Arizona has been in the news for various reasons the last few weeks from the scandal with head coach Sean Miller and Deandre Ayton to running through the Pac-12 Tournament. But now, it’s Tourney time and the Wildcats are favored by -9 points at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the 4-13 matchup against Buffalo. The spread isn’t big and is just six points at KenPom.
No one will put much into the Bulls in this Game, but there’s a chance they can cover this Game. They played a tough Schedule in non-conference, although didn’t win any of those Games, losing to Cincy, Syracuse and Texas A&M, among others. They only lost by six to Cincy and seven to Syracuse, but then fell to A&M by 16 points and even South Dakota State by 14. Buffalo ran through the MAC, but that doesn’t mean much.
Arizona had its issues earlier in the season, but once Rawle Alkins returned from injury, almost everything fell into place, outside of a few Conference losses. This is still a team that underperformed with multiple guys headed to the NBA, including Ayton, a favorite for the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. The Wildcats have the talent, but it’s about putting that together to make a run for Miller’s first Final Four.
There’s one glaring issue for Buffalo in this Game and it’s the main reason it didn’t stand a chance at A&M earlier in the season. Arizona’s two 7-footers are going to do whatever they want against Nick Perkins, Ikenna Smart and whoever else Buffalo throws at Ayton and Dusan Ristic. Not many teams have enough to stop Ayton and that especially goes for a MAC school that hasn’t seen this kind of size in the last two-plus months.
The Bulls also have a size deficiency in the frontcOurt, which means Allonzo Trier and Alkins should get plenty of free looks against a defense that struggled with fouling all season. In fact, the Bulls have one of the worst defensive free-throw rates in the country at 40.4%. The only reason Buffalo has a chance is if it catches fire from deep, which is attainable as almost everyone on the roster can shoot. Jeremy Harris connects on more than 43 percent of his threes, while leading scorer CJ Massinburg and Wes Clark aren’t far behind at 39 percent. Arizona’s problem all season has been defense and they don’t rank well against three-point shooting, either.
It’s simply a question of whether Arizona’s size will be too much of a problem for Buffalo. If it isn’t, then the Bulls have a real chance of keeping this Game close simply by scoring as they have Four guys that average at least 14 points per Game. But again, that’s a hard thing to bet on just like in the non-Conference when they were hit-and-miss against all of their top opponents.
Arizona’s defense looked better in the last month, holding opponents to 67 points or less in the last five Games and that’s the main reason to back the Wildcats. But if their iffy defense shows up, the Bulls will have a chance to cover, although winning is another story when going against the twin towers of Ayton and Ristic.
Our Pick – Arizona -9