Arizona and UCLA Basketball schedule three future matchups, none in Tucson

Mick Cronin's lasting impression in Tucson will be his meltdown with Arizona media back in January.
California Baptist v Arizona
California Baptist v Arizona / Rebecca Noble/GettyImages

Arizona and UCLA usually aren't considered major rivals in football, but the basketball rivalry is a deep-seated and very heated one. Despite Arizona's move to the Big 12 and UCLA's to the Big Ten, three non-conference matchups have been scheduled through the 2027-28 season, per Jon Rothstein.

The most notable nugget is where the games will be played: Phoenix in 2024, Las Vegas in 2025, and Los Angeles in 2027. There’s one venue that’s missing from the list, though: McKale Center.

Why won't UCLA come to Tucson?

UCLA Basketball head coach Mick Cronin never fails to steal the headlines when he's in the Old Pueblo — usually for his courtside temper and wildly expressive body language.

The story was no different the last time the Bruins faced the Wildcats in Tucson. Cronin repeatedly gave harsh answers and maintained an abrasive demeanor throughout his interaction with the Arizona media. It came to a boiling point in his interaction with Arizona Daily Star reporter Justin Spears, where he attempted to attack Spears' character unprovoked.

The showing for the Bruins in McKale was catastrophic. They cruised out to a 37-28 lead by halftime, but an Arizona crowd invigorated by the announcement of football stars Noah Fifita and Tetairoa McMillan returning may have messed with UCLA's rhythm.

UCLA was outscored in the second half 49-34 and ultimately lost 77-71, but that wasn't even the worst of it. He was assessed a technical foul with six minutes remaining for swearing at an official while UCLA held a 4-point lead. An assistant coach also was allegedly jaunting with some Arizona fans over a phone being extended into a player's personal space.

Capping it off, the postgame press conference went viral for all the wrong reasons. Cronin's complete lack of accountability and disdain for playing in McKale Center were on full display. When prompted by Spears for his views on playing in McKale as a visitor, Cronin coldly responded:

"You'd have to ask Tommy [Lloyd]. He coaches here all the time. [...] I coached in a lot of places; venue and fans are irrelevant to me."

Mick Cronin

Contrast that with Cal head coach Mark Madsen, who is a part of the same university system and maintained top-flight professionalism when asked the same question by Troy Hutchinson of Rivals.

What this means for the Arizona-UCLA rivalry

Unfortunately, Tucson locals won't be able to head to the local basketball arena to watch their beloved Wildcats face off against the Bruins. However, the crowds will still be packed out with Red and Blue.

Both the Footprint Center in Phoenix and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas have been half-jokingly nicknamed "McKale North" by the Wildcats faithful. Phoenix is about a two-hour drive from Tucson, and Las Vegas is about 6.5 hours away by car. There won't be any shortage of Arizona fans to cheer on Lloyd's squad.

Even games in Pauley Pavilion see better overall attendance when the Wildcats are in town. Los Angeles is still less than a day's drive away, and those among the Arizona fans who are better off would have no problems finding direct flights from Tucson.

All this is to say that even though Cronin shakes in his boots at the thought of playing Arizona in Tucson, the Wildcats will still bring the McKale Center energy to the other places Arizona calls their second and third homes.

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