Gonzaga and Arizona renew one of the nicest recent rivalry developments in college hoops tonight with their fourth meeting in the last three seasons. One, of course, was a decimating defeat in the NCAA Tournament for the Zags, the last two have come early in the year under different circumstances. The Zags were in position to turn the tables last year as the heavy favorites – only to fall to their more-traditional nemesis once again. Will the fourth time be the charm? Once again, they are heavily favored…
But that is far from the only top tier game on the docket today. The highlight is the NBA Draft Lottery preview extraordinaire in Lexington between the UCLA Bruins and Kentucky Wildcats. If you haven’t gotten a chance to see Lonzo Ball play yet, get to a television (CBS) today at 12:30 EST. And if you are really ready for a college hoops feast, West Virginia visits Virginia at 2pm, Xavier heads to Waco in a battle of unbeatens against Baylor at 3:30 and, of course, the aforementioned Gonzaga tilt at 5:30 PM.
We took a rare L last night to drop the sterling early season record to 16-6 ATS, but let’s see if we can get back on track today with a bounce back winner. And if you are interested in following my picks and other insights on Twitter, I will now be posting picks at @TheMarchManiacs.
Ok, let’s grab a winner today!
Today’s Free Pick:
Arizona Wildcats at Gonzaga Bulldogs -4.5
One could argue that Gonzaga is DUE to beat their nemesis, and that THIS Gonzaga team is actually BETTER than last year, despite the loss of two NBA players; Kyle Wiltjer and Sabonis. But it is difficult to overlook the success Arizona has had against the Zags.
The BIG difference this season? This Arizona team is far from the team that had such high expectations heading into the season. Sean Miller has lost top recruits, suffered injuries, and is fielding a different squad from the one expected to participate in today’s LA-based double-header just a few months ago. Arizona will be without starting point-guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright who suffered a high ankle sprain Wednesday. Alonzo Trier, the team’s top returning scorer is still out with unspecified “eligibility issues.”
Arizona is STILL talented. They are a great program with a great coach, but these injuries, early defections and suspensions have robbed them of basically an entire starting lineup. Meanwhile, Gonzaga’s influx of transfer guards led by Nigel Williams-Goss has them looking like one of the most dangerous teams in the country. They enter today a perfect 7-0 with wins over Florida and Iowa State on neutral courts. Granted, none of them were by as wide of a margin as today’s spread, but I think Gonzaga will benefit from the experience of playing together AND that both of those teams are better than Arizona right now.
Arizona lost their only reasonable test of the season, 69-65 to Butler. I think they will find even more trouble today against a loaded Gonzaga squad hellbent on payback today. This game means A LOT to a Gonzaga program that considers itself the best out west. It is hard to substantiate that claim without beating the Cats. I think they finally rectify that today.