The No. 9 Arizona Wildcats and Washington Huskies are set to take the hardwood Saturday in Seattle (8:30 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Network).
The first-place Wildcats enter 19-4 overall and 9-1 in Pac-12 play. The Huskies have been a surprise team this season, sitting at 16-6 overall and 6-3 in the Pac-12, good for third in the conference. They beat ASU on Thursday night.
KenPom gives Arizona a 65 percent of winning, with a projected score of 77-73. ESPN lists the Wildcats as six-point favorites.
Here is what we think will happen. Make sure to leave your predictions in the comment section below!
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 79-75
Arizona against a zone — especially one as rangy and athletic as UW’s — will make for an interesting matchup. But I’m told the Huskies’ defense has been less effective against teams with size, and the Wildcats have plenty of that, so I’ll take them to stave off Washington in Seattle. They just need to limit turnovers.
Though it could also depend which Husky offense shows up. UW has shot 25 percent or worse on 3-pointers four times this season, and 42 percent or better four times in the first eight conference games. If the Huskies are hitting their perimeter shots and giving UA some fits with their zone, it’s easy to see how they could pull off the upset.
Still, I’ll take Arizona to win its eighth straight.
Christopher Boan — Washington wins 70-67
I’m drinking the blue-tinted Kool Aid on Mike Hopkins’ squad, which presents a type of hellish zone defense that only a madman (or Jim Boeheim) could love. Given Arizona’s proven ineptitude against matchup zone defenses, and their zombie-like tendencies in the far stretches of the Conference of Champions (save Wednesday’s tour de force over Washington State), I’m going to stick with the Huskies.
The Huskies are in must-win mode, sitting at 16-6, at 6-3 in the conference, which puts them squarely on the bubble. Don’t be surprised if a sellout crowd of 10,000 screaming hooligans show up on Saturday night—hellbent on watching Arizona falter at the Hec for the first time since 2012, which would snap the Wildcats’ current three-game win streak in Seattle.
Also, Jaylen Nowell is a beast for Washington, and Noah Dickerson had 21 points and 16 rebounds in Thursday’s 68-64 win over ASU, which is rather impressive.
Alec Sills-Trausch — Arizona wins 75-68
As with most games, it’s more about what Arizona ends up doing than anything the opponent does.
Washington’s zone might pose some issues but Arizona seems to have gotten it into their heads that Deandre Ayton has to touch the ball almost every possession, and the offense has been doing a lot better as of late. UA still needs to figure out the first 5-8 minutes of the game and limit turnovers. If they can secure the ball better, this shouldn’t be too nerve-wracking.
Matt Sheeley — Washington wins 75-73
The Wildcats are on fire. They looked awesome Wednesday night against Washington State. This just feels like one of those games where Arizona fans are given a harsh reality check after riding high for a few days.
As Christopher pointed out above, the matchup zone is going to cause serious problems for the Wildcats on Saturday night. Not only that but officiating seems to find its way into the conversation more often than not when the Wildcats travel to Seattle. And certainly not to Arizona’s benefit.
I picture a tight one that could go either way throughout and a Wildcat buzzer beater catching front iron as the Husky crowd storms the court.
Jason Bartel — Washington wins 71-70
Me and Matt seem to be on the same wavelength here. This just feels like UW is poised to win a big game like this and have a court rushing situation.
Either way, it’s nice to see that the Huskies are at least viable this year after getting written off by so many when Lorenzo Romar was dismissed. And thanks for handing the best team in the conference its sixth Pac-12 loss on Thursday.