The Arizona Wildcats went 0-2 at the Oregon schools last weekend, pushing their skid to five losses in the last seven games since a 9-0 start. Now comes the chance to get right at home for a week games, starting with Thursday night’s visit from the Utah Utes.
Arizona (11-5, 1-2 Pac-12) has won nine consecutive games over the Utes (10-5, 1-2) at McKale Center, where it is 8-1 this season. Utah has lost its last two contests, including a 91-52 setback at Colorado on Sunday.
Tip off is set for 6:30 p.m. MT and the game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network. Head to our basketball section for complete coverage.
Below are our staff predictions:
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 75-65
Utah has a really good player in sophomore forward Timmy Allen, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 20.2 points per game, but that’s really about it. Sophomore wing Both Gach and freshman guard Rylan Jones both have shown flashes of strong play, but the Utes aren’t a particularly scary team, which actually makes this game even more dangerous than it should be.
Losing on the road is going to happen in the Pac-12, even against middle-of-the-pack teams like Oregon State, but dropping home games to inferior opponents just can’t occur if Arizona really wants to contend for the conference title again.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 78-65
This is certainly a must-win game for the Wildcats. They need to respond after being swept in Oregon, plus Utah is not even inside KenPom’s Top 100.
The Utes have been by far the worst defensive team in the Pac-12 since the start of conference play, so this one could get real ugly if Utah is sloppy.
I will be most interested in seeing if Arizona makes any changes to the starting lineup. The Wildcats have gone with the same five all season, but losing four of five should spur some kind of change.
Matthew Rein — Arizona wins 81-59
Ryan said it — this game is a must-win for Arizona. I think they do indeed win, and win big. Utah just got walloped by 39 against their rival, Colorado. Utah is inconsistent and the difference in score comes down to which Utah team shows up. Is it the team that beat Kentucky, or is it the team that lost to Coastal Carolina by 22.
I’m going with the latter. Arizona will come out and play with fire at home. Back against the wall, I trust Coach Miller and the team to figure this game out and ultimately crush the Utes.
Cats win by 20+.
Ronnie Stoffle — Arizona wins 85-67
This is pretty simple. Arizona will take care of business. They’re at home and they simply can’t afford to lose this game. Also, they’re far more talented but then again we know how far that’s taken this team so far.
One thing we know for certain about this Arizona team is they play much better at home. It’s fair to expect a fast start and boy do they need.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 81-75
I’m still a bit surprised at the way the Wildcats were run off the floor at Oregon State last weekend, and I just don’t see the same thing happening Thursday night at home against Utah. Yes, the Utes shouldn’t be underestimated and already have an impressive win against Kentucky this season, but being back at McKale will be a big boost mentally for the UA and it should ride a strong crowd to a bounce back win.
The fact that the Utes are one of the nation’s youngest teams bodes well for Arizona and it’s honestly a very simple equation for the Cats if they are to avoid a third-straight L: they will need to rebound much better than they did against Oregon State, contain the Pac-12’s top-scorer Timmy Allen and actually use their offense to generate and hit some open shots.
It seems so simple, and yet...