Most of Thursday’s college basketball action is on the West Coast, including the no. 3 Arizona Wildcats visiting the Stanford Cardinal. The Cats are the only undefeated team left in the Pac-12 with a 4-0 conference record, while Stanford would use a signature win on its resume. On the road, Arizona is favored by 9.5 points with an over/under of 151 points.
The Cardinal enters the game 10-5 but might be a little better than that record might suggest. Granted, Stanford had a disappointing loss to Santa Clara early in the season and is coming off a loss to Washington. But the Cardinal also knocked off USC earlier this month, so they look capable of playing with anyone.
Of course, the 14-1 Wildcats have been close to perfect this season. Arizona’s only loss this season was a competitive 77-73 game at Tennessee. The Wildcats have rattled off three straight wins since that loss and also have wins over Michigan and Illinois on their resume from earlier in the season.
The Wildcats rank third nationally in scoring, averaging 88.5 points per game. The charge is led by Benedict Mathurin, who is averaging 18 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Azuolas Tubeless also chips in 15.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while center Christian Koloko delivers 13.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Arizona’s size and athleticism in the frontcourt are impressive, but the Wildcats are also great at sharing the ball, ranking among the top-10 nationally in assists. Kerr Kriisa is the team’s fourth double-digit scorer but also leads the offense with 5.4 assists per game. But the Wildcats also have four other players who average at least two assists per game, including 4.1 assists per game from Dalen Terry, helping to give Arizona excellent guard play and depth in the backcourt.
The Cardinal doesn’t have the explosiveness of Arizona, but Stanford has a balanced attack and good athleticism in the frontcourt. The team’s four leading scorers are all forwards who are 6’7’’ or taller, giving them the size to compete in the paint while also playing on the perimeter. The trio of Harrison Ingram, Jaiden Delaire, and Spencer Jones all average double figures, while Brandon Angel averages 8.3 points per game and is a three-point threat.
The caveat is that Stanford’s guard play can be lacking at times. Sophomore point guard Michael O’Connell does his best to ignite the offense with four assists per game, although the fact that he’s not a consistent scorer can hurt the Cardinal. Noah Taitz can occasionally chip in as a viable three-point shooter, although perimeter shooting isn’t necessarily a strength for Stanford.
Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice
Everything unfolded perfectly for Stanford when the Cardinal upset USC early this month, but it’s tough to envision that happening again. The Cardinal will need to play elite defense in this game because they don’t have the scoring depth to keep pace with the Wildcats. Look for Arizona to pull away in the second half and cover the 9.5-point spread in this game.
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