Arizona is on a three-game losing streak that began with an overtime loss to Oregon at McKale Center and continued with two defeats in Los Angeles. The Wildcats have twice had three-game skids this season.
WSU is coming off a win at rival Washington, completing the season sweep, but has only two victories since Arizona beat the Cougars 66-49 in Pullman on Feb. 1.
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 79-67
The Wildcats are 3-7 this season in games decided by six or fewer points but their nine conference victories have been by an average of 15.7 points. At home it’s been even more disparate, with the five conference wins by an average of 19.2 points, a number that would be higher if Arizona hadn’t tried its best to blow a 20-point lead against USC.
In other words, when Arizona wins at home it’s usually by a bunch. And while WSU is much better this year it is still an inferior team with far less talent, one the Wildcats easily handled a month ago on the road. This is the kind of game they should put away fairly early.
Ronnie Stoffle — Arizona wins 73-67
Home sweet home and for the final home stand of the year. I can’t think of a better time to return home as Arizona tries to snap its first three-game losing streak of the year.
The game plan for beating this Washington State team shouldn’t be too complex. If the Wildcats are able to limit either CJ Elleby or Isaac Bonton, they should be in good shape.
For me, the focus should be more on Arizona and its offensive ability. This will likely come down to the availability of Josh Green. He missed the L.A. series because of a “back injury” and it remains to be seen if he’ll available on this home series. Although, early indications are encouraging as he reportedly returned to practice this week.
Something in the back of my mind is telling me we may have seen the last of Josh Green at Arizona. It’s probably just the pessimistic piece of my brain that is preparing for the worst-case scenario. However, if that’s the case, don’t be surprised if the Wildcats drop this game and frankly don’t win another game this season.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 75-64
As bad as last year’s team was, I still can’t believe it lost to Washington State by 14 in McKale. While this year’s team is entering on a three-game skid, I think it wins fairly easily Thursday.
Closing the regular season with the Washington schools seems like a big deal since it will allow the Wildcats to build some goodwill heading into the postseason.
Then again, if they lose even one of these two games they will be at the lowest point of their season. Washington State’s only hope is hitting a bunch of 3s. The Cougars lead the Pac-12 in 3-point rate, but only convert 32.7% of them.
Christian Mortensen — Arizona wins 74-58
Washington State comes into Thursday night just 2-7 in true road games this season and 1-6 away from home in the Pac-12. On the other hand, Arizona is 12-3 at home this year and 5-2 in conference play.
Those numbers are enough for me to say with some confidence that the Wildcats will grab a much-needed win over the Cougars, three-game losing streak and all. If Josh Green doesn’t play (I think he will) the final margin will be closer than I predicted.
And while I have your attention, here’s a quick shout-out to Deion James — a Tucson native who is a senior forward at Washington State. If not for a heart condition that he discovered at the beginning of the season, James would be playing in something of a homecoming game Thursday night.
Adam Green — Arizona wins 82-69
This game is so interesting to me because while Arizona should win handily, it’s impossible to know how they’ll respond to a three-game losing streak that cost them a realistic chance at the Pac-12 title.
Will Nico Mannion build off his best game of the season at UCLA? Will Josh Green return at full strength? Will Arizona have the kind of focus necessary to beat a team that, while not as talented, will see this as a chance to get a big win?
The guess here is yes, the Wildcats will play hard. And who knows, maybe they’ll even play well. When it’s all over the losing streak will be finished and the home team will be victorious.