Arizona vs. Washington Thursday College Basketball Odds & Picks: Bet On Underdog Huskies’ Stingy Zone Defense

Arizona vs. Washington Thursday College Basketball Odds & Picks: Bet On Underdog Huskies’ Stingy Zone Defense article feature image
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Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Hopkins.

  • Arizona and Washington will hit the floor Thursday for a Pac-12 New Year's Eve showdown.
  • The Wildcats recently self-imposed a postseason ban for this season, so it will be interesting to see how they respond in a conference showdown against the Huskies.
  • BJ Cunningham explains what he thinks will happen and shares a betting pick for the game below.

Arizona vs. Washington Odds

Arizona Odds -7.5 [BET NOW]
Washington Odds +7.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -360 / +290 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 137.5 [BET NOW]
Time Thursday, 8 p.m. ET
TV Pac-12 Network
Odds as of Wednesday evening and via FanDuel. Get up to a $1,000 risk-free bet at FanDuel today.

The 7-1 Arizona Wildcats head to the Pacific Northwest on Thursday to battle the 1-6 Washington Huskies.

This is going to be a bittersweet season in Tucson, as the Wildcats announced on Tuesday they will self-impose a postseason ban this year.

Arizona has taken care of business except for a neutral-court loss to Stanford. However, the Wildcats’ other six wins came on their home floor, so this will be their first true road test of the season. It’ll be interesting to see how the Wildcats respond to the news of the postseason ban.

Washington was pegged to finish around the middle of the Pac-12 but after losing six of its first seven games, it looks like it is going to be closer to the basement instead. The Huskies’ two five-star recruits from last season, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, are gone. That leaves just two starters from last year’s team.

However, Thursday is a perfect opportunity for the Huskies to get their season back on track against Arizona.

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When Arizona has the ball

Head coach Sean Miller has almost an entirely new roster from last season with all five starters gone. In fact, only three players from last year’s roster are back so Arizona is relying almost entirely on transfers and freshmen.

The Wildcats are the 11th-tallest team in the country and use that to their advantage, grabbing offensive rebounds at a 37.6% clip, which is the 16th-highest rate in the nation.

Arizona is shooting the ball well to the season, but it is really excelling at getting to the free-throw line. The Wildcats have the ninth-highest free throw rate in the country, but they are shooting under 70% from the charity stripe. Arizona will need to shoot a higher percentage if it is going to continue getting 23.3% of its points coming from the charity stripe.

Washington’s defense hasn’t been its issue this season, as the Huskies rank 70th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Head coach Mike Hopkins, who is a Jim Boeheim disciple, brought Syracuse’s patented 2-3 zone to Washington. It has done wonders in his first three seasons, turning the Huskies into a top 100 defensive team.

However, one big issue with the 2-3 zone is rebounding. Since everyone is guarding a certain zone, it’s very difficult to pick up opponents crashing the rim to grab offensive boards. The Huskies have struggled to keep their opponents off the glass, allowing a 37% offensive rebound rate.

Keys for Arizona on offense

How do you beat a 2-3 zone? Penetration and making outside shots. Arizona is shooting 38.6% from 3-point range to start the season, so it should be able to shoot a high percentage against the Huskies’ zone. Arizona also needs to crash the offensive glass given Washington’s rebounding issues.

Keys for Washington on defense

It’s pretty simple for the Huskies: keep Arizona off the glass. If Washington isn’t able to limit Arizona’s second-chance points, it has no shot at winning or covering this game.

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When Washington has the ball

Washington really needs to shoot the ball a lot better if it is going to be competitive this season. The Huskies currently rank 289th in effective field goal percentage and are shooting only 25.1% from deep. Basically, all of their points are coming from inside the arc because they also have one of the worst free-throw rates in the country.

The Huskies actually have quite a bit of experience coming back this season, so it’s surprising that they’ve taken such a big step back offensively from last season.

Arizona has taken a small step back from ranking 14th in defensive efficiency last season but is still solid, ranking better than the NCAA average in pretty much every advanced metric.

Key for Washington on offense

The Huskies simply need to shoot the ball better. It’s going to be difficult trying to get to the rim against Arizona’s massive frontcourt, so Washington may have to settle for more 3-point shots and mid-range jumpers on Thursday.

Key for Arizona on defense

Defend the paint. If the Wildcats are able to keep the Huskies away from the rim and force them to shoot a lot of 3-point attempts, they should have no trouble shutting down Washington’s offense.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Even though Washington has struggled offensively, I think the 2-3 zone should be able to shut down Arizona. In these teams’ two meetings last season, Washington held a much better Wildcats offense to under 1.00 point per possession. With a lot of those players returning from last year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that there could be similar results.

I have Arizona projected as only -6.03 favorites on the road, so I think there’s a small amount of value on the Huskies at +7.5. However, I wouldn’t play it any lower than that.

Pick: Washington +7.5 or better.

[Bet Washington now at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]