The University of Arizona joined the Pacific 8 Conference, along with Arizona State, in 1978, forming what is now known as the Pac-10. It did not take long until the Arizona/UCLA rivalry was born.
Since the two schools have been a part of the same conference, both have combined for 21 of 32 Pac-10 Conference championships in Men's Basketball.
In 1992, head coach Jim Harrick was in his first season at UCLA. Even with freshmen Don MacLean and Darrick Martin in the starting lineup, the Bruins were demolished at McKale Center, 102-64, leaving with the worst loss in program history. The victory extended the Wildcats' home win-streak to 72 games.
Between 1991-98, the Bruins and Wildcats each won 4 of the 8 conference championships. The Bruins won 3 straight titles within this span, including a National Championship in 1995. They also held a three-game winning streak on the ‘Cats.
It was not until the 1998 season – on the same night Arizona's National Championship banner was raised in McKale Center – that Arizona beat UCLA 87-75 behind strong performances by Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson and Miles Simon, who scored a combined 71 points.
As the defending national champions, the Wildcats went on to win that season's conference crown.
Just last year, Arizona won both meetings against UCLA in the regular conference series. Yet, it was at the hands of the Bruins that the Wildcats' season, and their NCAA tournament streak, came to an end in the Pac-10 Tournament when Arizona lost 75-69.
Even with all the rich history over the last quarter century, recent years would suggest the so-called rivalry seems to have lost some of its meaning.
This past January, before Arizona's home game against UCLA, guard Momo Jones described the upcoming contest as "just another game." This came as a surprise to many, as most games against the Bruins served to determine a hierarchy not only within the conference, but also across the nation.
To Momo's defense, his words were most likely an attempt to echo second-year head coach, Sean Miller. Coach Miller continually reminds his team that nothing has yet been won, and emphasizes the need to maintain focus for the next game on the schedule.
But, even Miller himself would like to restore the rivalry with UCLA and once again fight with the Bruins for conference championships.
"Moving forward, I know Arizona and UCLA have year-in and year-out challenged for the conference championship, I know that's one of the things we want to restore on our end," said Miller.
This season, Arizona is in the driver's seat for yet another Pac-10 championship; it would be the Wildcats' first since 2005.
If the stakes of Saturday's game don't help to renew the rivalry for Jones and company, I'm not sure what will.
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