How good is Arizona? A lot of people seem to be asking that question lately since Brandon Ashley’s injury and not many people know the answer. The Wildcats have lost their last two road Games and still have Four remaining, with none of them coming easy. They’ll get Utah on Wednesday, a team that has lost at home just once this season.
The Wildcats are still 23-2, but have now lost two of their last Four Games. Those losses came at California and Arizona State. The lack of a scorer coming off the bench is getting the best of them as all five starters played at least 45 minutes in the double OT loss at ASU. Their bench scored zero points in that Game.
Utah is a bubble team looking for a big win like this. The Utes are No. 92 in the RPI, but No. 39 in ESPN’s BPI. The main reason for that is likely because six of their eight losses have been by Four points or less. Their best win this year was at home last month against UCLA. With three upcoming home Games, they’ll be looking to get on a roll entering the Pac-12 Tournament.
In the last meeting between these teams, Arizona struggled a bit in a 65-56 home win, a Game in which Brandon Ashley played in. The Wildcats couldn’t really extend their lead for the entire Game. There’s no question that this will be another close Game for ‘Zona on the road.
Arizona will be matched up pretty well in this Game as Utah has enough size to deal with them. Dallin Bachynski and Jeremy Olsen will see minutes along with Jordan Loveridge and possibly Renan Lenz. Those Four guys will have the task of defending Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon. The other three positions are pretty even as well, so who’s going to step up?
Nick Johnson had 22 points in the last meeting for the Wildcats and he’ll once again be an important piece. Tarczewski usually struggles against guys that can body him up so that will be something to look at. And then there’s the hype-MAChine of Aaron Gordon. He’s a good player, but not one that’s going to break open the Game and his free-throw woes (41.5 %) have been costing his team greatly. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and T.J. McConnell are both good players, but maybe not guys you can count on every night.
The Utes are also led by a couple guards with Delon Wright (16.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.5 APG) being the most potent of the bunch. He’s not the greatest shooter, but he makes things happen for this offense. Wright usually opens things up and then Loveridge, Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker make the shots. One thing that can’t happen for the Wildcats is to get into foul trouble when Wright drives it to the hoop.
On paper, Arizona looks like the much better team with only two losses, but in reality, this Game is pretty even. If the Wildcats came into this Game and had no problems, it would be a surprise. The Utes have an efficient offense and can take this Game at home in a near must-win situation if they want to make the Big Dance.
Predicted Score- Arizona 79 Utah 57