Arizona 73, Arizona State 58: Taking momentum to Vegas

UA's Nick Johnson finishes a fast-break dunk over ASU's Carrick Felix - off a steal from Solomon Hill - to give the Cats a 44-28 lead early in the second half. "That's the Nick that's played with us the entire season," says coach Sean Miller, who liked Johnson's defense, too.

The NCAA allows college teams to take foreign exhibition tours once every four years, and there are plenty of ways to do it in basketball.

Teams can soak up some European culture, as Colorado and Oregon State are doing this month. They can expose the marketing-minded Pac-12 to China, as UCLA and its vaunted recruiting class are doing. They can take foreign players home - and maybe keep up recruiting ties - as Washington State (Australia) and Washington (Senegal) are doing.

Or they can just play a lot of basketball, mesh in some newcomers and relax, which appears to be Arizona's plan.

The Wildcats have operated under a strict veil of secrecy this summer - allowing no interviews of staff, players or coaches leading up to their trip to the Bahamas, which started Thursday and lasts through Tuesday - although the school issued a video of coach Sean Miller last week.

Their schedule suggests they will play basketball a few times and do a lot of hanging out at a plush resort on Paradise Island.

It's a big contrast between the long exhibition trips Arizona used to take to Europe and Australia under former UA coach Lute Olson, although Olson did take the Wildcats to British Columbia for just three days during their last foreign trip in 2006.

"As he's been since Day 1, Sean is all about basketball as opposed to foreign tours with Lute, where we'd do some cultural activities that were more of a focal point," said Ryan Hansen, a former administrator and manager under Olson who is now vice president of Bon Voyage Travel. "But that's where Lute was in his career while Sean is still trying to build … and (by going on a cheaper trip) Sean would rather take some of those resources and use them towards facility upgrades and some of the other things they are doing."

The main NCAA guidelines are that teams can hold a maximum of 10 practices beforehand and play a maximum of 10 games during a trip.

"The whole thing is it's whatever the head coach wants to do within the rules," says Bill Morgan, UA's associate AD for compliance.

Here are a few other things worth noting about the Wildcats' trip:

What it is: The Wildcats will be participating in what's known as the Bahamas Basketball Federation's "Summer of Thunder," featuring several college teams against local players.

Other U.S. teams will include Colorado State, Florida Gulf Coast, Norfolk State, Indiana State, Charlotte, Cal State Bakersfield, Morgan State and Tulane.

While the UA won't have formal contact with the other college teams, Colorado State's roster includes former UA guard Daniel Bejarano, who transferred after the 2010-11 season.

On the court plans: The Wildcats traveled Thursday and will practice today before playing a collection of Caribbean all-stars known as the Real Deal Shockers on Saturday. The Wildcats will hold an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday, then face the Bahamas All-Stars on Monday before returning home Tuesday.

Off-court plans: UA won't offer specifics on its itinerary but all activities and meals on road trips under Miller are usually held in the arena and hotel.

However, the Wildcats will be staying at the Atlantis resort, so there are plenty of things to do. The resort offers a water park, dolphin interaction, snorkel/scuba excursions and even an interactive "stingray experience." There's also a casino, rock climbing, video games and, of course, beaches.

Who can go: All returning players who are eligible for the upcoming season and any newcomers who have completed at least three units of class at UA by the time the trip begins.

Because the UA freshmen and transfers Mark Lyons and Matt Korcheck all took summer school classes, all Wildcat players are scheduled to make the trip except former Duquesne guard T.J. McConnell.

McConnell can't go because he must sit out the required redshirt year of four-year transfers and is thus ineligible to play or receive any expenses for an exhibition tour. Lyons can play because he graduated from Xavier and is eligible to compete immediately, while Korcheck is also eligible immediately because he is a junior-college transfer, although he is scheduled to voluntarily redshirt.

The benefits: One of them has already happened - the Wildcats held 10 full practices in advance of the trip, allowing them to fold in their eight newcomers earlier than normally allowed. Usually, teams can hold only limited drills in the offseason and full practices aren't allowed until mid-October.

"It's just more productive, more meaningful," Miller said on UA's video about the summer practices. "Our team's had a positive edge. To a man, we've worked hard and done a good job in the classroom. All of our players have really invested a lot."

While the Wildcats aren't likely to be challenged much on the court this weekend, they might also benefit from the chance to simply hang out together.

Combined with the loss of five seniors, junior Kyryl Natyazhko and freshmen Sidiki Johnson and Josiah Turner, the Wildcats actually have as many newcomers as returnees. Arizona brought in eight new players, counting walk-on Jacob Hazzard, and five of them are expected to contribute next season - including four highly regarded freshmen.

"Although (the trip is) about basketball, it's also about the other things," Miller said on his video. "Players learn each other, they know each other. The distance between a freshman and a newcomer - someone like Solomon Hill, who's a senior - is really close because they spend more time together at a time of year when they're generally not even here on campus."

The lineup: Miller hasn't been available to discuss his early rotations, but he did say on the video that he might not even have a consistent starting lineup once the season begins. Barring injury, the Wildcats should have enough depth that Miller can reward hard-working players with starts or bench those who don't work hard in practice.

"We all hope for good health and when it doesn't happen, we have to overcome it," Miller said. "But I do think from a physical perspective, we have bigger bodies and we have more depth up front."

What's everyone else doing: Seven Pac-12 teams are taking foreign tours this summer, and two have already started - Utah to Brazil and Washington State to Australia.

UCLA is headed to China later this month; Colorado is playing four games on visits to the Netherlands, Belgium and France; and Oregon State is visiting France and Spain.

Washington, meanwhile, is taking the conference's longest journey: A 15-day excursion through Spain, France, Monaco and Senegal, the last stop of which will allow Husky center Aziz N'Diaye to return home.

This kind of Traveling is a good thing for UA

The Wildcats will take their seventh foreign exhibition trip this weekend.

Their history, with won-loss records:

1985: Yugoslavia, France, Netherlands, Italy. 8-7

1989: France, Germany, Spain, Canary Islands. 6-3

1993: Australia. 9-1

1997: Australia. 5-4

2002: Australia. 8-2

2006: Canada. 5-0

Total: 41-17