Before the Pac-12's new media rights deal kicked in this season, a Pac-12 game on any ESPN channel was a rarity. But the Wildcats will be making their 10th appearance already this season on the ESPN family tonight.
A native Easterner, UA coach Sean Miller has no doubt that it has made a difference with folks outside the region.
"You're no longer sitting there wondering who's winning the Pac-12," Miller said. "That's a big, big difference. They talk about our conference more, they're more familiar with what's happening, with the good players and the teams.
Tonight is "another great opportunity for us to show the quality of our conference and, being selfish, how special it is to play at Arizona, what the crowd's like and what a game feels like. Hopefully, we can back that up."
Another reason the Wildcats might benefit from tonight's white-out atmosphere: Emmanuel Mudiay, the Dallas guard ESPN rates No. 4 in the class of 2014, could be on hand.
Ray Forsett, Mudiay's coach at Prime Prep, said he might take his entire team to McKale Center after it arrives in Phoenix today to prepare for a Friday night game against Westwind Prep of Phoenix
Prime Prep, the charter school established by Deion Sanders, left Texas' University Interscholastic League after several players including Mudiay were declared ineligible following their transfers from Arlington's Grace Prep after last season.
But Prime Prep is 19-0 while playing a national schedule so far and Forsett said Mudiay has been a key as a combo guard.
"He's been really good for us," Forsett said. "We use him any way we have to."
Forsett said Mudiay remains open in his recruitment but that Miller and UA have been doing well in recruiting him.
UA senior Kevin Parrom said he purposely didn't want to tell the Wildcats' four freshmen anything about what the atmosphere in tonight's white-out game might be like.
"I'm just going to keep it a surprise," Parrom said. "I think it's going to be the biggest game of the year so far."
Parrom made several key defensive stops to help the Wildcats beat Washington 87-86 in the first white-out game two years ago, after he calmed down from the adrenaline rush.
"I was nervous," Parrom said. "After the first couple of minutes, I let the game come to me. But it was nerve-racking. You see all these white shirts, and it's like 'wow.'"
Don't eat the lettuce
UCLA freshman Kyle Anderson missed Tuesday's practice, and teammate Jordan Adams missed part of it because they didn't feel well.
UCLA coach Ben Howland told ESPNLos Angeles.com that both players went to see a doctor on Tuesday evening, saying he thought they suffered from a stomach virus of some sort.
Fellow freshman Shabazz Muhammad was quoted on ESPNLosAngeles.com saying he thought it was food poisoning from a local Mexican restaurant. Muhammad said he ate at the same place but didn't eat lettuce while Anderson and Adams did.
"I dodged a bullet," Muhammad told the ESPNLosAngeles.com. "They said it was the lettuce. I never like to get lettuce so I don't know."
Miller said it was the "right thing" that the Pac-12 awarded a Wildcat its weekly Player of the Week honor for the first time, giving it to Mark Lyons after his 24-point effort at ASU last Saturday.
"I believe we played some of the best nonconference games of the season, and I want our players to be rewarded," Miller said.
The problem for UA has been that the Wildcats are typically balanced in their offensive attack while other Pac-12 teams have had dominant individual performances.
After the Wildcats beat Florida, for example, Colorado's Andre Roberson was given the award because he had 17 points and 20 rebounds at Fresno State. And after Solomon Hill was named the MVP of the Diamond Head Classic, the Pac-12 gave its weekly honor to Muhammad, who had 27 points that included several key shots in the Bruins' win over Missouri.
Back to normal
After a dizzying week in which he took over for the fired Kevin O'Neill and then coached USC against Oregon and OSU, USC interim coach Bob Cantu had a regular week to prepare for the Trojans' road trip to Arizona this week.
The extra time may help.
"We're kind of back into our normal routine," Cantu said. "Every day that goes by, it will get easier and easier for everybody. I was just really happy they were able to play Oregon so tough, then to turn around (and beat OSU). I'm really pleased. I just need that effort to move forward."
UCLA at No. 6 Arizona, 7 p.m. today, ESPN2, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)
He said it …
"They're now running both off (opponents') makes and misses. It used to be if you turned it over, they'd turn it into a transition basket, and if they didn't have something in transition they'd score out of a set. But they have more talented players now than they have in a few years so when they have the opportunity, they'll push the ball. Drew is a terrific passer, and their offense is designed to put the ball in his hands and make guys better. Anderson is their best defensive rebounder, and if he gets it, he'll bring it up himself."
James Whitford, Arizona associate head coach who scouted the Bruins
USC at No. 6 Arizona, 5 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)
He said it …
"It's difficult to change in midseason. They're a little bit faster. They played some zone against Oregon, but they came back out of it. We've gotta make sure we can keep them off the glass. We've got to get the second shot because they're a very good defensive team. They've got confidence, and they feel they can play with anyone."
Book Richardson, Arizona assistant coach who scouted the Trojans