If one trip is loathed more than any other in the Pac-12, it’s probably the Washington swing.

First off, there’s that game in Seattle, where the Huskies always thrive in their cozy, loud confines of Hec Edmundson Pavilion, no matter how talented they are. Then, or maybe before, there’s a flight to Spokane, a 90-minute drive to Pullman and a game against the Cougars, who sometimes play a contrastingly slower pace than the Huskies, making prep work during the preceding week a challenge.

Arizona gets a break from all that Evergreen State madness this season, thanks to the unbalanced Pac-12 schedule. But yet, the Wildcats really don’t have it that easy the way their schedule breaks this season.

That’s because the Wildcats actually have learned to handle the Washington trip pretty well. They’ve won three straight times at WSU, which had stronger teams during those seasons than it does now, and won at Washington last season for the first time under coach Sean Miller.

What’s more: Arizona has to play all of the conference’s projected top-half finishers twice, except UCLA — and its only game with the Bruins will be at Pauley Pavilion. Even though it’s the projected conference favorite, UA could be beaten in any road game it faces, with the possible exception of a Jan. 12 date at USC.

“I believe we have a team that knows what it takes to win, with a lot of the experiences we gained a year ago,” Miller said. “But anybody who was a part of last year knows it’s difficult to go on the road and win in conference play.”

Even this year, with the Wildcats rated higher than they have ever been under Miller.{h3}The Pac-12’s

unbalanced schedule{/h3}How it works: Under the Pac-12 basketball scheduling formula that started in 2011-12, teams play 18 regular-season games but face four of the 11 opponents only once each.

Each team plays seven opponents twice — including its geographic rival — but skips a set of teams on the road and another set at home, with those skipped teams flipping locations the second season. In 2011-12, Arizona missed the Oregon trip and did not host the Bay Area schools; last season the Wildcats didn’t go to the Bay Area and didn’t host Oregon or Oregon State.

This season, the one-game-only opponents rotate. UA won’t make the Washington trip and won’t host UCLA or USC. Next season, the Wildcats won’t go to Los Angeles but will travel to face the Huskies and Cougars.

Over the course of a 10-year cycle, all teams but the geographic rival will be played 16 times while the rival will be played 20 times. Arizona will always play ASU in Tucson and in Tempe each season.

Who benefits and is hurt by the unbalanced schedule?

(Assumes the top half of the league will be Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA, Cal and Stanford)


Colorado: The Buffs have to play Arizona twice, but they will likely be a favorite in Boulder. Colorado only has to play the Bay Area schools once, skips a dangerous road game at Oregon and won’t have to play at Oregon State, where the Beavers are usually much tougher than they are on the road.

California: The Bears will only face Oregon in Eugene, where Cal won last season, and won’t have to make the Rocky Mountain swing, having lost at Colorado in both of the past two seasons.


USC: Already with a major rebuilding job, the Trojans won’t get a chance for a potential win against WSU at home, won’t be able to match up with equally up-tempo-minded Washington at home, and will have to take all the long road trips (Washington, Oregon and the Rocky Mountain swing).

ASU: The Sun Devils will have a hard road if they are to become a surprise team in the Pac-12. They will face five of the projected top six teams twice and won’t get a chance for a potential home sweep of the Los Angeles schools.

Sportswriter for the Arizona Daily Star covering Arizona Wildcats basketball