Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. MST on ESPN2. KenPom gives Arizona a 59 percent win probability with a projected score of 77-74.
Here is what we think will happen. Be sure to leave your predictions in the comment section below.
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 78-75
Gonzaga is the first top-10 non-conference opponent to come to McKale since the Bulldogs were in Tucson in 2014 for an epic overtime clash. Expect a similarly close game, though one with far more offensive efficiency than the previous contest that went to overtime and still ended in the 60s. The Bulldogs have a lot of length, enabling them to score at will inside, but can also shoot from the perimeter. Arizona has a good amount of both as well, but probably a bit more on the outside as its guards are more active and skilled. This has the makings of a Nico and Josh kind of game, so as long as they avoid major mistakes they’ll be what separates Arizona from Gonzaga.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 87-82
Both teams come into this weekend averaging slightly more than 85 points per game, and I’m expecting both the Cats and Zags to be somewhere in that ballpark come the end of Saturday night’s contest.
Arizona will need to rebound — Gonzaga is currently averaging a whole five teams boards per game more than the Wildcats (41 to 36 respectively) — and defend the three-point line, but ultimately I see the UA getting a marque victory on the back of what will surely be a raucous crowd.
Matthew Rein — Arizona wins 71-70
Give me Arizona by a point.
Gonzaga has certainly looked impressive this year. Their lone loss comes to a solid Michigan squad and they feature wins over Oregon and Washington. On paper, these two teams are almost perfectly matched. According to KenPom, Gonzaga and Arizona are 6th and 12th in the nation in offensive efficiency, respectively. On the defensive end, Gonzaga ranks 38th while Arizona is 34th. They’re even right next to each other in ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) with the Zags being No. 4 and the Cats No. 5 I think this game comes down to the last possession, but I’ll give the home team the advantage. Should be a fun one to watch.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 81-78
These teams are so strikingly similar as they both feature top-15 offenses and top-40 defenses. So it should be the little things that determine this game, like rebounding, free-throw shooting and limiting turnovers.
Ultimately, I think it is a coin-flip game, but I will take the Wildcats in a close one because they are at home.
Peter Woodburn (from the Gonzaga site SlipperStillFits.com) — Arizona wins 84-80
If this is in Spokane, I give it to Gonzaga. But since it isn’t, I have to hand it to Arizona for this game. The Zags showed poise playing in Seattle against the Huskies, but that game also was chock-full of Gonzaga fans. The Spokane faithful travel well, so I’m sure there will be a contingent in Tucson, but this is going to be the most real road environment the Zags have played in this season. I think the teams should keep it pretty close, but I feel that Arizona is going to squeak this one out in the end.