University of Connecticut Huskies (7-3) at University of Arizona Wildcats (9-3)
I brought you a fourth consecutive college basketball winner last night when I laid all kinds of wood on Creighton, and they delivered a near 60-point blowout to win and easily cover. I’ll look to keep the hot streak alive tonight in an intriguing non-conference matchup between the Wildcats of Arizona and the Huskies of UCONN.
The University of Connecticut Huskies will travel all the way out west to face the Wildcats of Arizona. UCONN hasn’t played a game since December 9th so they should be well rested and prepared for the huge matchup. The Huskies enter this game winners of three of their last four games. Arizona appears to have recovered from its early season struggles and have now won six straight games. The Wildcats are -15.5-point home favorites.
The game total over-under has been set at 145.5. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from the McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.
Arizona is a strange team this year. They came into the season ranked number two in the country, and many believed they might just be the best team in all the land. The Cats started the season 3-0 and headed to the Bahamas to play the Battle for Atlantis tournament where they were looking forward to a big showdown with another very highly ranked team, the Villanova Wildcats.
The matchup never came to fruition as Arizona had the road trip that nightmares are made of, going 0-3, mostly against weaker competition. The rough week resulted in Arizona dropping all the way from number two in the AP Poll to out of the rankings. It was the biggest single week drop in poll history. Shocking to say the least.
Since that bad tournament, the Wildcats seem to have snapped back to normal. They still aren’t dominating teams like we thought they would coming into the season, but they have reeled off six straight wins against some solid competition. Wins over a very good Texas A&M team, and over game teams like UNLV and Alabama tell me that Arizona is back playing at a high level.
The Cats are led by one of the best 1-2 punches in the nation with Alonso Trier and Deandre Ayton. Both players are expected to be lottery picks in next year’s NBA draft and are dominating as of late. Arizona is playing a deep eleven-man rotation and has legs for days and can run with anyone.
The UCONN Huskies have done what they are supposed to do this year. They beat the teams they were favored against, Oregon, Monmouth, and Stony Brook. And they lost to the teams they were underdogs against, Michigan State, Arkansas, and Syracuse. If the Huskies want to be considered for an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament they are going to have to start beating some of these good teams.
The big change for the Huskies this year that is different from recent history is that they no longer play in the Big East conference. They won’t have nearly as many opportunities for big resume-building wins as they have had in past years. I’m not saying that the American Conference is a bad one, they have some great talent at the top of the league in Wichita State, Cincinnati, SMU, and Houston. But, they are also weak at the bottom with teams like South Florida, East Carolina, and Tulsa. If the Huskies are going to win some big games, they are going to have to win some out of conference, tonight is their opportunity.
I’m just going to come out and say it, I don’t think there is any way that UCONN is going to play a true road game against Arizona and walk away with the win. The Wildcats are back to mostly what we thought they were coming into the season and I expect them to control this game from the tip. But 15.5 points is a huge number for Arizona against a decent Huskies team.
The Cats beat A&M by three, they beat ‘Bama by six, and they beat UNLV by three. They are winning games, but they aren’t blowing teams out. I expect Arizona to jump out to an early double-digit lead and for the game to hold right around there. I don’t see this game getting out of hand because Arizona just isn’t a team that is blowing people out this year.
I’m thinking somewhere in the 76-65 range for an easy Arizona victory and an even easier UCONN cover. I just don’t trust the Cats to really run it up, and UCONN has had a long layoff to rest up and get healthy and prepare. Give me the UCONN Huskies on the road getting 15.5-points.