UNLV, Arizona agree to four-year series starting in 2013-14

Series with Louisville pushed back to 2013-14 as well; Rebels set up home-and-home with Hawaii


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Arizona coach Sean Miller yells to his team during their second round game against Memphis during the NCAA Basketball Championships Friday, March 18, 2011at the BOK Center in Tulsa. Arizona won 77-75. Miller and UNLV coach Dave Rice have verbally agreed on a four-year series between the two programs beginning in the 2013-14 season.

Not long after UNLV escaped Arizona's McKale Center with a 74-72 double-overtime win on Dec. 2, 2009, first-year Wildcats coach Sean Miller requested that the non-conference series be put on hold for a bit while he got the program back on solid ground.

He arrived in Tucson from Xavier after Arizona had experienced a brief lull in the post-Lute Olson Era. A year later, he had the Wildcats in the Elite Eight this past March with a stellar incoming recruiting class on tap, to boot.

Now, the series is set to resume beginning in the 2013-14 season.

Miller and UNLV coach Dave Rice have verbally agreed to a four-year deal, with the contracts not yet signed. Arizona will host UNLV in 2013-14, with the Rebels welcoming the Cats to the Thomas & Mack Center the following season, then the same pattern in the last two years of the agreement. Rice announced the handshake agreement via Twitter over the weekend.

"It's something that was really, really important to start (back up)," Rice said. "It just makes sense. It's been a great rivalry over the years."

Between 1972 and 2009, the two programs met 17 times, with UNLV holding an 11-6 edge in the series. The height of the rivalry came in the late 1980s, when Olson and legendary UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian struck up heated battles annually on the floor and on the recruiting trail. It also didn't hurt that, at the time, both programs were national powers and annual Final Four contenders.

"I just remember how many great players were in those games," said Rice, who was on the UNLV team that defeated Arizona in the 1989-90 national championship season, 95-87 in Las Vegas. "It was two teams that played transition basketball, just really exciting games. Most significant is the fact that we're both basically in the same geographical region."

After that 1990 meeting, the regular season series between the two went dead until 2006, when the two entered a four-year agreement. Arizona took the first two meetings, then UNLV claimed the last two in 2008 and 2009.

The topic of continuing the series this upcoming season was discussed, but Arizona needed the first game to be in Tucson. A trip to the McKale Center would have made an already daunting non-conference road schedule that much tougher on the Rebels.

Just getting the deal put together, though, is important for UNLV, who figures to continue going head-to-head with Arizona for prominent West Coast recruits over the next several years.

Louisville series pushed back, UNLV adds Hawaii

Another series that will continue in the 2013-14 season is the current deal with Louisville.

The Cardinals were set to make their second appearance at the Mack under the current contract next season, but Louisville coach Rick Pitino recently phoned UNLV to request that the series go on hold for the next two years.

Louisville had the option of buying the deal out, but did not want it to die altogether.

That left UNLV with a last-second opening on its schedule in late December, and it acted quickly by agreeing two a two-year home-and-home series with Hawaii. That, too, is currently a verbal agreement, with contracts having not yet been signed.

The Rebels will head to Honolulu first, playing there on New Year's Eve this upcoming season. The timing of that game — and the fact that it's not at the Mack — makes it a potential candidate to be picked up by one of the ESPN networks.

The return game will be at the Mack on Dec. 1, 2012.

UNLV has one spot still left to fill on 2011-12 non-con slate

By going to Hawaii, UNLV is allowed to add one more game to its non-conference schedule, which still has a pretty gaping space that needs to be filled.

As it stands, the Dec. 31 contest at Hawaii is currently UNLV's only scheduled game between a Dec. 23 meeting with Cal at the Mack and the Jan. 14 Mountain West opener. UNLV is looking to find an opponent to play at some point in the first two weeks of January, but that's much easier said than done.

"Ninety percent of conferences are already playing league games in the first two weeks of January," Rice said. "We're looking for absolutely anyone who's willing to play us in the first two weeks of January, and that's really difficult right now."

The Rebels would prefer for that game to be at home.

The road non-conference schedule already includes games at UC Santa Barbara, Wichita State, Wisconsin and Illinois at the United Center in Chicago. The highlights of the home portion in non-con play right now include Cal, UTEP and Nevada-Reno.

The Rebels also will play in the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena over Thanksgiving weekend. There, they'll open up against USC, with the winner advancing to take on whoever emerges from a semifinal between North Carolina and South Carolina.

"We'd better be ready to play," Rice said. "The fact that we have a really tough schedule should be extra motivation for our guys."

Finally …

Nothing is set in stone yet in terms of a series between UNLV and now former MWC rival BYU.

But the idea is far from dead.

"It's not on the schedule this year, but something we'll absolutely discuss in the future," Rice said.

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  1. The UNLV/BYU rivalry should be dead in my opinion. Time to cook up some new rivalries with Pac-12 teams. Way better exposure.

  2. Upcoming schedules with non-conference teams looks great. Would like to see us play BYU in future also as the games have mostly been highly competitive. While I like the top end of competition in our non-con schedules I would like to see us play a little tougher lower end.

  3. I'm excited to resume the series with Arizona, but I must say that I was REALLY looking forward to that Louisville game at the T&M.

    Cal, UTEP, and the school to the north at home this year? Bleh.

  4. They should definitely go after BYU for that available game assuming the Cougs have an available spot.

  5. This schedule would've been much better with Louisville at home. Pitino is a jerk, he knows we are going to be good this year ! Utep and Cal are both programs on the rise and they shouldnt be that bad,... but we really need to start playing tougher schedules and adding more heavyweights.

    Bottom line is we need to play top programs out west. BYU is one of them. Im all for playing BYU, ....Gonzaga, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, and ASU for that matter are all good opponants.

  6. Would really like for some top level teams to play at the mack (and shown on tv, but one can only dream). Non-con looking good though with really strong teams. I hope not too strong though. Maybe Rice is gonna throw in the "We'll play you whenever, wherever" mentality. I also agree with putting BYU on the side burner for the next couple seasons and let that stew awhile. I'd love to see some more Big 12 and pac-12 teams.

    Ryan, known tv games with these games?

  7. We should keep a rivalry going with BYU. Those games are the most fun, especially getting to boo the hell out of them. Other than Nevada, I think it is the game that the fans get the most fired up for. But I also agree that it would be nice to keep the non-conference schedule fairly strong so we have a great RPI at the end of the season to ensure a ticket to the dance.

  8. Screw BYU. They think that they are too good for the MWC then they don't deserve to play anyone from the conference. BYU ruined was turning into a great rivalry with UNLV because they were angry that non of the BCS conferences thought that they were good enough to join them and they want to push their lame network on everyone. UNLV needs to find another non-conference team to play.

  9. Wade, TV deals probably won't be finalized for a few more weeks at least.

  10. Nice to see one of our old, natural rivals, U of A, back on the sked. I admit to being a little ambivalent about BYU. Oklahoma would be a good un too

  11. We don't need BYU, they need us. Offer them a 2-1.

  12. forget BYU they left dont help them at all besides without Jimmer they will be a big fat 000000