TUCSON, Ariz. — The Arizona basketball program is back at a place where it can take on all-comers and should be playing marquee non-conference opponents.
The Wildcats took another step in that direction Wednesday with the announcement of a home-and-home series against Connecticut, which won its fourth national championship last season.
It should be worth the wait. The series begins at McKale Center during the 2017-18 season, with a game in Storrs, Conn., the following season. Both games are tentatively scheduled for December.
Playing at least one challenging true road game, in addition to elite tournaments on neutral courts, is a part of coach Sean Miller’s non-conference schedule plans. The team has games at UTEP (Dec. 19) and UNLV (Dec. 23) this season, with games scheduled at Gonzaga next season and at Missouri the following year.
UConn is 5-0 against Arizona, including a thriller in the NCAA West regional final in 2011. UConn won 65-63 as Arizona’s Jamelle Horne missed a 3-point shot from the right angle at the buzzer. The Huskies went on to win the national title that season.
The other four meetings:
*UConn won 79-70 in the 2005 Maui Invitational.
*UConn won 100-98 in overtime in Tucson in January 2002 as Huskies freshman Emeka Okafor had 19 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks.
*UConn won 71-69 in Storrs in December 2000, when the Wildcats traveled without coach Lute Olson, who stayed to be his wife, Bobbi, who was in the final stages of ovarian cancer. The Huskies were aided by a controversial goaltending call on Loren Woods with 1.8 seconds left. The call was made by a Richie Ballesteros, who was leading a Pac-10 crew.
"Everybody thought it was crap," Jim Rosborough, who was the acting head coach for that game, said in an interview this summer. "I’ve often looked back on all those situations and wondered were the Pac-10 refs going out of their way to not appear to be homers for the Pac-10?"
*UConn won 79-69 in December 1999 in the Great Eight Basketball Classic in Chicago.