MISSOULA — Montana and UCLA are in talks to reschedule their canceled game from December.
The Griz and Bruins had their Dec. 6 contest at Pauley Pavilion canceled “due to concerns stemming from area wildfires” near the campus in Southern California.
Montana and UCLA continue to exchange possible dates to make up the game, but none have worked so far. They’d prefer neither team plays three times in one week so there’s no disadvantage in that game or the rest of the week.
The Griz are off from Jan. 14 to 19 and Feb. 18 to 23; they play Montana State both weeks and have just that one game. UCLA plays twice both weeks.
UCLA has a similar situation against USC the weeks starting Jan. 29 and Feb. 26. Montana plays two times those weeks.
“I’m not saying it’s not going to happen, but it’s been difficult to make happen,” DeCuire said ahead of Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado. “We check in once or twice a week, throw out a new date. Those dates pass and then we tried another one. We’ll see, probably next week or so if we can come up with something or not.”
The Griz were going to receive $85,000 for playing the game, according to the game contract. Rescheduling the game could benefit the athletic department and the basketball team’s operating budget.
It’s also a chance for the Griz, who are playing better basketball now than they were Dec. 6, to show they could hang with or beat UCLA, which is 12-4 overall and 3-1 against Pac-12 teams.
“If we could go play well, it could carry over throughout the season with some confidence as we go back into conference,” DeCuire said. “It could also be a negative if we try to play that game and go on the road and play two road games right after or come home and play two conference foes and play three games in one week. That could be hard for us. We have to be careful. It could be a negative more than a positive if we don’t plan it right.”
The Bruins could bolster their resume and potential seeding in the NCAA tournament with a win over the Griz, who are 11-5 overall and 4-0 in Big Sky play. Montana is ranked No. 98 by KenPom in adjusted efficiency, tops among Big Sky teams, and is No. 147 in the RPI, the third highest among conference teams.
“It’s something I definitely ... want to play because I think where we’re at right now, playing that extra game in nonleague does help, and Montana is a very good team,” UCLA head coach Steve Alford told the LA Daily News.