Preview: Arizona Basketball to take on in-state Grand Canyon Lopes

Dec 18, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Grand Canyon Antelopes head coach Dan Majerle (R) argues a call during the first half against the San Diego State Aztecs at Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Grand Canyon Antelopes head coach Dan Majerle (R) argues a call during the first half against the San Diego State Aztecs at Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The Arizona Wildcats are set to take on in-state foe Grand Canyon, as the Lopes travel to Tucson on Wednesday, here is our preview of the match-up.

Finally, perhaps the two best basketball teams in the state of Arizona square off, as the Arizona Basketball team and GCU will face each other on Wednesday. We couldn’t be any more excited. The Wildcats will take on a feisty Lopes squad, and here is our preview of the two in-state schools.

It’s been a long-time coming, but Arizona will finally have the opportunity to take on GCU in this non-conference match-up. Initially, these two schools were unable to face each other due to a moratorium initiated by the Pac-12.

What is that you ask? Well, thanks to ASU school president Michael Crow, he expressed discontent of GCU’s financial model. They are a for-profit school, meaning it is an educational institution operated by private, profit-seeking businesses.

Well, that moratorium has since been lifted by the Pac-12, and you could bet Arizona and Greg Byrne took full advantage of the opportunity to play GCU. So much in fact, that the Wildcats scheduled to play the Lopes for the 2016-17 basketball season.

Despite the two schools playing each other in other sports in the past few years, the Wildcats will face the Lopes on the hardwood for the first time.

It is worth noting; GCU has made great strides, initially moving to Division 1, and are slowly and steadily becoming a solid athletic program. Heck, just this year, the Lopes have played quite the non-conference schedule, playing teams like; Duke, Louisville, San Diego State and now Arizona along with others. They certainly aren’t afraid to compete. On Wednesday, I would imagine GCU to come out fighting.

Hopefully, this will turn into a possible in-state rivalry, with the Wildcats maybe doing a return trip to Phoenix at GCU Arena in the years to come. The arena is a bit small, but their fans have created a great environment there, and teams are noticing.

When Louisville traveled to Phoenix on December 3rd to take on GCU, Louisville head coach, Rick Pitino had some kind words to say about their team and their fans.

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“In college basketball, my 40-plus years, (that) was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” Pitino said. “Awesome.”

“You got something special here, really special. When you have this type of enthusiasm, it made us a much better team tonight. Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as tough as that environment tonight.”

Wow! Some surprising comments from the future hall of fame head coach, considering he doesn’t typically go out of his way to give high praise. It sounds like McKale could have some competition, and it would certainly be great to possibly see another formidable opponent in the state of Arizona.

At 5-4 on the year, they’ve had a decent start considering the competition they have played, plus, they are coming off back-to-back wins, including a 76-72 upset victory over San Diego State.

Former NBA player, and Phoenix Suns star “Thunder” Dan Majerle is the head coach of the Lopes and seems to have the #LopesRising. Since taking over in 2013, he is 64-41 as head coach and has made the College Insider Tournament (CIT) the past three seasons.

Majerle has seemed to recruit well for the Lopes so far, and definitely have brought in some talent overseas. One of those players is none other than the freshman Fiifi Aidoo, then Finnish guard who was actually a teammate of Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen in the FIBA U20 European Tournament just this past summer.

Senior point guard, and former NAU Lumberjack, DeWayne Russell however has been the biggest surprise. Russell currently leads the Lopes in scoring at 25.4 points per game and should prove to be a tough challenge for the Wildcats in this one.

In GCU’s close game vs. Louisville, Russell had a career-high 42 points.

Game Time: 9 PM MST/ 8 PM PST

Location: McKale Center (14,545)- Tucson, AZ

Media: ESPNU- TV & IMG- Radio

Spread: (N/A)

Prediction: Arizona 78 GCU 62

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At Zona Zealots, it’ll be great to see these two teams finally meet on the hardwood. We feel even with the Wildcats still ailing with injuries, the overall talent the Wildcats have will prove too much for GCU, although we expect them to give us their best. Bear Down, Arizona, and beat the Lopes!