With several of the smaller conference tournaments already wrapping up, the number of teams that have punched their ticket to dance is growing by the day. All told, twelve teams have picked up automatic qualifying spots with the headliner being the Gonzaga Bulldogs who blew out St. Mary’s last night in the finals of the WCC tournament.
2️⃣0️⃣ spots remain!
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 11, 2020
There are still twenty automatic qualifying spots left, and for our daily pick, we will head to Las Vegas, where the Pac-12 tournament is being held, and one of those automatic qualifying spots will be awarded, to breakdown the game between the twelfth seeded Washington Huskies and the fifth-seeded Arizona Wildcats.
- Washington Huskies (15-16) at Arizona Wildcats (20-11)
- T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
- 2:30 PM PST
- TV: PACN
The Washington Huskies ended their regular season with a win on the road in Tucson against the Arizona Wildcats. They will look to make it two straight wins over the Wildcats, as they match up with Arizona in the first round on the Pac-12 tournament tonight from Las Vegas. The Huskies struggled through much of the conference season but ended the year playing well, having won three of their final four regular-season games. Washington would need to win the Pac-12 tournament to make the NCAA tournament this year after finishing in last place in the league.
— Washington Men's Basketball (@UW_MBB) March 11, 2020
For Arizona, the Wildcats were one of the favorites to win the league all season long but stumbled to the finish line in the regular season, as they lost four out of their last five games. So, not only did the Wildcats not win the Pac-12 title, they dropped all of the way to the five seed in this week’s conference tournament and are forced to play in the first round rather than getting a bye like the top four seeds are awarded. While the Wildcats are safely inside the field of sixty-eight at this point, a loss today would almost certainly cost them a line or two in the NCAA tournament seeding on Selection Sunday.
All season long, people, myself included, wondered how could a team that was as talented as this Washington team was, be as bad as they had been playing? This Huskies team has not one, but two, projected first-round draft picks in Isiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, and yet they finished in dead last place in the Pac-12. They showed glimpses of their potential when they beat good teams like Baylor and USC, but for the most part, the regular season was very disappointing.
Well, that is until the last two weeks of it. After months of struggling, The Huskies finally started to live up to their hype as they won three out of their last four games. The final two wins coming in a road sweep of the Arizona teams, both of which are expected to be playing in the NCAA tournament.
And when you look a little closer at their atrocious 15-16 record, they actually were very competitive in several games. They nearly beat Gonzaga in Spokane, holding a late lead before losing. They went 0-2 in overtime games and had nine other losses that all came by single digits. In this era of one and done players, we likely won’t get to see what Stewart and McDaniels would be able to do once they mature a little bit, as they are likely to bolt to the NBA, but when the Huskies look back on the season, they will remember a very talented team that underachieved. Unless of course they can find a way to win the Pac-12 tournament and go dancing.
Sadly, it looks like the Arizona Wildcats may be looking back on this season as the one that got away as well. Arizona came into the year looking to put together a trip to the Final Four. Instead, they didn’t even finish in the top-four of the Pac-12. The issue for Arizona is that they just couldn’t beat quality competition away from home.
In true road games or neutral floor games, the Wildcats didn’t beat a single team that is currently projected to make the NCAA tournament. And they weren’t even all that great at home either, as they had home losses to Washington, Oregon, UCLA, and Gonzaga. The final page on this season has yet to be written for Arizona, but unless the Wildcats can find a way to turn things around in a hurry, they will be looking back on 2020 with regret.
Who Do I Like?
I smell upset tonight in Las Vegas. These teams played twice this year, and both games were tightly contested. The Wildcats struck first when they won on the road in Seattle. But in that game, the Huskies actually held the lead with under a minute left to play and imploded on their home floor to let Arizona steal the win.
The second time these teams matched up, in the regular-season finale for both teams, just a week ago, the Huskies got their revenge as they dominated the game early, taking a fifteen-point lead into halftime. Washington still led by double-digits ten minutes into the second half, and despite a late run by Arizona, the Wildcats never led at any point in the second half and Washington coasted to victory.
It is interesting to see that a team that just got dominated on their home floor would open as more than a full possession’s worth of points favorites in the very next game between the same two teams, this time on a neutral floor. It is even more interesting that the public has backed that team in droves and moved the number two full points in the early betting action.
I hate to ever overreact to a small sample size, but when you look at these two teams, they are heading in different directions. Washington is playing well, and Arizona can’t beat anybody right now. In both games between these two teams this year, the games were very competitive. And while I do think that Arizona should be favored, six points seems absurdly too high.
I do think that a money line play on Washington shows a lot of value, as this Huskies team can absolutely win this game. But what the Huskies have done a better job of all season long, has been losing close. And that is what I think ends up happening tonight. So, I will snatch up way more points than I will likely need and back the Huskies in this one. Give me the Washington Huskies and the six points tonight from Las Vegas in round one of the Pac-12 tournament!