basketball. Only the Big Ten has even postponed fall sports.

Unless or until others follow the same path as the Pac-12, the assumption must be that those conferences will already be into their conference seasons by January and scheduling non-conference games against top competition will be difficult.

The idea of a bubble is already being kicked around by the coaches, although the conference officials who announced the postponement of sports were adamant that it was not appropriate for college athletes. The coaches held a call on Wednesday to discuss the ramifications of Tuesday’s decision.

“On our Pac 12 call (a bubble) was brought up and that was talked about,” Barnes said. “There were different things that were talked about. Maybe a scenario where we go one place for the weekend, and that’s kind of like the bubble for that time. And it’s like us, you know, men’s basketball, and there’s like five games every day. You know, one spot where you’re kind of isolated for that week, and then we’re flying with the men charter or whatever. I’ve heard those scenarios coaches brought up. Then the bubble like the NBA and WNBA have was brought up. I don’t know how much more challenging. I don’t know financially, how much that stuff costs, but I know the Pac-12’s exploring options all around the West Coast. So these are all things being thought of, and for me, whatever it takes for us to be able to play. I think all the kids can basically go online, I mean, Cal, Stanford, they’re already online.”

The loss of non-conference play would be especially big for the Wildcats this year. They were finally slated to play a tough schedule after several years of easy non-conference opponents.

“I want to play in non-conference because we have a strong non-conference schedule,” Barnes said. “We’re playing Texas, we’re playing Gonzaga, we’re playing in the LMU tournament against Arkansas, and we’re playing in a Vegas tournament that could be against LSU, Missouri State. So for me, I want it. We have a really good team and I want to play a strong non-conference and get ready for the Pac-12.”

Bendu Yeaney’s eligibility and doing things the ‘right way’

Indiana transfer Bendu Yeaney was granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA that will allow her to play two seasons at Arizona. The question is whether this season will be one of them.

Barnes acknowledged that Yeaney has put in a waiver for immediate eligibility, but they don’t know if it will be granted. The reason for that is Arizona isn’t willing to embellish to create a hard-luck story about a previous program that might sway the NCAA.

“I don’t believe that you transfer and you trash your old coaches,” Barnes said. “I don’t allow our kids to do that, because I think that it’s a small world and it’s a small community. And I think that you end up wanting to work in the business, so I don’t think you burn bridges.

“So you won’t see kids come to my program and be bashing another program or making lies up or doing whatever people do nowadays to play, because I’ve been on the other end and it’s so messed up and I don’t like it. So, I’m not someone that allows that.

“If it’s the situation (where) you’re telling the truth (that) something happened,” it’s different, Barnes said. “But...we want to do things the right way. And I am big on that because for me, when it’s happened to me and something has been told (and) I was like, ‘That’s not true,’ I am really hurt about that. So we don’t do that. That’s why you see our kids usually sitting out.”

Sitting out isn’t a terrible option, anyway. In this case, it would give the Wildcats two years of Yeaney after Aari McDonald is gone and she would have a year to get acclimated in the meantime.

“If she gets it, you know, she gets it,” Barnes said. “And if she doesn’t, I like the fact we can develop her for a year. So I have confidence in what we do off the court and then what we do in the offseason, and still get better, so we don’t push for those things. That’s kind of my stance on that. I just, I don’t believe in all that stuff. I just think it’s bad karma.”

The newest member of the Barnes-Coppa family

Barnes and her husband, assistant coach Salvo Coppa, are expecting their second child and first daughter within the next months. Barnes has been sharing some of her difficulties with insomnia and even sonograms of their daughter on Twitter.

Now, she’s headed down the homestretch and preparing for what lies after.

“People think I’m crazy,” she said. “I’m gonna be judged after someone writes about this, but so I’m delivering on, hopefully, Sept. 15. And so I’ll take about two weeks off. I know people are like, ‘You’re crazy.’ I am probably crazy. That’s why I coach.”