Arizona Basketball looks ahead to one final Pac-12 run with the Big 12 party on the horizon

Look, Kansas City is no Las Vegas, but with Arizona set to join the Big XII in just a few short months, it's hard not to be excited about the future. The Wildcats are joining a conference with a host of like-minded fanbases that will surely create quite an atmosphere for the Wildcats' games.

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - Midwest Regional
NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - Midwest Regional / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

With conference tournaments well underway in NCAA Men's Basketball and complete on the Women's side, not only are we set to say farewell to the "Conference of Champions" but we move closer to joining what is set to be undoubtedly the premier conference in College Basketball in the Big 12. The excitement is not limited to just basketball, as football and baseball are also set to make comparable moves in their respective sports, and the University of Arizona is poised to be set up for some of the best possible fan experiences as we move into the 2024-2025 season.

Iowa State v Texas
Iowa State v Texas / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages

No Vegas? No problem

Moving to Dallas and Kansas City for the conference championship and tournaments is definitely a change for Wildcats fans, but it will likely change the experience's dynamic for the better. Over the past couple of weeks, Kansas City has become a mecca for college hoops as the Big 12 has completely taken over the city. It has created an absolutely dynamic experience to follow from afar with the partnerships and activations they have going based around the Tournaments.

Also, the Big 12 Women's Soccer Championship announced a move to KC, and CPKC Stadium — the first facility specifically built for a women's sports team — will be taking over as the host. While Vegas has undoubtedly been a great place for the Wildcats in basketball, the change is definitely a great new opportunity for Arizona fans to be surrounded by fans from other programs who are just as passionate and travel just as well — unlike more than a few in the Pac-12.

As for football, the move to Dallas is a great opportunity for the Wildcats, as it will put Arizona at the center of a premier event in Texas — a place that is quickly becoming a key recruiting hub. While Arizona can continue to utilize Vegas for neutral site non-conference games, the program largely didn't gain significant value or exposure with the Vegas games other than offering the fans a short road trip there. Now they should truly be in the Conference Championship Game picture for the first time since 2014, going to AT&T Stadium would offer Arizona a chance for much more brand exposure nationwide.

AT&T Stadium
Panama v Qatar: Quarterfinals - 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

A different type of fan support

Arguably, the change that will be most noticeable for Wildcats fans will be the fan support for other schools. While not every stadium will be packed, we are likely not to see the large swaths of empty seats that notoriously existed when playing at Stanford Stadium, Haas Pavilion, and Pauley Pavilion in recent years. Looking at Big 12 Football, Baylor — one of the pre-expansion teams — who had a down season with a 3-9 record, averaged over 40,000 fans for their home games. Sure, it's a team in Texas, but it is also a team that struggled yet still drew a large passionate crowd each game. Then there's Kansas State who Arizona will visit in mid-September, who average over 50,000 per game.

The Wildcats are taking a serious step up in fan hostility (not in a bad way), and as Mark Madsen stated when McKale Center was rocking against Cal, the crowd can make a huge difference. Arizona Athletics will be moving into a conference filled with passion, and it will be joined by a couple of the former Pac-12's more passionate fan bases.

Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; From left: Desmond Howard, Rece Davis, Pat McAfee, Lee Corso and
Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; From left: Desmond Howard, Rece Davis, Pat McAfee, Lee Corso and / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Added accessibility for Arizona fans nationwide

Now there are many negative feelings for ESPN from Arizona fans and we get it, but the ability to move off the extremely regional Pac-12 Network in favor of the ESPN family of networks — and especially ESPN+ — is set to be a huge deal for all sports not named football or basketball.

While the Pac-12 offers a free stream service for non-televised games and sports, it simply does not have as big of a reach as ESPN+, which could be game-changing for a potential baseball, softball, soccer, or volleyball recruit. If you have a recruit looking at, say, NC State and Arizona in baseball, they could easily flip from the Wolfpack and check in on the Wildcats without switching services or sites.

For fans like me who don't have the Pac-12 Network nor a desire to pay $40+/month for a streaming service just to get access, it will now become incredibly easy to just turn on the ESPN app on TV to catch every single non-nationally televised Wildcats event. Also in the NIL era, this could get non-local Wildcats to feel a stronger connection to the programs that could also bring in additional dollars to a program that isn't quite known nationally (yet).

ICYMI. awards. Five Wildcats honored in Pac-12 Yearly Awards. dark

Don’t forget to follow us at @ZonaZealots on Twitter, follow us at @ZonaZealotsFS on Instagram, and like our fan page on Facebook for continued coverage of Arizona news, opinions, and recruiting updates!