College Basketball Pick
The Pac-12 has become a three-team race and this Game should go a long way in deciding the regular season title winner. Arizona and Utah are the hottest teams in the league, both coming in with a nice stretch of wins over the last few weeks. Surprisingly, if the Utes can win here, they’ll have a leg up on Arizona since this is the only time these teams meet this year. Oregon is of course in the mix, but the Ducks close the season with back-to-back road Games at UCLA and USC.
With the way both of these teams are playing, there may not be a better or more important Game in the Pac-12’s regular season. The main catalyst for Arizona’s recent surge, is the return of freshman Allonzo Trier, who is back in the starting lineup. The Wildcats were without their second-leading scorer for seven Games and that led to losses to both Cal and Oregon. With Trier, it’s been smooth sailing for them as Trier has picked up right where he left off.
In Trier’s absence, Mark Tollefsen gained some confidence in a starting role and now he’s providing a spark off the bench for the Wildcats. Utah’s success has come via a team learning how to play better with each other. The Utes have used the same seven-man rotation for the entire year and everything is coming together for them, led by NBA prospect Jakob Poeltl, who’s averaging 18.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per Game.
Poeltl draws a tough matchup in this Game with Kaleb Tarczewski, a fellow 7-footer. Tarczewski is one of the best paint defenders in the nation and he’ll present some toughness for Poeltl. Arizona won both of these matchups last year with Poeltl scoring just 10 points in the two Games. Utah’s offense is based more off Poeltl this season than last, but his struggles last year can’t be ignored.
Because of that, the Utes will need more production from guys on the perimeter, most notably Jordan Loveridge, who’s shooting close to 43% from deep. Loveridge along with Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker off the bench all need to hit a few shots. The Wildcats have a good defense, but can be beat on the perimeter.
Utah has size and that will come in handy against Arizona’s duo in the paint of Tarczewski and Ryan Anderson. Anderson may be Zona’s most important player, averaging a double-double on the year with 15.8 points and 10.2 boards per Game. He usually has an advantage at the 4-spot, but Utah’s Kyle Kuzma will be ready for whatever Anderson brings.
And then the Wildcats have Gabe York, who has stepped right into the lead guard spot in his senior year. Even with a ton more attention and shots this year, York has the best 3-point percentage of his college career.
The Utes have only lost one Game at home this year and that came against Oregon back in mid-January. As for Arizona, all of its Conference losses have come on the road. Utah has a decent chance to upend the champions, but it won’t be easy. If Poeltl struggles at all against Tarczewski, it’ll be hard for the Utes to come out on top, even at home.
Score Prediction Utah 79 Arizona 77