Ask Niya Butts what her favorite part of taking the Arizona Wildcats on the road is, and she'll tell you it's the bonding that happens between teammates.
Ask senior star Davellyn Whyte, though, and you get something different.
"Well, coach takes our phones from us for dinner and when we're on the bus, so we don't have any choice but to bond," Whyte said, said.
Phones or not, the Wildcats will head to Salt Lake City today for the first of four straight road games and the beginning of some serious bonding. The Wildcats play at Utah on Friday and at Colorado on Sunday. They will return to Tucson for a few days before traveling to Los Angeles for games against UCLA and USC.
It's a critical stretch.
Butts' team enters the trip with a 10-5 overall record and 2-2 mark in Pac-12 play. At this point last season, the Wildcats were 2-3 in the conference with Utah and Colorado coming into McKale Center.
The UA lost both games to begin a spiral in which it dropped 12 of its final 13 regular-season conference matchups.
"We don't want to overthink anything," Butts said. "We have to play 40 minutes at a time and not think too big."
Here are three steps to a winning road trip:
1. Take care of academics. This is real: Road trips can be overwhelming for freshmen and newcomers, Whyte said, because of all the school work on their plates.
"It really can be tough managing your time," Whyte said. "It can get scary and you feel like you're behind."
That effects on-court play.
The Wildcats, like all teams, will take their academics on the road with them. They'll take tests if they have any scheduled, and have study sessions throughout the trip; academic advisor Kisha Calbert will travel with the team to both stops.
Butts makes it her business to be on top of what's going on.
"I'm very involved," Butts said. "It's the start of a semester, so the load is a little bit lighter. But, a lot of relationships are being built right now between teachers and students.
"When you're gone for two weeks, it can get tough."
Whyte said she encourages her teammates to stop in during teacher's office hours before trips to communicate.
"You don't want them thinking you're looking for the easy way out," she said
2. Enjoy the time away. Whyte jokes about the bonding time, but there is some seriousness to it. Road trips are a time for the players to get away from the daily grind of class and loosen up a little.
Players never have the same roommate two trips in a row. Instead, Butts switches it up every city so everyone gets to know everyone and there are no cliques.
"I like the trips because everyone gets to bond and get to know each other better," Butts said. "It takes you out of the external distractions in Tucson."
Butts said even in the middle of Pac-12 play, she still tries to give the team some downtime and let them have some fun off the court.
The coach, of course, also takes cell phones away to encourage conversation between teammates.
3. Play fearless. Taking care of school work and getting along with teammates are important, but the main objective on road trips is winning.
In order for that to happen, Butts wants the Wildcats to play with no fear and embrace playing in another team's gym.
"You have to stay together, you have to rebound and you have to handle being in someone else's area - their territory," Butts said. "There's nothing like homecourt advantage.
"We have to be prepared to handle our challenges."
The Wildcats are 5-2 on the road this year and beat New Mexico in December in front of 7,928 fans.
"During a road game, all I hear is noise," Whyte said. "When something good happens for us and the place goes dead silent, it's like we shut them up and it's a great feeling."
• What: Arizona at Utah
• When: 7 p.m. Friday
• TV; radio: Pac-12 Arizona; 1400-AM
called for traveling
The Arizona Wildcats leave today for Salt Lake City, the site of their first of four straight road games. The team won't play in McKale Center until Feb. 1. In all, they will travel more than 3,150 miles over 10 days. Here's a breakdown:
Day Trip Miles
Today Tucson to Salt Lake City 773
Sat. Salt Lake City to Boulder, Colo 520
Sun. Boulder to Tucson 880
Jan. 24 Tucson to Los Angeles (UCLA) 490
Jan. 27 Los Angeles (USC) to Tucson 490