Arizona and Utah sport the same affliction, which is distinct discomfort away from home.
Utah has dropped its past five on the road, so coach Craig Smith must be grateful that this one will be staged inside the cozy Huntsman Center confines.
Arizona weathered a few first-half punches from Stanford on Sunday, at home in Tucson of all places, but fixed itself at the half and cruised home with a triumph by double digits.
However, away from McKale Center the Wildcats have dropped five of their past eight games. Even better, for our purposes, the Utes are one of the country’s best home squads.
Arizona vs. Utah odds: Point spread, moneyline, total
Here are the latest college basketball betting odds for Arizona vs. Utah:
Arizona betting news: Wildcats hope to end road struggles
McKale Center was a nervous wreck on Sunday night, when Stanford eked out to a 26-19 lead midway through the first half and led, 45-34, at halftime.
Arizona (17-5 SU, 14-8 ATS) must have heard some choice words from second-year boss Tommy Lloyd, the disciple of Gonzaga coach Mark Few, at the half, since they blew out the Cardinal from the moment the second half started.
The test for both of Thursday’s teams will be 3-point shooting against poor defenses beyond the arc.
The Arizona ace is Caleb Love, a senior guard from St. Louis who played his first three seasons at North Carolina. In his team’s previous six games away from McKale, it is 2-4.
But that isn’t due to Love’s inadequacies, since he averaged 26.3 points in those tilts and made 20 of 49 shots from beyond the arc.
The big question, how will Love’s antics play out in this hostile arena? He is not bashful about doling out expressions and gestures to the enemy side or its fans, and how will that affect his game and the overall tenure of the contest?
The Cats will be contending with the nation’s 11th-best home defense in effective field-goal percentage, which restricts opponents to only 42.4%. If frustrated, do Love and Co. spiral and drift into unsportsmanlike reactions?
Moreover, Utah’s average scoring margin at home, of +19.5, is a top-20 figure in the land. It owns a top-40 effective field-goal percentage (57.2%) at home, while Arizona away is almost average, at 50.5%.
Utah betting news: Utes 12-0 at home
Samford (14-0) has been the best home team among the nation’s 362 programs. Virginia, High Point and Iowa State are all 13-0.
At 12-0, the Utes are joined by nine others, including Arizona, Duke and Kansas.
Moreover, Utah (15-7 SU, 11-11 ATS) has covered six of its past nine inside Huntsman.
On Jan. 6 in Tucson, Arizona administered a surgical 92-73 victory over the Utes that was close for the first 20 minutes. In the second half, the Wildcats clamped down, outscoring Utah 50-34.
Against the Cats, senior swingman Gabe Madsen was about the only Ute to show some guts, scoring 18 points, with two defense boards and three steals. The rest of Smith’s starters combined for only 32 points.
At home, that should be a different story.
However, last time at Huntsman, in a five-point win over No. 22 Colorado (we utilize KenPom game-day team ratings), the Utes — who had been flirting with a high-20s KP ranking — got 21 from Madsen and only 17 from three other starters.
In their two previous home games, Madsen disappeared, with only 7 in a tight win over No. 55 Oregon and just 9 in a blowout of No. 160 Oregon State.
In the former, the rest of the Utah starters tallied 61; in the latter, 57.
The point being, if and when every starter for the Utes gets on the same page, they will deliver a devastating blow to someone.
Is that this game, against the Wildcats? In two of the past three games against Arizona inside Huntsman, Utah won each by 15 points.
The Wildcats love to run, with a tempo rating that’s 11th in the game. Utah, whose run rate is in the top 20%, will be a willing participant to sprint, especially at home at 4,265 feet of elevation. Arizona will feel that lung sting in the second half.
Plus, Wildcats 7-footer Oumar Ballo is atrocious at the line away from home, hitting only 8 of 21 freebies in his past four highway games. Those will be invaluable points lost.
Branden Carlson, Utah’s 7-footer, has tallied 34, 26, 19 and 17 points in home tilts this season, and the Utes need one of those outings instead of the 7 points and 5 boards he produced in that 19-point defeat at Arizona in early January.
It will help the Utes when Rollie Worster, a 6-4 senior guard from Montana who has been out since Jan. 11 with a leg injury, returns. In seven of 16 games, he had scored double figures.
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Arizona vs. Utah prediction ATS
In Saturday’s victory over the Buffaloes, guard Deivon Smith produced the game of his season with 17 points, 11 boards and 9 assists. If he reproduces that effort, and slices 7 turnovers to just a few, the Utes will win outright.