McKale Center is the toughest place to play in the Pac-12, and one of the most difficult venues for visiting teams in all of college basketball. But with the Arizona Wildcats in the midst of a down year—that includes two home losses—and the conference leaders coming to town, they find themselves in an unfamiliar role for Thursday’s game against the Washington Huskies:
Vegas Insider opened the line between Arizona (14-8, 5-4) and Washington (18-4, 9-0) as a pick’em, then later changed it to Washington minus-1, marking the first time since Dec. 15, 2012 the Wildcats haven’t been favored at McKale. As 2-point underdogs against Florida they won 65-64 on a last-second basket by Mark Lyons.
Coach Sean Miller believes that could serve as a motivating factor for his team, to be the hunter instead of the hunted.
“I think our players are aware of that,” Miller said. “I’m sure our fans and our crowd are too. We’ve really been that team all year. I don’t think we’ve necessarily entered the year or have really gone at any point to be the favorite or the hunted. I think we’ve always aspired to be a good team and a team that maybe is better than everybody thought we were going to be.”
Arizona has only been home dogs five other times under Miller, the other four coming during his first season in 2009-10. Three of those were in Pac-12 play, including a February 2010 game against ASU that was the last time Arizona wasn’t favored at home against a conference foe.
The Wildcats lost that game, 73-69, as 2-point home dogs.
According to OddsShark, Arizona has been a home underdog just 13 times since 1996, covering nine times with eight outright victories. This season the Wildcats are 1-5-1 against the spread as underdogs, their lone win coming as 1.5-point dogs at Connecticut in December.