For eight weeks running, Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats have enjoyed the view from the top of the rankings on the college basketball odds board. But with two road games on deck this week, could we see the Wildcats stumble and suffer their first defeat?
The first test will come at Maples Pavilion on Tuesday when Arizona treks to Stanford for a collision with the Cardinal. ESPN2 will carry the broadcast beginning at 9 PM (ET), and the Wildcats started on a -5 spread before that dropped to -4.5. No total is showing up yet on SBR's live college basketball odds, but I'm thinking 136.
One of only three unbeaten teams left on the college hoops front, Arizona garnered 63 of 65 first-place votes handed out by the AP in the latest poll, and picked up 31 out of 32 top-slots from the coaches. After three straight home games, the Wildcats now hit the road with this stop at Stanford followed by a trip to Berkeley to face the California Golden Bears on Saturday.
Arizona won last year's only matchup vs. the Cardinal, having to rally from an early 10-0 hole in Tucson to pull off a 73-66 win. The Wildcats were 10.5 point favorites and the final just had enough to skip 'over' a 138.5 point total.
The victory was Arizona's seventh straight vs. Stanford, upping the Wildcats' all-time record to 55-29 in the series. Arizona covered five of the seven in that span, with the totals splitting evenly 3-3-1 (O/U/P).
'Cats Gliding Through Pac-12 Schedule
Considering that Arizona (20-0 straight up, 13-6 against the spread) has only been challenged once on the conference slate, it's tough to imagine Miller's crew will suffer a loss the rest of the way. A 79-75 win at UCLA nearly three weeks ago as small road chalk is the closest any Pac-12 team has been to the Wildcats at the final buzzer, and they've won the other six league tilts by at least nine points.
Still, this isn't a team void of weaknesses, and the most glaring one could jump up and bite the 'Cats on the tail the first time they find themselves in a tight game, especially in a hostile arena. Arizona sits in the bottom third of the country at the free-throw line, making just less than two-thirds of attempts (66.5%). That conversion rate is even a tad lower in Pac-12 action (65%), 10th in the conference.
Defense, however, is not a drawback. The Wildcats are third in the nation allowing opponents to score only 56.7 PPG -- right on their 56.6 PPG mark in conference play -- and limiting Pac-12 foes to only 29.4% from beyond the arc. Those clips are a big reason why 13 of Arizona's 17 lined games so far have failed to reach the total.
Can Cardinal Pull Off Stunning Upset?
The last time a No. 1 team visited Stanford (13-6 SU, 10-6-1 ATS) was nearly 11 years ago, and the Cardinal were unable to post the upset. But they did beat a No. 1 team earlier in 2003 on the road, and the opponent in both of those games just happened to be Arizona.
Pulling off the win Wednesday will require Johnny Dawkins' team to play much better than last week in Los Angeles. A combination of poor shooting and subpar defense led to a 91-74 beating at UCLA, and though the Cardinal bounced back with a win and cover three days later at USC, it took overtime to get past an underwhelming group of Trojans.
Chasson Randle, Stanford's leading scorer (19.1 ppg), was well off his game in the loss to the Bruins, and the starting five can't afford the turnover-happy style of play that also played into the defeat.
Arizona has performed well away from home -- ATS in true road games, 5-1 including neutral-court contests -- so I'm going to lean on the 'Cats to continue that one more time for my free college basketball pick.
College Basketball Pick: Arizona -4.5
Season: 25-17-3 (+6.3)