The Madness is already well underway, as the early game between Houston and Illinois has already kicked off the day, and on the final day of the opening weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, we have plenty of action on tap! The morning slate is highlighted by a pair of 2 seeds, in Duke and Villanova, as they look to avoid the upset bug that is going around. The Blue Devils play the Spartans of Michigan State in a matchup between Hall of Fame coaches, and the Wildcats play the Buckeyes of Ohio State, with a trip to the Sweet 16 in their sights.
Later in the day, we have games between Notre Dame and Texas Tech, as the Irish try to parlay a First Four appearance into a 2nd weekend birth against the Red Raiders, as well the Hurricanes of Miami playing against Auburn, with upset on their minds. The late games feature the Texas Longhorns and Purdue Boilermakers in a Big 10 and Big 12 battle, and the nightcap comes to us from out west, where the Arizona Wildcats play the TCU Horned Frogs.
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) March 20, 2022
While this year’s tournament has been light on buzzer-beaters, we have already broken the record for the most overtime games during the opening weekend, as we have already seen 4 games need extra time to decide a winner. Will any of today’s games go into that extra period? They just might, as we have evenly matched games all over the board today in what is sure to be another action-packed day. For this pick, we will head to the South Regional for the game between the 1-seed Arizona Wildcats and the 9th seeded Horned Frogs of TCU.
TCU Horned Frogs (21-12)
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Horned Frogs of TCU were on the outside looking in for the NCAA tournament. That’s not to say that the Frogs were ever a bad team, but life in the Big 12 is tough, and TCU suffered a mid-season stretch where they lost 4 of 6 games in league play, to drop them to 5-7 in the Big 12. Things weren’t looking good for TCU’s at-large bid chances as they were slumping at the wrong time.
But then things started to click for the Horned Frogs, as they went on one of the more impressive runs of any team this season, late in the year. TCU went from a bubble team to a lock in a hurry when they managed to find wins over Kansas, Texas Tech, and Texas in a span of just 2 weeks. And even when they did lose, those games were very tightly contested, as they lost in Morgantown to the West Virginia Mountaineers by 6 points, and they nearly knocked off the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence in a game that came down to the wire, losing by only 4-points.
TCU had about as tough a draw as possible in the Big 12 tournament, with their opening game against Texas, and their 2nd round game against Kansas, the 3rd time they had to play the Jayhawks in a little over a week, with the game coming in Kansas City. Despite the difficult situation, the Frogs acquitted themselves well with the win over the Longhorns, and a respectable performance against the Jayhawks in a loss.
That nice showing in the Big 12 tournament was enough to send TCU dancing as a 9-seed, and they showed everybody that they belonged with a beatdown of Seton Hall in the round of 64, blowing out the Pirates 69-42. Many casual fans were shocked at how well TCU defended in that game, but the sharps weren’t, as we knew that the Frogs have been elite on D all season long, with the 16th best defensive unit in the nation per Kenpom.
— TCU Basketball (@TCUBasketball) March 20, 2022
When I look back on the full body of work for TCU, it seems a little silly now that there was ever a time that people didn’t have them in their field of 68. TCU played the 9th toughest schedule in the country this season, and they picked up top-100 wins over Texas A&M, Kansas State, Oklahoma (twice), Iowa State, LSU, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia, and that was before, they won late against Texas, Texas Tech, and Kansas. This is a very good basketball team, and don’t be fooled by the fact that the majority of the public was late to the party to take notice.
Arizona Wildcats (32-3)
It was supposed to be a transitional year this season for the Arizona Wildcats. The roster was clearly talented, but with a new head coach in Tommy Lloyd, and the PAC-12 strong with teams like USC, UCLA, Colorado, and Oregon all looking good, this wasn’t a year that was supposed to turn out like it has for the Wildcats. But Llyod wasted no time at Arizona, as he quickly took this team that wasn’t even ranked in the preseason polls, to the top-10. In the final AP poll of the regular season, Arizona came in 2nd behind the Gonzaga Bulldogs, and they were the only team besides the Zags to take home any first place votes.
The resume is sterling for Arizona, as they finished with a 32-3 record overall, which included both the PAC-12 regular season title as well as the conference tournament title. The non-conference schedule was a little bit light, but the wins over Michigan, Wyoming, and Illinois held up as good ones, as all of those teams made the NCAA tournament. The ‘Cat’s only loss in the non-conference came in a true road game at Tennessee, against a very strong Volunteers squad.
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— Arizona Basketball (@ArizonaMBB) March 20, 2022
Arizona won their first 6 games in league play, and when they finally did lose a game, it was against UCLA on the road, against a top-10 Bruins team that went to the Final Four last year and is in the Sweet 16 this year. The Wildcats did have a slip up at Colorado in February, where they played as poorly as they had all season long, but that might have been the best thing for them, as, since that loss, they have won 7 straight games, avenging the losses to UCLA and Colorado along the way.
Arizona coasted in their opening game in the tournament against Wright State, dropping 87 points on the Raiders in a game that they never trailed at any point. And that dominating win came without one of their best players, Kerr Kriisa, who missed the game with a sprained ankle. It was the 3rd straight game without Kriisa for Arizona, and he will be a game-time decision for this one against TCU. Llyod hopes that he will have him back on the floor tonight, as he leads the team in assists and averages double-digit points per game.
TCU Horned Frogs vs Arizona Wildcats Betting Odds And Team Statistics
The following odds are courtesy of BetOnline:
|TCU Horned Frogs||+9.5 (-110)||+420||Over 145.5 (-110)|
|Arizona Wildcats||-9.5 (-110)||-520||Under 145.5 (-110)|
|Team Data||TCU Horned Frogs||Arizona Wildcats|
|Points Per Game||68.1||84.6|
|Points Against Per Game||64.3||67.6|
|Field Goal %||44.2%||49.7%|
|Three Point %||30.4%||35.9%|
TCU Horned Frogs vs Arizona Wildcats Prediction:
Winning in March is never easy. Winning in March without your starting point guard is close to mission impossible. The Wildcats have shown that they have been able to still play at a high level without Kerr Kriisa on the floor, as they have one of the most talented rosters in the country, but I am not sure that they have played a team that defends like TCU. I suspect that Kriisa will play today, but he clearly won’t be at 100%, and that is going to keep this game competitive.
Normally when you are a 1-seed, you basically get a free pass to the Sweet 16. Your first game is a joke, and your second game is usually against a serviceable, but overmatched team, that just isn’t capable of beating an elite team. And while TCU is not an elite team, they have beaten several of them here late in the season. This team is peaking at the right time, and they have shown that if they play their best, they can beat a team of similar caliber as Arizona.
TCU Horned Frogs vs Arizona Wildcats Betting Trends:
- TCU is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games
- The total has gone UNDER in 6 of TCU’s last 6 games
- TCU is 3-10 SU in their last 13 games played in March
- TCU is 0-4-1 ATS in their last 5 games played on a Sunday
- TCU is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games when playing as the underdog
- The total has gone OVER in 6 of Arizona’s last 7 games
- Arizona is 7-0 SU in their last 7 games
- Arizona is 5-0 SU in their last 5 games this season
- Arizona is 7-0 SU in their last 7 games played in March
- Arizona is 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games played on a Sunday
We saw that last night with top-seeded Gonzaga, as the Memphis Tigers came on late in the year, and picked up a huge addition when superstar freshman Emoni Bates rejoined the team after missing most of the year. The Tigers rode that momentum and added talent to a huge first half, and they nearly knocked the Zags out of the tournament, as the game was back and forth until the final buzzer.
That is how I see this game playing out as well, as TCU is playing their best basketball of the year, and Arizona is going to be without a key player in Kerr Kriisa. And even if Kriisa does play, he won’t be the same guy that helped lead the Wildcats to 32 wins. Arizona has the best collection of players in the country on a raw talent basis, but I am not sure that they are actually going to be the best basketball “team” on the floor in this game.
— TCU Basketball (@TCUBasketball) March 20, 2022
Expect some tense moments for Arizona fans as TCU swarms them on defense, pressures them into bad shots, and keeps this game within striking distance all night long. I do think that Arizona guts it out and wins this game, but they aren’t going to come close to their 85-point per game average, and they aren’t going to win this game by double-digits. For the Wildcats to cover this number they would basically have to blow this game out, and that just isn’t going to happen. Give me TCU and a handful of points as the Horned Frogs give the Wildcats all that they can handle tonight!