The Arizona Wildcats go for their 10th-straight win over the Stanford Cardinal as part of a big Thursday night on the college basketball betting schedule, and we're previewing the matchup.
One way or the other, the top of the Pac-12 leaderboard is going to be thinned a bit come Thursday evening then the Arizona Wildcats travel to take on the Stanford Cardinal.
The Pac-12 rivals will tip things off at Maples Pavilion in Stanford a little past 9 PM (ET), ESPN2's cameras documenting the showdown with Dave Pasch and The Big Redhead, Bill Walton, behind the mics. Arizona backers are giving up 4 points with a total expected out soon on SBR's live NCAA Basketball Odds.
Current Pac-12 standings find Arizona and Stanford tied with 4-1 marks, a half-game behind Utah after the Utes spanked Washington State on Wednesday, 86-64. Stanford is taking aim at its first win over Arizona in more than six years, the Wildcats reeling off nine consecutive victories since the Cardinal last tasted victory in the series at home in January 2009. The streak has helped 'Zona build a 57-29 record in the rivalry, covering the spread six times during the 9-0 stretch while totals ran 4-5 O/U.
Arizona took both meetings a season ago, but failed to beat the NCAA odds in the matchup at Stanford. Favored by 6, the Wildcats benefitted during a long scoring drought in the second half by Stanford, and still needed a late rally for the 60-57 decision.
Wildcats In Rut Covering Spreads
Sean Miller is taking Arizona (16-2 straight up, 9-9 against the spread) into the Golden State for a pair of contests this week, a stop Saturday at California following this matchup with Stanford. Seventh in both conventional polls, and seventh in the latest RPI, the Wildcats have suffered their only losses of the season away from home, first a 71-67 defeat at UNLV just before Christmas and then a 58-56 setback at Oregon State 11 days ago.
The narrow loss to the Beavers can be directly attributed to leaving nine points on the free-throw line, one of the few weaknesses this Arizona team has. The Wildcats rank 224th nationally with a 67.4% success rate from the charity stripe, though that mark is up to nearly 75% in Pac-12 clashes.
They did bounce back from that defeat with home wins over Colorado and Utah, beating the then No-8 Utes by 18 last Saturday to easily cover a 5½ point spread. Relying on their inside game, the Wildcats dominated the glass with a 40-19 rebounding margin while Stanley Johnson scored a game-high 18 with nine of those boards.
3-Game Win Streak Pushes Cardinal Into Coaches Poll
Head coach Johnny Dawkins knows all too well how long it has been since Stanford (13-4 SU, 9-7-1 ATS) topped the Wildcats. The first time Dawkins led his team out to face Arizona, the Cardinal ran away with a 76-60 win, but it has been all Wildcats since then in the series.
Making it more difficult for Dawkins to see the skid vs. Arizona end on Thursday is the thin frontcourt the he has at his disposal. Super frosh Reid Travis remains sidelined with a stress fracture, and no timetable has been determined for his return. The 6-8 forward was averaging 7.5 PPG and nearly seven boards per contest when he was in the December 29 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Center Grant Verhoeven is also out with a hip injury.
The Cardinal slipped into the No. 25 slot on the coaches poll earlier this week following their third consecutive victory since dropping a double-overtime decision at UCLA, Stanford's only Pac-12 loss to date. They bounced right back with a pair of conference victories against USC and California, both of those on the road, before coming home to take down UConn by a 72-59 count last Saturday.
I've been wrong about Stanford a couple of times already this season, and Arizona fans will be hoping I'm wrong once again with my free pick on the Cardinal plus the points at home.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Stanford +4 at Pinnacle Sportsbook
Season: 23-26 (-5.60)