Tuesday NCAA Basketball Pick: Old Rivals New Mexico, Arizona Renew Bad Blood In Tucson

arizona basketball

Tuesday, December 20, 2016 3:08 PM GMT

The No. 18 Arizona Wildcats are decided favorites at home Tuesday night against New Mexico as these old foes renew their rivalry for the first time in 17 years.

One would think a rivalry that had been played 125 times would have also been played more recently than 1999. But that is exactly what has happened to the long-running series between the Lobos and Wildcats as they meet on the hardwood for the first time in 17 years.

If you want to see the rivalry renewed, you'll need the Pac-12 Network for the 9 p.m. ET broadcast from McHale Center in Tucson. BookMaker is showing Arizona to be 13-point chalk for the affair, with 143½ serving as the scoreboard barrier.

Arizona With 12-Game Home Win Streak

New Mexico (7-4 straight up, 3-5 against the spread) reaches Tucson off an 83-43 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the contest never making it to the NCAA basketball odds board. Defense vs. the outmanned Golden Lions played the biggest part in the victory and kept the Lobos on a lose one, win one streak that extends back to their fourth contest of the campaign.

While defense was the story this past Saturday, five of the past six lined UNM games have cashed for bettors. Craig Neal's club has also found it difficult winning outside The Pit, with just one of the seven triumphs coming away from Albuquerque (vs. CS-Northridge in the Wooden Legacy.

Sitting at No. 18 in both the AP and coaches polls, Arizona (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS) won its fourth straight last Saturday in Houston vs. Texas A&M, building a big first-half lead and then holding on for a 67-63 decision. The Wildcats were 3-point underdogs, and both Arizona losses came on neutral courts to ranked teams, Gonzaga and Butler.

Arizona fans are still awaiting the return of Allonzo Trier, who was suspended before the season for eligibility issues. Head coach Sean Miller has remained mum on when the sophomore guard will be back, though recent rumors suggest it will be when the Wildcats open their Pac-12 slate at California.

Lobos 3-1 Last 4 Meetings

A controversial ending to the January 1999 tilt in Albuquerque led to the Lobos and Wildcats ending what was often a very heated rivalry. In that game, then-Arizona head coach Lute Olson blasted officials for a clock issue that gave New Mexico a couple of extra seconds before hitting the winning shot in a 79-78 win. Olson said then he would never schedule UNM again, and he didn't -- though the teams did play one last time in Tucson the following December. New Mexico won that meeting to give the Lobos victories in three of the last four encounters, but it is Arizona with an 83-42 all-time advantage, most of the clashes taking place when the schools were both members of the Border Conference and WAC.

Neither the players nor the coaches were around when this rivalry went astray, so lingering controversy from that shouldn't be a motivating factor Tuesday. Still, I expect plenty of intensity on both sides and plenty of defense, which is why my free college basketball pick is on the low side of the total. Season record: 14-15 (-2.50 units).

NCAAB Free Pick: 'Under' 143.5

Best Line Offered: BookMaker

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