Arizona basketball: Practices in the fall can begin earlier now
Bruce Pascoe Arizona Daily Star
Saturday, May 4, 2013 12:00 am

The annual Red-Blue Game is always fun, and the new rule gives the UA more flexibility in scheduling the scrimmage. - BENJIE SANDERS / ARIZONA DAILY STAR 2012

October no longer has to be madness for the Arizona Wildcats.

A new NCAA rule has pushed the start of preseason basketball practices to late September, up to three weeks before the practices have traditionally begun amid "madness" type ceremonies at many schools around the country.

The new rule allows teams to start practices exactly six weeks before their first regular-season game, and since UA's opener is scheduled for Nov. 8, that translates to a first practice on Sept. 27.

Teams can only practice a total of 30 times during that six-week window but the early start means they have more time overall to prepare for the season.

Under the old 20-hours-per-week maximum, Arizona often crammed in 12 to 15 practices between mid-October and the beginning of exhibition games in late October or early November.

"It's definitely going to change our thinking," said Ryan Reynolds, UA's director of basketball operations. "If we started on Oct. 18 (the 2013 date under the old rules), we'd practice for five or six days, take one day off and do it again.

"This way it can be more spread out."

Women's teams have already had the rule in place, with some practicing between Monday and Friday, then taking the weekend off. The UA men often practice on Saturdays in preseason if recruits are visiting, however.

While UA has substituted the usual "madness" preseason ceremonies with a hyped-up version of its Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage in recent seasons, it is not clear if its date will be moved up next season.

Under coach Sean Miller, the Red-Blue Game has become a major recruiting event, so the game has been held a week after practices begin in part so top recruits won't have conflicts if they also attend other preseason ceremonies during the first weekend of practice.

But now, with those conflicts less of an issue, the Wildcats are more flexible with Red-Blue Game scheduling. UA has preferred to hold the Red-Blue Game on the weekend of a home football game but the volleyball schedule can also be a factor.

Reynolds said UA also has not decided yet whether to hold two exhibition games or one exhibition and a private scrimmage against another Division I team. Only private scrimmages can be held against Division I opponents, while exhibitions are typically against Division II teams.

As before the rule change, UA can still hold limited workouts from the start of school until full practices begin. Teams are limited to small-group workouts until mid-September and full-team workouts after that, but can practice no more than two hours a week.

While the Wildcats have slotted their opener for Nov. 8, an opponent has not been named. In home nonconference play, UA is scheduled to face UNLV, Texas Tech, NAU, Long Beach State and three other teams to be determined. The Wildcats will also host two NIT Tip-Off games in November.