The Arizona Wildcats (16-7, 6-4 Pac-12) head to the Bay Area for another key road trip, opening things up Thursday night against the California Golden Bears (10-13, 4-6) in Berkeley, Calif. Arizona is 2-3 on the road in conference play this season, winning its last two at the Washington schools two weeks ago, while Cal is 10-3 at Haas Pavilion.
Tip off is set for 8:30 p.m. MT with the game being shown on Fox Sports 1.
Below are our staff predictions:
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 68-60
If you thought Saturday’s game against UCLA was ugly, this one might as well get described as fugly. Cal plays the slowest tempo in the Pac-12, and it’s offense is flat out bad. That will make for a lot of empty possessions, assuming Arizona doesn’t fall asleep on defense, but also a chance for some runouts since the Golden Bears turn it over on nearly 20 percent of their possessions. The key to winning this game is being patient, taking what’s given and not trying to rush when the opportunity isn’t there. Cal isn’t a pushover but it’s also not a team that should be able to beat a squad with as much talent as the Wildcats.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 66-58
Two things make this a potentially dangerous game for Arizona: Cal plays at the slowest pace in the conference and is 4-1 at home in the Pac-12.
Otherwise, there is no reason Arizona should lose to a team that is barely inside KenPom’s Top 200. The Wildcats are better in every facet of the game and are far more talented. A loss would be a disaster, but given how inconsistent this team has been, it would hardly come as a surprise. I could totally see Arizona winning by 20 too.
Ronnie Stoffle — Arizona wins 73-64
Very few things would shock me at this point with this Arizona team. However, one of those remaining shocking events would be dropping this game. I understand that the Wildcats are not exactly great on the road (2-4 in true road games) but Cal has really struggled this season.
Their four conference wins have taken place in Haas Pavilion which is something to keep in mind. In fact they have beaten Oregon State and Stanford, who are presumably better teams than Cal.
It just feels like talent will prevail in this one especially after last week’s embarrassing loss to UCLA in Tucson. The Wildcats are in desperate need of a bounce-back win.
Moreover, the presumed change in the starting lineup will hopefully inject life into the Wildcats’ offense. Put it this way, it’s hard to imagine Arizona shooting worse than they did against UCLA. If they reach 70 points, it should be enough to seal the deal.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 61-54
My prediction for the UCLA game was egregiously wrong, so I’m proceeding with caution here, but even considering the Wildcats’ recent offensive cold-front I still think this Arizona team should have enough to beat Cal Thursday night at Haas.
Despite a solid home record, the Golden Bears really don’t impress me much and the facts that they have been outscored by their opponents this season by more than 5 points per game (62.7 - 67.9) and that they have grabbed 118 rebounds less than Arizona this season (752-870) are pretty telling.
Even if the Cats aren’t at their best, their superior talent should shine through enough to grab a huge win.
All Arizona has to do is find some form of fluidity in a half court offense against another slow tempo team. What could go wrong?