If recruiting is a second sport within college basketball, as Sean Miller said  and Terrence Jones proved this week, schedule-making might be a third.

If you schedule too lightly, you may get penalized for it when NCAA tournament bids come out, you could get overconfident and you might not be able to properly evaluate your players. Schedule too hard, and you won't have enough wins to get on the NCAA radar and you can damage the confidence of a younger team.

Sean Miller says he has the mix he was looking for next season, when his Wildcats should be improved somewhat but are still not to the level he wants.

This strategy will result in the schedule being weaker than it was in the final Lute Olson years, when the Wildcats played nonconference schedules routinely rated in the Top 25.

On the nonconference portion of the schedule, UA will face just two teams who finished last season in the Top 25, BYU and Kansas, and just two other teams who finished with RPIs in the Top 100, San Diego State and North Carolina State.

Arizona will face five teams with RPIs of 200 and more, including a pair of plus-300s - Idaho State and Rice. So, especially if the Pac-10 isn't much better this season, the Wildcats may need to hit the 20-win mark to get into the NCAA tournament field (even with the additional three at-large spots).

Here's a breakdown of the schedule:

Nov. 14: Idaho State, 309 RPI, 5-22 overall, 4-10 (eighth place in Big Sky).

Notable: This was a onetime guarantee game added by the current UA staff.

Nov. 18: San Diego State, 25 RPI, 23-9 overall, 11-5 (tie third in Mountain West).

Notable: First game of two-year home-and-home series to be returned at San Diego in 2010-11.

Nov. 21: Northern Colorado, 124 RPI, 24-8 overall, 12-4 (second place in Big Sky).

Notable: First game of the Las Vegas Invitational, a fixed bracket four-game event with two home games and two games in Las Vegas.

Nov. 23. Bethune-Cookman, 256 RPI, 14-16 overall, 7-9 (seventh place in Mid-Eastern Athletic)

Notable: Thanks to the fixed bracket, a slip-up here won't cost the Wildcats a trip to Las Vegas, unlike the 2008-09 NIT Tip-Off, when Jamelle Horne's ill-advised foul helped send the Wildcats to consolation games in Georgia instead of New York.

Nov. 26: Santa Clara (at Las Vegas), 238 RPI, 9-21 overall, 3-11 (tie sixth in WCC)

Notable: Wildcats will play at Orleans Arena the day after Thanksgiving.

Nov. 27: Kansas (at Las Vegas), 1 RPI, 33-3 overall, 15-1 (first in Big 12)

Notable: Remember Jeff Withey and Josh Selby? They'll both be on hand in a game that, win or lose, will help Arizona's RPI.

Dec. 1: at Rice, 311 RPI, 7-23 overall, 1-15 (12th in C-USA)

Notable: This is the second and final game of a series intended to benefit longtime UA associate AD Chris Del Conte, who was the AD at Rice at the time the contract was signed but left to become TCU's AD before the first of the games was played last season.

Dec. 5: Oklahoma, 128 RPI, 13-18 overall, 4-12 (ninth place in Big 12)

Notable: Part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series and a return game in Tucson after the Sooners won 79-62 in Norman last season.

Dec. 8 Cal State Fullerton, 204 RPI, 14-15 overall, 8-8 (tie third in Big West)

Notable: Onetime guarantee game added by current staff.

Dec. 11: BYU (at Salt Lake City), 24 RPI, 30-6 overall, 13-3 (second place in Mountain West)

Notable: Jim Livengood refused to return last season's McKale Center game in Provo so it will instead be played at a semi-neutral site. That doesn't matter if Jimmer Fredette goes for another 49 points.

Dec. 19: at North Carolina State, 88 RPI, 20-16 overall, 5-11 (tie for ninth in ACC)

Notable: Second game of home-and-home series after UA escaped with a 76-74 win on Nic Wise's layup last season.

Dec. 22: Robert Morris, 133 RPI, 23-12 overall, 15-3 (tie for first in Northeast)

Notable: UA staff opted to replace Bryant University (RPI 346), which would have damaged the Wildcats' RPI.

Dec. 27: NAU, 200 RPI, 12-14 overall, 8-8 (fifth place in Big Sky)

Notable: This game is not contracted formally because the Big Sky's still-uncertain conference schedule may interfere. However, the Lumberjacks will typically jump through any hoops to play UA so it will most likely be played.

The Pac-10 schedule:

Dec. 30 at Oregon (141 RPI, 16-16)

Jan. 1 at Oregon State (187 RPI, 14-18)

Jan. 6: California (22 RPI, 24-11)

Jan. 8: Stanford (160 RPI, 14-18)

Jan. 15: ASU (72 RPI, 22-11)

Jan. 20: at Washington (RPI 34, 26-10)

Jan. 22: at Washington State (170 RPI, 15-15)

Jan. 27: USC (116 RPI, 16-14)

Jan. 29: UCLA (139 RPI, 14-18)

Feb. 3 at Stanford

Feb. 5 at California

Feb. 12 at ASU

Feb. 17 Washington State

Feb. 19 Washington

Feb. 24 at UCLA

Feb. 26 at USC

March. 3 Oregon State

March 5 Oregon

Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles

Wed. 9 First round

Thu. 10 Quarterfinals

Fri. 11 Semifinals

Sat. 12 Championship


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Sportswriter for the Arizona Daily Star covering Arizona Wildcats basketball