(7) Arizona Wildcats (-3) at Stanford Cardinal
Tonight’s NCAA basketball schedule is packed with top-25 action, but no game will have bigger conference implications than the Pac-12 showdown between the No. 7 Arizona Wildcats (16-2, 4-1 Pac-12) and Stanford Cardinal (14-4, 4-1 Pac-12) at Maples Pavilion (9:00 p.m. Eastern).
Arizona and Stanford are currently half-a-game back of Utah in the Pac-12 standings. The winner will move level with the Utes at the top of the conference, while the loser will fall one game off the pace.
Arizona won 12 straight to open the year, but has since lost two of its last six (on the road against UNLV and Oregon State). They rebounded from the loss to the Beavers by beating Colorado and then-No. 8 Utah in decisive fashion. Their 69-51 domination of the Utes was the Wildcats’ most impressive performance on the season.
“Maybe what we recognized today is that a team like that brought out the best in us,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said.
The Wildcats have the 44th-ranked scoring offense in the nation, averaging 74.3 points per game, and have covered the spread in three of their five games in January (moving their ATS record to an even 9-9 on the year). Freshman phenom Stanley Johnson has been particularly good in the last two games, scoring 22 against Colorado and 18 against Utah on nearly 50% shooting.
Stanford, meanwhile, has won its last three, downing USC, Cal, and UConn. The Cardinal also own impressive top-25 wins over Texas and Washington on the year, but suffered embarrassing losses to UCLA and DePaul.
Stanford averages 73.1 points per game, good enough for 65th in the country. Senior guard Chasson Randle leads the way most nights, averaging a team-high 19.5 PPG. He upped his average in the 72-59 win over UConn, pouring in 23 points.
“We played with great energy and executed our game plan,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said after downing the Huskies. “We were getting good looks in the first half and just not finishing them. We talked about settling down in the second half.”
Settle down they did, outscoring UConn 40-30 in the final frame.
Arizona is a three-point favorite in the odds. They have won nine of the last ten games in the series against Stanford but have only covered six of those ten games.
Stanford has yet to lose at home on the year, while both of Arizona’s losses have come on the road. That said, the Wildcats have superior talent and athleticism and showed how dominant they can be last time out against Utah. If the Wildcats play close to their potential, they should pick up the win. Take the Wildcats and lay the points (-3).
(Photo credit: Beaverbasketball (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)