KenPom gives Arizona a 69 percent win probability and predicts a final score of 76-70.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. MST on the Pac-12 Network. Here are some things to watch for in the matchup and below is how we think it will shake out.
Be sure to leave your predictions in the comment section below.
Matthew Rein — Arizona wins 74-69
In my non-conference preview, I outlined this game as one Cats fans might be sweating a bit. Now that the season has begun, I’m tempted to change my original score prediction of 74-69 to favor Arizona by a larger margin. Illinois looked sub-par in their OT win against lowly Nicholls State on Tuesday night and blew a 20(!!) point lead before eventually winning in the extra period.
Meanwhile, Arizona looked absolutely dominant on Wednesday, albeit against an overmatched NAU squad. I’m betting Illinois received a wake-up call in their OT win and will be ready to come out of the gates on Sunday, but ultimately, Arizona has too much talent. I think Arizona wins this game, but Illinois keeps it close throughout.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 84-72
Playing Illinois always activates my PTSD, but regardless of my trauma I’m still expecting an Arizona win on Sunday.
I probably would have picked the Cats to win anyways, just because their non conference record at home is so strong, but the choice was made even easier for me after watching the Fighting Illini struggle against both Nicholls (!?!?) and GCU to start the year.
Illinois won both of those game and does have some hoopers, but ultimately I see the young Wildcats riding what will be a strong home crowd to a early season win against a power 5 opponent.
I’ll also predict that Nico Mannion has a better game than he did against NAU.
Brian J. Pedersen – Arizona wins 75-67
Any concrete conclusions made from the season-opening blowout of NAU are sure to crumble over the next few months … other than that Zeke Nnaji is a stud. This was a great first impression of this almost completely new team, but to assume this is how it will be all season is pointless. Illinois is a huge step up in competition, even if it needed overtime to beat Nicholls on Tuesday and before winning Friday night at Grand Canyon. The Fighting Illini aren’t one of the better power-conference teams, but they do have talent. Just not as much as Arizona, and not enough to be able to win in McKale.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 78-70
It’s nice to have a legitimate measuring stick game so early in the season. Because as impressive as Arizona—and Zeke Nnaji—looked in the opener, the giant caveat is that it came against Northern Arizona. Illinois isn’t the best Big Ten team, but a power-conference foe is a power-conference foe.
I am really interested to see how Arizona slows down Kofi Cockburn, a massive 7-footer that weighs nearly 300 pounds and is averaging 16.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. Arizona has height in Chase Jeter, Zeke Nnaji, and Christian Koloko, but all of them are pretty thin. Ira Lee is bulkier but shorter.
The Illini have been a dreadful 3-point shooting team (.281) so the Wildcats might be best off doubling Cockburn any time he gets a deep post touch.
The Ayo Dosunmu-Nico Mannion matchup is great too, as both point guards could be first-round picks in June.
I just can’t imagine Arizona losing at home to a team that won 12 games last year and struggled to pull away from Nicholls and GCU.
Adam Green — Arizona wins 74-57
Men’s hoops is back, and not a moment too soon. The question we’re all asking right now, though, is if the Wildcats truly are back.
Wednesday’s opener against NAU makes you believe they are. The Wildcats are clearly talented, with size, athleticism, depth and even shooting. What we don’t know is how consistent they will be, nor how they will fare against a step up in competition.
The guess here is UArizona won’t dominate like Wednesday, but will win a hard fought game with an emphasis on the bigs.