For college basketball programs that attract tiny crowds to exhibition games, the option to hold a closed scrimmage instead is a no-brainer.
A closed scrimmage, such as the one Arizona will play today at Saint Mary’s in the Bay Area, offers coaches better competition and more teaching opportunities. The only negatives are travel cost and foregone revenue from not holding a public exhibition game.
That’s where it gets complicated for the Wildcats, at least theoretically. Arizona could be holding a second exhibition game today that would draw about 13,000 fans, many of whom who could be paying full price, translating into a significant six-figure chunk of revenue.
But UA athletic director Greg Byrne said the Wildcats’ season-ticket rates are not necessarily priced by how many games are held, meaning that the extra revenue brought in from an exhibition game might only be from single-game-ticket and other game-day sales. UA says it has already sold 11,373 season tickets and another 2,400 are allocated for students.
Besides, Byrne said, basketball already met its contribution to the UA athletic budget in 2013-14 without a second exhibition game. The Wildcats also held a closed scrimmage in 2010-11, against Utah, but went with two exhibition games the past two seasons.
“Our season-ticket prices reflect the budgetary needs of our program, so we’re able to do it again this season,” Byrne said. “And we felt it was important as a program to schedule the scrimmage. We felt it was the right thing to do to get them ready for the season … . We think the benefits of this outweigh the minimal amount of money we’d get from an exhibition game.”
While Byrne and UA coaches could not specifically address today’s scrimmage under NCAA rules, which prohibit publicizing them beforehand, commonly cited benefits include:
• Being able to play a Division I opponent, when exhibition games can only be held against non-Division I college teams.
• Opposing coaches can collaborate to test each other with schemes they feel they need work against — i.e., ask the other to have his team throw out a zone defense or a press.
• Coaches can also schedule multiple late-game situations and shorter halves.
• Scrimmages can be stopped by coaches in order to hammer home needed instruction right away.
• For UA, taking a trip to the Bay Area also allows the Wildcats to get acclimated to the road-trip routine.
• This year, there’s also the added benefit of another chance to acclimate privately to the new officiating rules meant to allow greater offensive freedom of movement.
Jerrett top D-League pick
Former Arizona forward Grant Jerrett was made the No. 1 overall pick in Friday’s D-League draft by the Tulsa 66ers, allowing Oklahoma City to control his development through its in-state affiliate.
Jerrett was picked No. 40 in the June NBA Draft and traded from Portland to Oklahoma City, but did not sign a contract with the Thunder. That allowed Oklahoma City to keep his NBA rights, which it would have lost if it signed Jerrett and then cut him in training camp.
But the Thunder did not control his D-league fate until Tulsa traded for the No. 1 pick on Thursday, then used it on Friday to take Jerrett.
It was a creative move intended to keep Jerrett firmly within the organization, said Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony, and one that is still not that often seen.
“The Thunder is right at the forefront of it,” Givony said.
The downside for Jerrett is that he will be on a D-League contract this season and is not an NBA free agent. But Jerrett’s willingness not to sign a Thunder contract indicates he is welcoming the chance to keep developing within the Oklahoma City organization.
“A lot of players won’t agree to do that because he’s going to make D-League money,” Givony said. “But it’s a huge advantage for him because he gets to be developed by the best development team in the NBA. It’s like if he were still at Arizona, but he’ll get to play more, have good coaches, and he gets paid and doesn’t have to go to school. He can focus on basketball.”
Other former Wildcats taken in the D-League draft:
• Forward Kevin Parrom was drafted 16th in the second round by the Rio Grande Valley (Texas) Vipers. Parrom is currently playing in Cherasky, Ukraine.
• Guard Salim Stoudamire was taken 13th in the fifth round by Fort Wayne. Stoudamire played three seasons in the NBA after leaving the Wildcats in 2005.
ESPN ranks UA fifth
ESPN Magazine put UA at No. 5 in its preseason power rankings, behind No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 Michigan State, No. 3 Kansas and No. 4 Duke. Arizona and Duke are the top two seeds in the NIT Tip-Off later this month and could meet in the Nov. 29 final in New York, depending on how the four-game tournament plays out.