Arizona vs. Utah Expert Pick and Prediction – February 8, 2024
ARIZONA VS. UTAH EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – February 8, 2024 — Salt Lake City hasn’t exactly been a kind place for Arizona over the years. Not only is this the site of one of the Wildcats’ two losses as a No. 2 to a No. 15 seed (1993 to Santa Clara), but the Wildcats have dropped three of four to Utah in their standard visits to the Huntsman Center.
And unlike some of their other rivals, this one isn’t ending next year. Arizona and Utah will continue with the move to the Big 12, so nothing’s changing with this matchup. The only thing that might change is how these teams haven’t been at all competitive with each other.
This matchup should be close, and not just because of Arizona’s tendency to let teams hang around. The trip to Salt Lake City has always been one of the most feared in the Pac-12 because of the elevation, and it’s proven worth the reputation again. The Utes are 6-0 SU and 3-3 ATS in Pac-12 play, and they haven’t lost a game at home to anyone since Feb. 25, 2023 against USC.
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That’s a 12-game winning streak, and it’s exactly what Arizona doesn’t need to see right now. The Wildcats have just one win in four Pac-12 road games, a far cry from the team that handled Duke in Durham back in November. If the road struggles continue, Arizona can basically forget about a top seed, and the Wildcats might slip into the NCAA tournament committee’s second tier of available teams.
For Utah, this game means everything. A win would take a lot of pressure off Utah’s NCAA tournament hopes.
(17-5 SU, 14-8 ATS)
(15-6 SU, 11-11 ATS)
When: Thursday, January 8 at 8 p.m. EST
Where: Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City
TV: Pac-12 Network
Public Bets: 56% on Utah
Public Money: 63% on Utah
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of February 8th, 2024.
Arizona vs. Utah In-Season Trends
It might surprise you to find out that these teams don’t play close games. Since 2019, the teams have met seven times, and not one has been decided by less than 15 points. The Wildcats also haven’t exactly been great at doing the job away from home, failing to cover in three of their past four road games and losing outright three times in the process.
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Arizona tends to put up some high numbers, so much so that the totals market overcompensated and set the number too high in the games against Cal and Stanford. Arizona had no problem getting above 80 points for the fifth time in six games, but the under cashed both times because the Golden Bears and the Cardinal both failed to break 71.
Utah has been a tale of two teams. Away from Salt Lake, the Utes barely get into a defensive stance. In Salt Lake City, they’ve proven a tough, determined squad. Washington State, Oregon State, Colorado and UCLA have all felt the sting of the Utah defense and failed to get to 70 points. On the road, it’s the exact opposite: the Utes haven’t held anybody in the Pac-12 under 79 away from home.
In the first meeting, Arizona cleaned up on the glass, getting 40 rebounds to Utah’s 23. The Wildcats dominate with second chances, and the Utes have to keep Oumar Ballo and Motiejus Krivas from racking up extra possessions. The only reason the second chances weren’t worse was because Arizona shot 60% from the floor in that game.
Out of 25 missed shots, a full third became Arizona rebounds. Either Utah has to fix that, or it has to shoot better itself. The Carlsons — Branden and Ben — combined to shoot 7-for-23 with just 11 rebounds in the first meeting. One or both of them stepping up would change the equation.
Utah’s played well at home and Arizona has been inconsistent. The Wildcats seem to save their worst basketball for road games, and the Utes know they can all but seal their spot in March with a win at home.
For me, the best play is the over. Both teams take a lot of shots, and I don’t think that either will be able to keep the other’s offense from scoring regularly. That leaves the spread, and I think the Utes have the motivation here.
I can’t take Arizona in this spot until I see more from the Wildcats away from McKale. Utah has to be the play.