Arizona and UCLA haven’t met as ranked teams in basketball in nearly six years.
The Wildcats went through the choppy waters of the transition from Lute Olson before emerging with Sean Miller at the helm, navigating Arizona into calmer seas as the Pac-12′s most stable program.
Coaching, tradition, facilities, recruiting, fan support … nobody has it better than Arizona right now.
Then there’s UCLA. While the Cats were mired in coaching issues, falling from the Top 25, the Bruins went to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006 to 2008. Since then, UCLA has missed the NCAA Tournament twice, jumping the track with a myriad of player defections and, as described by Sports Illustrated last season, combustible chemistry and rosters filled with knuckleheads.
The league’s bellwether programs have been up and down, failing to intersect as ranked teams since Feb. 17, 2007, when fifth-ranked UCLA won at 19th-ranked Arizona 81-66. That would be Olson’s last time coaching against the Bruins.
It was Olson, almost 30 years ago, who began to make this a rivalry, usually the must-see Pac-12 matchup of the season. The programs have combined to at least share 20 of the past 27 regular-season conference championships.
The rivalry was roaring the late 1980s, catching the eye of Miller, who was a point guard from Pittsburgh at the time.