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College basketball handicapper Chris Smith breaks down Thursday's game between Arizona and Washington

Arizona vs. Washington Predictions

Normally I wouldn’t be running to the window to lay points on a road team in a conference game where they just announced a self-imposed postseason ban. Then again, this is the final day of 2020, so why would anything feel normal? The 7-1 Arizona Wildcats travel to Washington to take on the 1-6 Huskies in this New Years Eve battle. Both of these teams hosted Colorado in their most recent game with Sean Miller’s guys posting an impressive 14 point win, while Washington continued their disappointing play with a 23 point drubbing at the hands of the Buffaloes.

Arizona is 8.5 point favorites in this spot, against a clearly inferior Washington program, but there are a few things going against the Wildcats in this spot. To start, this is their first true road game this season. In addition, Arizona teams have traditionally struggled against the type of Zone Defense employed by Jim Boeheim  protégée Mike Hopkins. Finally, it’s incredibly difficult to adjust for the impact of the Arizona players learning they won’t play in March Madness this year. Despite all of these factors, the Wildcats remain the far more talented team. Arizona has a huge advantage in the frontcourt where they have one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country. Washington, meanwhile, ranks 317th in the nation in opponents rebounding percentage, as to be expected on the back end of the zone defense. Despite difficulty cracking the zone offensively in previous years, Arizona has an excellent backcourt duo of Jemarl Baker JR. and Georgetown transfer James Akinjo who should be able to penetrate and find open shooters.

The Wildcats are shooting 39% from long range this year and should dominate the glass off their own misses. A few of the aforementioned off court distractions have me cautious about laying the 8.5 points full game. Instead, I’ll back Arizona for the First Half at -4.5 points. I suspect the Wildcats come out strong early and head into the locker room for halftime with a decent size lead. Official Play:

BET: Arizona 1H -4.5 @ -110


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