How to Watch (and bet)
Date: Thursday, 1/5/23
Tip-Off Time: 8:00 pm PT
Location: Tucson, Arizona
DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies +18
#5 Arizona Wildcats 2022-23 Statistics:
Record: 13-1 (2-1)
Points For per Game: 88.7 (2nd)
Points Against per Game: 72.8 (229th)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 119.8 (1st)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 95.4 (59th)
Strength of Schedule: 49th
Arizona’s Key Players:
G- Kerr Kriisa, Jr. 6’3, 190: 11.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 6.0 apg, 41.4% FG, 39.8% 3pt, 86.1% FT
The play of Kerr Kriisa will remind Seahawk fans of having Richard Sherman. When he’s on on your team you love him and his shenanigans are cheeky and fun. When he’s not on your team he’s the most hated player by every fan. On offense Kriisa is a gunner and about 1 of every 5 or 6 games he’ll do his best to shoot Arizona out of the game when he doesn’t have it. The Wildcats have only lost 5 games in Tommy Lloyd’s tenure and in those games Kriisa’s 3-pt shooting was: 3/10, 0/9, 1/6, 1/7, and 0/5. If you want to beat Arizona you need Kriisa to have an off night shooting.
G- Courtney Ramey, Sr. 6’3, 185: 11.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, 42.2% FG, 43.1% 3pt, 53.3% FT
After starring for Texas early in his career Ramey struggled playing under Chris Beard with an all-star team of transfers. Under Tommy Lloyd he’s having his most efficient season yet primarily playing off the ball as a shooter. He’s shooting a career best on 3’s while taking almost 2/3rds of his shots from beyond the arc (more like 40% for most of his career).
G- Pelle Larsson, Jr. 6’5, 215: 10.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.3 apg, 41.9% FG, 27.3% 3pt, 82.6% FT
Somehow Larsson’s 3-point shooting percentages have fallen by about 10% per year since he was a true freshman at Utah and made 46%. It seems more likely that he’s just in a bit of a slump and will get back up to 35% so hopefully he doesn’t break out of it tonight. He’s still an elite free throw shooter and surprisingly is 19th in the country in free throw rate and is really adept at getting to the line.
F- Azuolas Tubelis, Jr. 6’11, 245: 20.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.9 apg, 60.5% FG, 43.8% 3pt, 79.7% FT
Tubelis has been able to shake off a terrible NCAA tournament run and is on the short list of contenders for national player of the year so far. He’s scored at least 12 points in every game this season and surpassed 20 points in every conference game so far. He doesn’t take many 3’s but is making them at a career rate while also hitting career highs in 2-point and free throw shooting percentages. He’s also in the top-200 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate while cutting down on his turnovers. Expect Tubelis to destroy the Huskies in the middle of the zone.
C- Oumar Ballo, Jr. 7’0, 260: 17.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 71.9% FG, 59.0% FT
When Ballo committed to Gonzaga it was clear he was a physical freak who looked like a baby Shaq but was extremely raw. As a junior he has taken his game to the next level while almost doubling his minutes despite previous conditioning concerns. He’s 9th in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes and partly because of that is 6th in the country in effective field goal percentage. The battle between him and Meah is going to be the most intriguing matchup of the game.
Washington knows what it’s like to have a coach come in and have immediate success with the players that have been left behind. Mike Hopkins won back-to-back Pac-12 coach of the year awards in his first 2 seasons in Seattle. Of course Arizona was 29th at KenPom the year before Tommy Lloyd arrived and then jumped to 5th and has kept it up as they’re currently 8th despite having lost 3 NBA draft picks which makes it feel quite a bit more sustainable.
From the second Lloyd arrived in Tucson the Wildcats have been one of the elite offenses in the sport and it’s tough to find any weakness there. Arizona has only scored 80 or fewer points 3 times this season, all away from home. In their lone loss against Utah they shot just 4/28 (14%) on 3-pointers which is drastically below their season average of 36%. The Zona guards also went 2/11 on 2-point shots in that game. So basically if you can somehow get Arizona’s 3-gaurd lineup to shoot 5/28 from the floor then they’re beatable. Seems easy enough.
It’s still possible for Arizona to dice you up though even if they have an off night shooting the ball from outside. They lead the country shooting 61.6% on 2-point shots in part because they’re 8th in the percentage of their baskets that come off of assists. Both Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo can dominate around the rim and the Arizona guards are adept at getting them the ball in easy scoring positions. Great ball movement is the death of a zone and just like Lloyd’s former team, Gonzaga, the Wildcats always find the better shot.
This isn’t nearly as good of a defense as the Huskies just faced with UCLA. Arizona is happy to play an up-tempo game where they don’t mind if you score because it means they get the ball back with a chance to score on you yet again. They don’t force a lot of turnovers and despite having 3 different 6’11+ players in the rotation, none of them are truly premier shot blockers. There’s a chance for Braxton Meah and Keion Brooks Jr. to be able to find success driving to the basket against Arizona.
Of course there’s no chance for Washington to keep up with Arizona unless their 3-point shooting dramatically improves from the abysmal 8% we saw on Sunday night. Some regression to the mean has to be coming in that regard and UCLA’s perimeter defense is much better than Arizona’s. It’s still tough to imagine that Washington can keep pace unless we see the exact opposite where somehow the Dawgs shoot 50%+ from deep and just happen to have multiple players going through out of body experience type hot streaks.
There might not be a tougher place to play in the Pac-12 than in Tucson. Noah Williams is back for Washington but has been a terrible 3/19 from the floor which we’ll be generous and say is because he still isn’t quite 100%. P.J Fuller sat out UW’s last game and Keyon Menifield Jr. left and didn’t return. We’ll see if either/both are available tonight but between the guards being shaken up and the absence of Franck Kepnang it’s tough to see UW having anywhere close to enough firepower.
A win would be a miracle. Keeping it within single digits would be like winning the lottery. Unsurprisingly I don’t see that happening. Washington drops their 4th straight by double digits and it’s the worst one yet.
Max’s Record this Year: 11-4 Straight Up, 9-5-1 Against The Spread
Washington Huskies- 64, Arizona Wildcats- 92