Arizona women’s basketball won’t be playing someone the caliber of the team it played last week or the one it will play later this week, but the game against Texas Southern is important for many other reasons. There’s the experience question for all of Arizona’s newcomers, but the bigger reason is its place in the Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series.
The Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series was announced in Sept. 2021 as the first formal scheduling agreement between an HBCU conference and an Autonomy 5 league. In the Pac-12’s media release earlier this year, the league office stated that its purpose is “to create both a forum for competition, as well as promotion and education around issues of anti-racism and social justice.”
Arizona didn’t wait until the series to start scheduling Texas Southern, though. The Wildcats and the Tigers played last season, a game that Arizona won 93-38 in McKale Center. It was the first of three straight years that the teams will face each other, with Arizona heading to Houston to play TSU next season.
“It’s a good guarantee to get us a home game, and it supports a program that needs money,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said.
As Barnes has noted over the past few years, getting home games can be challenging. Although Kansas came to Tucson as the first leg of a home-and-home, most of Arizona’s toughest nonconference matchups tend to be on neutral courts. Getting those kinds of teams to come to McKale Center hasn’t been as easy.
On the court, Barnes expects the challenge to be one of the Wildcats’ posts having to guard the Tigers’ guards because of the guard-heavy lineup of the visitors. Of the 17 players listed on the TSU roster, nine of those who have a position listed are guards.
The Tigers are also very young. Of those 17 listed players, 11 are underclassmen with seven of those being freshmen.
TSU relies heavily on those underclassmen. Of the Tigers’ five top scorers, three are freshmen and one is a sophomore. Four of those players are listed as guards and the fifth is a 5-foot-10 forward.
The roster isn’t the only thing that’s new for the Tigers. Vernette Skeete is in her first season heading the TSU program. Former coach and hall-of-famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke retired after last season amid an investigation into allegations of abuse by her former players.
It’s been tough going for the team in the early part of the season. Not only are the Tigers 0-8, but their closest loss was by 13 points to Texas A&M. Their average losing margin is -33.8 points.
The issue of needing money and guarantee games is obvious from their schedule. The Tigers have only been home for two of their eight contests.
The game against TSU will be UA’s first of the week. On Sunday, Dec. 18, the Wildcats will be in Dallas to play No. 18 Baylor in another Pac-12 event, the Pac-12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge. That game will be on ESPN2.
Texas Southern (0-8, 0-0 SWAC) @ No. 20 Arizona Wildcats (7-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
When: Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022 at 7 p.m. MST
Where: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
TV: Pac-12 Arizona
Radio: Listen to the call by Derrick Palmer online on The Varsity Network or on the radio at KTUC 1400 AM.
Stats: Arizona Live Stats
Rankings: Arizona is ranked No. 20 by the Associated Press and No. 17 by the WBCA. Texas Southern is not ranked in either of the major polls.
The Wildcats come in at No. 34 in the NET and No. 23 according to Her Hoop Stats. The stats service has them at No. 20 on offense and No. 30 on defense. The Tigers are No. 340 in the NET and No. 341 according to Her Hoop Stats. HHS has TSU at No. 335 on offense and No. 343 on defense.
Projections: HHS gives Arizona a 99.8 percent win probability against TSU in McKale Center. On a neutral site, the Wildcats would have a 99.6 win probability. It would drop to 99.2 percent at TSU. Arizona is projected to win by 45.2 points at home.