After four years under coach Sean Miller, the Arizona Wildcats' scheduling philosophy is finally in place.
With all but three one-time home games tentatively set for next season's nonconference schedule, the Wildcats have settled into a formula that includes four major home-and-home series, a neutral-site event and a handful of one-time guarantee home games each season.
For next season, that formula will bring UNLV and Texas Tech to McKale Center, and the Wildcats will play at Michigan, at San Diego State and in the NIT Tip-Off. Another one-time game against Long Beach State, which visited McKale Center last season, and the annual NAU contest, are among the one-time opponents.
Off the books are home-and-home contracts with Florida and Clemson, which UA played last season, and in 2011-12 the Wildcats finished up an unexpected series with New Mexico State (formed when San Diego State had a scheduling conflict in 2010-11) and a semi-neutral site series with Gonzaga that began in Phoenix in 2008-09 before Miller arrived but skipped two seasons.
"When we first got here, a couple of contracts that were on the books were a little bit awkward," said Ryan Reynolds, UA's director of basketball operations. "That makes it kind of hard to balance it out, but at this point I think we have a pretty good formula."
Here's how the formula breaks down in the near future:
The guarantee games
UA will host five one-time guarantee (or "buy") games, in which opponents are paid to appear in only one game at McKale Center. Typically, Reynolds said, UA looks to schedule teams in the 50-125 range of the RPI so as to keep a strong strength of schedule. The Wildcats were hurt in 2011-12 when they scheduled a 300-plus RPI team, Bryant University, and the annual NAU game has been damaging in recent seasons.
"We look at their history, who's on their team coming back and if they are going to be projected to win their conference," Reynolds said. "We try to play as many teams as we can projected to win their conference."
The Wildcats next season will invite back Long Beach State, which went on to win the Big West Conference regular-season title. Reynolds said three other games are still in discussions.
Arizona has settled into a pattern of hosting two big nonconference games each season and arranging two others on the road.
The UNLV home game will be the first of a four-year series that will rotate between Tucson and Las Vegas, and Texas Tech will finish a two-year deal that had UA play in Lubbock last season.
Arizona's trip to San Diego State wraps up a four-year arrangement, and the Wildcats' visit to Michigan begins a two-year deal that will bring the Wolverines to McKale Center in 2014-15.
Also in 2014-15, Arizona will open two more two-year deals, with Gonzaga (starting at home) and against UTEP (starting in El Paso). In 2015-16, UA will open a series with Missouri at McKale Center and likely add another home-and-home series to start on the road.
The multi-team events
Although the NIT Tip-Off field has not been announced, the Wildcats are expected to participate. In 2014-15, they will return to the Maui Invitational, where they played in Miller's first season of 2009-10, along with San Diego State and six other teams.
Teams are attracted to multi-team or "exempt" events not only because they often mimic a postseason tournament atmosphere but also because they count for fewer games on the basketball schedule: Teams can play up to four games in an exempt event but only have two count against their scheduling maximum of 29.
Last season, Arizona also received a surprise RPI boost by playing in the Diamond Head Classic. Even though the Honolulu event was expected to have only a mid-level field, the Wildcats wound up with top-35 RPI wins over Miami and San Diego State.
"I don't think anybody could have predicted how good the Hawaii tournament would be, but I knew it would be better than people thought," Reynolds said. "At times, people get caught up with the names on the jersey."
• The Basketball Hall of Fame will hold a high school showcase event on Dec. 13-14 at Grand Canyon University featuring several schools who perennially have high-profile recruits, including Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman, Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, Yates of Houston, Santa Ana's Mater Dei and Orange (Calif.) Lutheran.
What we know about Arizona's schedule
Home games in CAPS, and dates are subject to change.
Nov. 8 Home opener TBA
Nov. 11 LONG BEACH STATE
Nov. 14 at San Diego State
Nov. 18-20 NIT Tip-Off (two games)
Nov. 27 NIT semifinals*
Nov. 29 NIT final or consolation*
Dec. 3 TEXAS TECH
Dec. 7 UNLV
Dec. 11 Home game TBA
Dec. 14 at Michigan
Dec. 19 Home game TBA
Dec. 23 NAU
* In New York and only if UA wins its first two NIT games. Otherwise, UA would play consolation games on Nov. 25 and 26 at a site TBD.
Conference schedule note
Pac-12 play is scheduled to begin the weekend of Jan. 1-5, but the schedule has not been released. As part of the conference's unbalanced schedule, the Wildcats will not travel to Washington and Washington State, and will not host UCLA or USC.
Contact reporter Bruce Pascoe at 573-4145 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brucepascoe