A true love story: Tucson and Arizona Men's Basketball

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Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat The statue honoring former basketball coach Lute Olson was unveiled at the Eddie Lynch Athletics Pavilion on April 12.

Editor's note: This article was produced as part of the Daily Wildcat's 2018 Campus Guide -- the perfect resource for any incoming Wildcat. Whether you're trying to find important dates, looking for a club to join or are interested in UA history and traditions, we'll be there to help you get through your first semester. Welcome to the University of Arizona!  


Tucson is known for many things: its Hispanic and Native American cultures, beautiful sunsets, snarky Family Guy references and Wildcat basketball.

The former westernmost confederate outpost during the Civil War is now known for the basketball outpost that is located on the University of Arizona campus, which over the last forty years has established itself as one of the winningest programs in NCAA history.

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From the early days of Fred Snowden, when he laid the foundation in the 70s, to Lute Olson, who took the program into the stratosphere, UA basketball has quite a history. Sean Miller has held the reigns for almost a decade now and has led multiple Arizona teams to the cusp of Final Four glory, while also turning Arizona into an NBA draft factory, producing five lottery picks, including the top pick in this year’s draft, Deandre Ayton.

The city of Tucson has seen the blooming success that is Arizona Basketball over the last couple of decades and has taken it in like its only child. With no professional teams in Tucson, and with the minor league team recently leaving town, the Wildcats are the biggest and brightest show in the county, drawing over 14,000 fans on average every home game. 

The ‘Cats are as much a part of Tucson as its mountainous backdrop. The team has been able to splice itself into this southwestern city’s DNA in way that only Sonoran hotdogs, Frida and John Wayne have.

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In four decades, Tucson has grown from Yuma’s older brother to Phoenix’s little brother, more than doubling in size from 1972 to 2015. It has gone from just under 400,000 residents in the metropolitan region to just a hair above a million. And with the city’s growth, the fervor for its basketball team has grown in parallel.

The modern-day mission that Tucsonans flock to for sanctuary and entertainment has been renovated into a state-of-the-art arena, a visible symbol to long-time locals as to how far the program has come, and where it is going. 

The Arizona basketball program is the perfect example of natural growth that has been gracing Tucson for years. It’s shown the public how it has transitioned from being the charming Cinderella team to a consistent and dangerous program, and finally to one of the nations most feared and respected teams.


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