Arizona women’s basketball will tip off a nonconference schedule that is heavily focused on regional match-ups beginning Nov. 10. The Wildcats start things against Northern Arizona in Tucson before facing a string of Southern California teams. What the schedule does not focus on is challenging opponents.
Arizona will play Baylor in Dallas, Tex. as part of the Pac-12 Coast to Coast Challenge on Dec. 18, but that is likely to be the only ranked opponent the Wildcats face before conference play starts. The only other major-conference opponent the team will face is Kansas. While the Jayhawks finished 21-10 last season, it was just the second time in the last decade that they finished above .500. The other occasion was 2019-20 when they had a 15-14 season.
The Wildcats will play a total of six games in McKale Center this season after playing just five home games during the nonconference season last year. They have five contests either on the road or at neutral sites.
After hosting the Lumberjacks, Arizona will host Cal State Northridge, Loyola Marymount, and Long Beach State. LMU has a history of giving Pac-12 teams trouble, defeating both UCLA and Arizona in 2018-19. However, the Lions have not had a winning record since that year and are coming off an 11-19 season in 2021-22.
Long Beach State is just the opposite. The Beach went 19-9 last season and secured a WNIT berth. That was the first winning season they had secured since 2016-17 when they went 23-11.
The Wildcats will go to a Thanksgiving tournament again this season, but it won’t be a major event like the Paradise Jam. Instead, they will stay closer to home and visit the University of San Diego’s Dana on Mission Bay Holiday tournament. Arizona will play Cal Baptist and USD on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26.
That will conclude the Wildcats’ California slate. The team will look east beginning Dec. 4 when they travel to Albuquerque to take on the New Mexico Lobos.
Arizona will wind up its home slate by hosting Kansas and Texas State before traveling to the Lone Star State for its biggest game of the nonconference season. The Wildcats will take on Baylor in the Pac-12 Coast to Coast Challenge on Dec. 18. The game is part of a doubleheader and will be aired on either ESPN or ESPN2. Three days later, Arizona winds things up by visiting UT-Arlington.
There were hopes that Arizona would host Texas this season. The Wildcats had a home-and-home agreement in place with the Longhorns. The first game was in Austin on Nov. 18, 2019. Arizona dominated, walking out with an 83-58 win behind 44 points from Aari McDonald.
The return game was first postponed in 2020-21 because of the pandemic. Last season, it was postponed again because the two teams were supposed to meet in the Pac-12 Coast to Coast Challenge in Las Vegas. Arizona had to pull out of that game due to COVID-19 in the program.
The absence of the game against Texas yet again leaves the Wildcats with a rather underwhelming nonconference schedule. While the Baylor game will be a major event, it’s unlikely that anyone else on the schedule will help Arizona’s NET ranking. UA will have to hope that its fellow Pac-12 teams build a solid resume that helps raise the profile of the entire league.