ESPN Misses Game Day Opportunity When Arizona Basketball Visits Oregon

Between football and Arizona basketball, fans out west should be used to continual east coast bias. This time ESPN bypasses a matchup between Pac-12 Conference leaders Arizona and Oregon.

College Game Day, an offshoot of the successful football program with the same name debuted on January 22, 2005. Normally they set up shop at a top venue hosting another top team. It’s usually a rivalry game since Game Day launches each season during conference play. Arizona Basketball was ignored this weekend.

The announcers broadcast from the host school in the morning, interview players, coaches, and celebrity alumni all while the cameras pan the rabid home crowd fans behind them. Later in the day, the selected game is broadcast on ESPN. This coming Saturday, ESPN will be visiting Gainesville, Florida as the No. 23 Florida Gators host the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats.

Of course, anticipation builds among fan bases weeks before venues are chosen. That is why Arizona Wildcat fans had a strong feeling their game against Pac-12 rival Oregon would be featured on ESPN Game Day this weekend. Both schools were 8-0 sitting on top of the conference until Oregon suffered its first loss Saturday night in Colorado. Some think that is why Eugene, Oregon wasn’t chosen by ESPN.

The Wildcats fought through their game on Sunday and finally put the Washington Huskies away, so they currently have a slight edge over the Ducks. Assuming both teams take care of business this week, Oregon will be ready to reclaim first place Saturday with a win over Arizona from Matt Court.

So why wasn’t the Arizona-Oregon game chosen? Are we seeing east coast bias again? The game is scheduled for the 4 PM Eastern time, so ESPN has no excuse they have to stay up past their bedtime to watch. While Tucson is predicted to be in the mid-70s and sunny all weekend, to nobody’s surprise Eugene will be rainy and may not crack 50 degrees. Could it be the ESPN gang wants to enjoy sunny Florida? Basketball is played indoors, though, so it shouldn’t matter.

Jan 7, 2017; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen (10) shoots the ball in front of Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) during the second half at McKale Center. Arizona won 82-73. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 7, 2017; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen (10) shoots the ball in front of Colorado Buffaloes guard Derrick White (21) during the second half at McKale Center. Arizona won 82-73. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon has spent many weeks in the top ten and just fell out this week after the loss in Boulder. The Ducks are now ranked No. 13 while the Wildcats rose to No. 5. This Pac-12 matchup based on ranking alone is a bit more intriguing than the Kentucky-Florida game.

Florida and Kentucky have nine losses between them, and we acknowledge there are quality losses included. Arizona and Oregon currently only have five losses between them. Arizona lost to No. 16 Butler and current No. 1 Gonzaga. Both of the losses had occurred before Allonzo Trier returned to Arizona’s lineup. Currently, Oregon has a 19-3 record while Arizona is 20-2.

Oregon’s other two losses are against Georgetown at a neutral site, and Baylor in Waco, Texas, and the Ducks had their own injury problems early in the season. Oregon currently has a 16-game home win streak, and it would be a formidable task to bump that to 18 against the Arizona Wildcats.

Since the inception of basketball’s ESPN Game Day, Kentucky has been a participant 14 times as of this Saturday, which will be the second weekend in a row for them. Florida will reach eight appearances this weekend, Arizona has been honored five times, and Oregon zero. In fairness, Oregon doesn’t have the basketball history the other three schools do, but it is a disservice to ignore the accomplishments Dana Altman is achieving with his teams in Eugene.

As an aside, current No. 1 Gonzaga’s head coach, Mark Few, is a former Duck basketball player. Yes ESPN, there is basketball out west.

Kentucky and Florida will get the media attention Saturday. Arizona and Oregon will get to work with or without ESPN Gameday–both are doing fine staying under the radar. Let’s hope the battle for the top of the Pac-12 is a classic, with the Arizona Wildcats coming out on top, of course.

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